Twitter and email info

Friday, January 22, 2016

Thirteen years later, a look back at the Iraq War, its motivations, and its consequences. (Part II)

Part II

At the time, the only real conflict in the region was taking place in Syria, but the revolution to overthrow Bashar al-Assad had nothing to do with the new Iraq, so there probably was not a rush to fully complete the training program.  In 2010, when the training program was still basically in the beginning stages, President Barack Obama ordered the U.S. military to depart Iraq according to a particular timeline.  At the end of the day, I believe the timeline called for the removal of all but the most essential military personnel with one year.  Allegedly, the Obama Administration was warned by the Pentagon that the Iraqi military was in no shape to take over the security of the nation, but it made no difference.  You see, mid-term elections were coming up stateside, and the Administration's political base was not happy that President Obama hadn't fulfilled his campaign pledge to bring U.S. troops home.   Because this post has already stretched into two, I will mercifully bring things to a close.  We left Iraq with an untrained army, holding a billion dollars worth of the world's most modern weaponry. 

Across the border in Syria, ISIS, which had started to draw attention to itself through its regular use of butchery and stark brutality, saw an incredible opportunity.  They took an eraser to their previous maps of "the Caliphate" and added Iraq.  Then ISIS put together a military campaign that relied heavily on its ability to be mobile and move quickly, and invaded Iraq.  The only real opposition facing ISIS were the Kurds and the Peshmerga, as first Mosul fell, and then to the south, Baiji and Tikrit, which was the real catastrophe.  The young, untrained Iraqi Army recruits deserted their positions en masse, living in the sand rifles, GPS devices, mortars, electronic warfare equipment, targeting devices, artillery, and even vehicles.  ISIS is known for its ability to adapt, and that equipment and ammunition not doubt, has been essential in subsequent operations. As for Iraq, the schools are now only half-open, many of the new highways are destroyed by artillery fire, and the Baiji refinery itself as been one of the most contested battlefields of the conflict.  From 2009 to 2016....Iraq is an example of what happens when people who don't respect or understand the military, make decisions that direct impact the battlefield.  In this instance, the decision created one.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Thirteen years later, a look back at the Iraq War, its motivations and its consequences. (Part I)

Link: Wikipedia entry for the Benghazi scandal.

Part I

The recent opening of a well-produced and costly film on the 2012 Benghazi incident in which four Americans, including an Ambassador were killed, reminds us of the sadly dangerous world we live in.  Ambassador Chris Stevens and the three young men that lost their lives that night, believed that they were in Benghazi, Libya, to help spread America's message of freedom and give hope to a nation in great need of something in which to believe.  When I was a child, I would spend hours looking at the globe my parents bought me for my ninth birthday, and try to learn, day by day, a little bit about all the different countries around the world.  Over the year, I remember using that globe to identify places where war had broken out.  As I've gotten older, the areas free from conflict has continually gotten smaller.  Today, as I look at a map of the world, I can no longer identify a place which isn't in some way either directly under attack or threatened by the plague of Islamic Extremist terrorism.  In the seven years following the 9-11 tragedy, the United States used its military capability to force the terrorist elements to fight in their own backyard.  True, Al-Qaeda was guest-of-honor of the Taliban in Afghanistan, not Saddam Hussein in Iraq.  But strategically, the best way to get at Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan was by using Iraq as a spring-board.  The Bush Administration had been in a war of words with Iraq and its manipulation of the oil-for-food program to ignore United Nation's Resolutions.  I don't know the real answer, but it would seem that the Bush Administration gambled that the Democrats, the United Nations, and the rest of the world wouldn't mind if the U.S. borrowed Iraq's U.N. Resolution violations as an excuse to invade Iraq and turn it into a U.S. military base.  I understand the reasoning behind the strategy: the best was to annihilate Al-Qaeda was to force them into a conventional war (to which they were wholly unsuited) in their own backyard; no place to retreat. 

As for the politics involved, and the Weapons of Mass Destruction issue, I understand the frustration of folks who did not follow the Bush Administration's lead.  But Saddam Hussein was a brutal tyrant who had ignored every attempt by the United Nations to get him in line.  And by 2009, the Iraqi insurgency was over, and Iraq was beginning, for the first time as an independent and free nation, to stand on its own feet (thank you, U.S. taxpayer).  You see, while the military was defeating first, Saddam loyalists and second, the insurgency, we had engineers, architects, plumbers, construction specialists, electricians, town planners, and all sorts of other "nation rebuilding" experts in place, to rebuild Iraq.  Highways were put back in order, from one side of Iraq to the other.  The urban transportation systems were modernized and put back on line, along with traffic lights and speed limits.  The water distribution and waste disposal systems in place were practically from the time of the Ottomans, and we fixed what was repairable and replaced the rest.  Education was important to President Bush, and school building was a priority, from grade school to university-level education.  A tremendous effort to put Iraq's refining capacity back on line was not complete by 2009, but a great deal had been accomplished.  Also, the U.S. military was in the process of training a streamlined, effective, modern Iraqi Armed Forces.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Link: CIA Chief disputes movie narrative on Benghazi.

Just in time for political primary season, a new film has been released appropriately titled, "Benghazi".  This film and its supporters make to bones about it; they are convinced that events on the evening of September 11, 2012, show the CIA to be probably culpable in the deaths that occurred that night at the U.S. Consulate and CIA annex.  Its been some time since we've had a good rehashing of this story, and I'd just as soon we didn't.  But this movie is spreading some very seriously allegations, which need to be addressed.  I have no intention of reliving the events of that night in their entirety.  Lets stick to the contentious issues raised by this movie.  On the night of September 11, 2012, both the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi and the CIA Annex Building had come under attack by unknown heavily armed militants.  Aside from a few rank-and-file State Department and CIA personnel, the State Department had Diplomatic Security officers on hand, and the CIA had a group of Global Resource Solutions (GRS) operatives.  The movie in question was developed from a book written by four GRS employees who were at the CIA annex that night.  In fact, when they became aware that the Consulate, where Ambassador Chris Stevens and others were located, was under heavy fire.  These four GRS guys claim to have asked the CIA Chief of Station, who was sitting in the same room, for permission to deploy to the Consulate and assist.  According to "the four", the CIA Chief (named "Bob"), got off the phone, and told them to stand down on any order to relieve the Consulate.    We still have no clue who it was that Bob was allegedly speaking with that night.

After twenty minutes or so, the four GRS officers took it upon themselves to disobey a direct order and rush to assist at the Consulate.  Sadly, they arrived too late for Ambassador Stevens and Information Officer Sean Smith.  Later that night, the United States would lose two more heroes, but this movie seems to be mainly focused on what happened in the annex which delayed the GRS deployment.  First, let me remind everyone, that I wasn't on scene that night.  My comments and perceptions are derived exclusively from my experiences and training.  I am very familiar with GRS.  I have worked closely with GRS officers in the past.  You can't find a better-trained, more weapons-knowledgeable group of security personnel.  But I am concerned with their story.  Before we can really take a look at what happened in the annex, we must remind ourselves that CIA or no CIA, the Department of State has primacy on all decisions on U.S. diplomatic facilities, including military and security-related concerns.  I can't imagine why the CIA Chief would have cause to tell the GRS guys to "stand down".  If indeed that was the case, then he was passing on his instructions from a higher authority, and if things work as they are supposed to, at the end of that chain should have been Hillary Clinton.  But Bob claims that he said no such thing, and that his mind was on trying to round up enough local firepower to assist with returning to the Consulate.  I wonder if possibly there was a misunderstanding, given that one person was on the phone and the other four were anxious to go and help their friends. 

In the book, the Agency played its usual role of easy punching bag (its not like the CIA spends much time defending itself, although many of us wish it would).  I've chosen only to address the main allegation because three paragraphs is more than enough for this blog.  I do not believe that Bob (who I do not know) gave the GRS guys any "stand down" order that night, and if he did, I want to know why they chose this particular time to disobey a direct order from a superior.  Do GRS personnel normally ignore the instructions of CIA management?  What if Bob did say "stand down", because someone on the phone had informed him that U.S. personnel had been rescued and that the Consulate was overrun by militiamen.  Then the four GRS guys would be walking into serious shit. You don't disobey a Chief of Station, especially not in that situation.  I don't believe they did.  Because I don't believe Bob ever gave the order to "stand down".  

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Mookie Baby's own State of the Union post:

In light of today's auspicious event, the final State of the Union address for President Barack Obama, I decided to save everyone some time, and help a few others from falling asleep as they sit in front of their televisions.  I have written my own State of the Union address  It is direct, to the point, brutally honest, and written in bullet-fashion to point out that it doesn't take two hours and pages of useless political obfuscation and subterfuge to deliver one of these addresses.  Granted, a whole bunch of folks are going to be angry with my conclusions.  But I stand by every point I make, and I can back it up with facts, baby.  The failures of the Barack Obama Presidency were destined.  Obama if anything is a dedicated ideologue whose enmity for our nation's history and traditions was evident from the start.  Remember the Reverend Jeremiah Wright's comment, "America's chickens are coming home to roost"?  They certainly have, Jeremiah.

State of the Union, 2016:

* In seven years, the National Debt has increased over 100 percent, to at least ten trillion dollars.  What exactly have we purchased that came with such a high price tag? 
* Persons who have been unemployed for more than two consecutive years and no longer look for work are not included on the monthly labor statistics released by the Obama Administration.  Real job creation is anemic.  Not once in seven years has this Administration told the American people the truth about our employment situation.
* Race relations in America are the worst that they have been in my lifetime.  Our first black president has made no legislative or executive effort to address the problems in the black community, including failing schools, high dropout rates, teenage pregnancies, single parents, rampant crime, proliferation of gangs, etc.  Black Americans deserve to live in peaceful communities just as much as the rest of us, but we have seen nothing from this White House in seven years. Interestingly enough, Obama has no trouble finding a cute little black kid to stand nearby while he signs some Executive Action overreach law.
* The Obama Administration has yet to meet a progressive special interest group that it didn't love.  The last seven years  has seen the authority of the Federal Government used to force Christian bakers to bake for lesbians, not to mention the non-stop attack on anything in school that might make mention of a Creator.  Thank goodness Michelle Obama's public school lunch policy is in place, as are those tolerance classes on transgendered folks.  By the way, how about the White House bathed in the colors of the Rainbow Flag on the night of the decision by the Supreme Court?  That was the day I realized just how much trouble we are in.
* In seven years, we have evolved from the world's only superpower to an emasculated, internally confused, self-loathing mess.  It started in 2010, with the disastrous precipitous withdrawal from Iraq, and Hillary Clinton's New Start Treaty with Vladimir Putin, which, for all practical purposes, eliminated our last ballistic deterrent/advantage against Russia.  Since then, we've suffered through (stumbled through) the Arab Spring, Benghazi, the Iranian political takeover of Iraq, Russia's annexation of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine, North Korea's never-ending nuclear research and provocations, China's ability to take unilateral action internationally with no repercussions, rampant terrorism all over the globe, Russia shoving us aside in Syria, and the sponsorship of the nuclear treaty with Iran, which is arguably the worst treaty this nation has ever signed.

The real problem, my friends, is not the list above.  The real problem is, where do we go from here?  First and foremost, we have to ensure that a Democrat does not return to the White House.  Given the "State of the Union" in 2016, I am ASTOUNDED that a Democratic Administration in 2016 is even a possibility.  And if we manage to get a Republican in the White House, who will it be?  I would hope that the average American would recognize that the problems we face are much too dire to trust in the hands of a bullying, misogynist bigot like Donald Trump, but he seems determined to hang around for the long haul.  I can imagine him deciding on whether or not to use our Armed Forces as if he were negotiating a deal on a block of Condos in West Palm Beach.

Addressing our serious problems will be a monumental task.  I find myself wishing that we had Mitt Romney on contract, because his is the kind of honest business mind that we need to find a way out of this unfathomable national debt crisis.  Truly, the debt and our need for real job growth and tax reform, have become issues of national security.  As for ISIS and our international entanglements, I'm convinced that re-establishing our backbone is the best place to start.  Tear-up that useless treaty with Iran (as if they were going to follow-through with their commitments), and welcome Ukraine into NATO.  Flatten all North Korean nuclear research installations, and if you can find Kim Jon-un, drop a 500-lb. bomb in his lap as well.  Those are just a few suggestions.  Let us know how you feel.......  

Saturday, January 9, 2016

As terrorism becomes part of our daily lives, President Obama is not even looking for the battlefield.

As much as possible, I try and keep the blog politics-free.  The truth is, that occasionally, its just not possible, nor should it be.  Politics impact every aspect of our lives, and it certainly plays a large part in the current events we address here at Mukhabarat, Baby!  The day of the San Bernardino shootings, I posted a blog that delivered a dire warning regarding the future.  I opined that if Islamic extremists had been able to develop a network of sleeper cells in cities across the United States, than we can expect not a rash of high profile attacks, but a monthly event to keep the issue in the news, and keep the fear alive in our communities.  The enemy doesn't want a body count as much as they want to change the way we live our lives.  An attack in this west coast location this week, and another incident in the southeast two weeks later, will be the modus operandi of a forward-thinking terrorist group.  As long as the newspapers and the media are talking about preparedness and the need to react by altering our schedules and lifestyles, then the bad guys are on track.  The attack in Philadelphia today, and other similar incidents have me very concerned that the enemy is taking this route, in its never-ending effort to see us abandon our hard-won freedoms and retreat behind locked doors and security systems.  I urge my readers to live your lives with a reasonable amount of caution ("no vacation to Damascus this spring, Mildred"), but to fight the enemy with the tools for which so many heroes over the years have made the ultimate sacrifice: enjoy the freedoms we have, spend time out with family and friends, and take that vacation to the Ozarks.  For those of us who can no longer carry a rifle on the battlefield, we have our own way of fighting back.  We must live free.

Last week, President Obama once again used Executive Authority to make law.  Executive Authority exists for a reason.  It provides the president with the tools necessary to make decisions in a time of great national crisis.  President Obama, taking full advantage of the raw emotions relating to the recent events in San Bernardino, signed an ideologically motivated law that will make it more difficult for persons who want to legally purchase a firearm.  Obama sees himself as a master of theater, but truly, he is an amateur.  We've seen the tears before, and bringing the kids on stage isn't a novel idea either.  The law that you passed using abusing Executive Action will not impact criminals and terrorists who want to repeat what occurred in San Bernardino.  Creating more laws to impede law-abiding citizens has been shown time-and-again to accomplish one thing: it strengthens the Black Market, which is where the bad guys usually get their weapons, anyways.  The shooters in San Bernardino allegedly convinced a friend to  buy the weapons.  Will Obama's new law prevent friends from buying firearms and then illegally selling them or giving them away?  I don't think so.  The point is, Obama is anxious to solidify his legacy as a progressive thinker who didn't let something as meaningless as our checks-and-balances system of government interfere with his obligation to help the American people who are too stupid to help themselves.

I've heard a number of Obama supporters screeching about the use of Executive Action by George Bush (oh, how they do still hate Bush! LOL.) and others.  If a president chooses to utilize Executive Action in  manner that does not threaten the separation of powers and our checks-and-balances system, then it is not an ABUSE.   Executive Action has been used in the past, but not for avoiding a confrontation with Congress that the Executive Branch is sure to lose.  Obama put Executive Action into effect because he would not be able to get Congress to pass gun-control legislation that was possibly unconstitutional and did nothing to address the actual problem.  While this issue is being slapped back-and-forth by commentators and analysts in the media, ISIS, Al-Qaida, and all the other party poopers continue to kill people.  I believe we have reached a point in the history of the United States in which domestic terrorism in the form of the activation of Islamic Extremist sleeper cells (not just groups but single operators as well) may very well become a part of our lives.  Our immigration system, built for a moderate level of security by a nation with a tradition and history of welcoming visitors, is not difficult to exploit. Not only would it be possible for the bad guys to set up shop through legal entry on tourist visas, but hiring an expensive and proven smuggler in Mexico is not Rocket Science; the enemy can enter illegally just as well.  But the real problem is our complete unwillingness to address the problem at its root.  If ISIS is destroyed (and we should take out Al-Qaida, Al-Nusra, Khorasan, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Boko Haram simultaneously), then the cells in foreign countries, no longer having access to a support network and resources, dry up and disappear.  President Obama would be hard-pressed to declare war on Islamic terrorism, considering he has just sponsored a nuclear treaty with the Islamic Republic of Iran, the world's greatest supporter of terrorism (you know Iran....the "death to America" bunch).

As things are, we can only hope that our superb law enforcement and intelligence organizations can keep a lid on things until we can have a change in the oval Office.  Actually, I'm predicting the use of Executive Action on Amnesty/Immigration Reform as well; President Obama does still have a year to work on that legacy, you know.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

True to form, Charlie Hebdo spits on us.

Link: French magazine Charlie Hebdo launches broadside at all religions.

On January 7, 2015, the offices of French left-wing satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were attacked by a group of Muslim Extremists, who succeeded in killing eleven employees and injuring eleven more.  Following this insane act of evil, the free world, from Tokyo to Valparaiso, raised the banner, "je suis Charlie" (I am Charlie), to send the message that we too were deeply wounded by this event.  Over the next few weeks, the message kept growing, with "je suis Charlie" dominating social media.  We embraced the people of Charlie Hebdo, and reminded them, that not everyone in the world is driven to propagate violence and fear through the use of mass murder.  In the past, Charlie Hebdo, being a virulently atheist publication, had occasionally dumped all religions into one bucket.  In the year since January 7, 2015, I can't identify even one instance of Christians planning, attacking and murdering persons of another religion.  Surely the staff at Charlie Hebdo watches the news and stays up-to-date on current affairs.  I expected a bit of change regarding the "lumping" of Christians into the same grouping as ISIS, Al-Qaida, and Boko Haram.  I should have known better.

The latest edition of Charlie Hebdo (with an image of God on the cover, carrying an AK-47), again dumps Christians and Islamic terrorists into the same pot.  Interestingly enough, Charlie Hebdo was unable to write a feature on ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Al Nusra, and Boko Haram alongside its Christian counterparts, BECAUSE THERE ARE NO CHRISTIAN COUNTERPARTS to these fanatical Islamic groups.  According to Charlie Hebdo, Christians are just as responsible for Islamic terrorism as are ISIS and Al-Qaeda, just because they are not clever enough to be atheists, I assume.  When was the last time an extremist Christian group committed an act of terror in Europe?  When was the last time that a Christian group attempted to deprive someone of their free will?  Charlie Hebdo will probably dig up old horror stories from the past, hoping to strike that sensitive Christian vein of guilt, but this time, I don't think they will reap their desired result.

By choosing to mark the anniversary last year's attacks with a nasty, elitist, ignorant rant about all religions, Charlie Hebdo has actually done us a favor.  The magazine's fortunes had jumped dramatically immediately followed the incident, but in the last six months, the numbers have fallen back down to respectable, but no longer outstanding figures.  I think the people of France are tired of the old, creaky, reactionary, elitist message of the left, and will move to unite under the banner of defending the Republic.  The last time I checked, the French Republic was at war with Islamic terror, not Christianity.  Hebdo's numbers will continue to fall until the only place you see it anymore is in litter boxes and lining the cages of canaries.  I pray that nothing remotely similar to January 7, 2015, happens to Charlie Hebdo again, but if it does, I can tell you that this is one American whose response will be "je suis chretien" (I am a Christian). 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Five reasons why I'm not voting for Donald Trump.

Links: A. Trump for President Official Site.
           B. Real Clear Politics- Presidential Polls, GOP

I admit it- I'm just as surprised as all the media analysts and talking heads regarding Donald Trump's seeming inevitable March to the GOP nomination.  Immediately following the latest offensive comment, I always expect to see Trump's numbers take a hit.  But if we are to believe the polls, and there are reasons to approach them with a cautious eye, The Donald seems to just build on his advantage.  I've heard the whispers in some Republican conspiratory circles, that the media is doctoring the polls, to create an air of invincibility in Trump.  Why would the media do something to benefit Donald Trump?  Because they realize that when Nov. 2 rolls around, he is the one GOP candidate that Independent voters will have the hardest time supporting over Hillary Clinton.  I can't say that I'm anywhere ready to sign on to that theory, but strangely enough, I'm having trouble finding folks down south in Red State Country, who will openly declare their support for Trump.  But he is getting tremendous support from somewhere.  I don't like Trump, and I'm going to tell you why.

Trump is a "sound bite" candidate if there ever was one.  He makes grandiose announcements, with no follow-up.  Its not difficult to do...just fill the empty air with another sound bite.  Trump will build a wall, and make Mexico pay for it.  And just how will this be accomplished?  I'm not looking for an answer in two sentences, I'm looking for an actual well-thought piece that takes into account all the factors and variables included in public policy.  How much will it cost?  Who will pay for it?  How long will it take to build?  About the will the wall be constructed and with what materials?  Will there be breaks in the wall for Ports of Entry?  Will it be necessary to build the same wall on the Canadian border?  Does Congress need to approve this action?  How will it impact our already existing treaties with not only Mexico, but other Latin American countries? How will this wall impact the environment? Will it destabilize the migratory patterns of wildlife?  I am using one of Trump's more famous pronouncements as an example of his addiction to sound bites.  The questions that I have listed took five minutes to create; I'm sure with a bit of time, experts could come up with quite a few more questions, most with more substance. The reality is, he never has to give an answer.  He has his own version of "Trump Answers", which are dismissive at best and insulting at worst.  You see, Trump thinks that any idea he has must be genius, and if you can't see it well enough to understand all the answers already, then you are an idiot and a moron.  Oh, and you're ugly to boot.  And possibly a pedophile.

Trump believes he can develop a foreign policy based on his business experience.  Nothing personal, Mr. Trump, but one of the reasons I voted for Mitt Romney was because of his business acumen.  But he chose to keep his business credentials where they conversations relating to economics.  Trump's forty-year record as a businessman is difficult to really grasp.  He has had his share of successes, and also a few high-profile train wrecks.  But foreign policy must always be more about people than money, more about compromise than victory, and more about friendship than hostile takeovers.  Trump compliments Putin, and says that the Russian leader "is a man I can work with".  I find Putin to be a 21st century fascist, whose actions in Ukraine and Georgia over the past decade show a complete contempt for international law and the integrity of national borders.  Putin is militarizing Russia in the same manner than Hitler did Germany in the 1930s....getting rid of dead-weight, simplification and modernization, and the skirting of international laws and treaties.  I don't admire Vladimir Putin, but if Trump thinks Putin is going to fold like the chairman of some company Trump Enterprises has just swallowed, he has a few surprises coming.  Trump scares me for a number of reasons, including the vision I have of Trump losing his temper because he can't "swing the deal" he wants, and all of a sudden the U.S. military becomes the wild card.

I don't trust Donald Trump.  For some people, maybe that isn't a problem, but it is for me.  I'm not so jaded about our political system that I'm ready to vote for someone that I do not trust.  My lack of trust stems from a simple examination of history.  Just a few years ago, Trump was a Democrat.  Probably a decade ago, he was a Republican, who knows.  I'm sure it made sense at the time, to be on the same side as the political winning side (of the moment).  But Trump professes to be a "life-long Conservative".  How can any life-long Conservative admit to donating money to the Clintons?  As for his claim to being a Conservative, I will give him the benefit of the doubt that he is certainly "pro-business" (a bit too pro-business for me), but what are his opinions about the other issues that are important to many Conservatives?  Is Trump pro-choice?  What is his opinion regarding the Marriage debate?  More importantly, how often has his opinion on these issues changed?  Personally, I'm not looking for a political ideologue as a candidate.  But with Trump, I'm just sure what I'm getting, and just how far I can throw it.

My final reason for not supporting Donald Trump, is that I don't want a bigot and a misogynist for a president.  I don't think I will ever get past his comments about Carly Fiorina.  What's really sad is that Trump supporters know in their hearts that the only reason he apologized was for political expediency, but yet they don't care....depressing.  Donald Trump is also a first-class Ass Hole.  Excuse my descent into profanity, but for some reason, that title just seems perfect.  He is the perfect example of a school-yard bully, who has spent most of his business career intimidating people with less resources.  Actually, its a bit of a play on the Napoleon Syndrome.  Trump has always bragged about his ability to outspend people; I've never heard him brag about his ability to impact another person's perspective through honest dialogue, have you?  If we are faced with a President Trump, exactly how will he conduct a meeting with a female foreign leader, whose appearance he doesn't appreciate?  Watching Trump respond whenever another candidate improves in the polls is like watching a World Champion Prize Fighter who will stop at nothing to keep the title.  He threatens (usually by bragging about how much money he is prepared to spend), and then he makes good on his threats.  Ben Carson did not lose his momentum because of his lackluster debate performances, he fell victim to nasty accusations regarding the truthfulness of his biography.  A few weeks later, when all the dust had settled, Carson had reasonably addressed all the questions, but the damage was done.  Trump publicly called Carson a liar and compared him to a pedophile.  Of course, it took some time for Carson, a very decent man who lives his life for philanthropy, to come out from under the stench of "liar and pedophile".  But being a jerk doesn't disqualify someone from being president.   

The greatest Presidents in the history of our Republic were able to effectively persuade because of the conviction of their beliefs, not because of the size of their pocketbook.  I'm worried that Donald Trump believes that the President of the United States carries a wallet with the title, "Armed Forces of the United States of America".  And I have no doubt that he would use that wallet unwisely.   

Saturday, January 2, 2016

2016 and domestic terror: best-case and worst-case scenarios.

The international community enters 2016 in a state of turmoil that probably hasn't been matched since the Second World War.  The terror organization ISIS continues to expand its ability to impact peoples lives.  Yesterday, while police in Germany were disrupting a planned attack at a rail station, another terror group, The Taliban, detonated a bomb at a restaurant in Kabul, which killed at least three persons while injuring scores of others.  The Taliban is not ISIS, nor are Boko Haram and Al-Qaida the same organization.  But they have the same motivations, follow Islamic extremist ideology, and use the same targets.  Earlier in the week, while appearing on Fox News, I responded to a comment made by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, identifying ISIS as "a new group".  We can no longer allow our leaders to get away without making use of the tough but necessary labels.  ISIS is not a new group; they are a reconstituted organization that in 2005 was set up in Iraq to organize a resistance to the U.S. military presence.  By 2008/2009 they had lost all initiative had had not choice but to gather their remaining members and relocate to the deserts of eastern Syria.  And why not?  Syria was ripe territory for a terrorist group to lick its wounds, recruit, and adopt a new slogan.  When ISIS lectures about its desire of a new Caliphate, it is just as worthless as when the Taliban argues that it is only interested in getting westerners out of Afghanistan, or when Al-Qaida preaches that its goal is the removal of U.S. warships and influence in the Persian Gulf.  These separate "causes" are one of the many methods utilized by these groups to distract us into thinking that they can be reasonable, and negotiations might be possible.  The reality is that these groups in their core are no different from each other.  They are driven my an Islamic extremist ideology which has been selectively plucked from Quran for the sole purpose of mobilizing the Muslim world in a Holy War against all other religions.  Many still mistakenly believe that these fanatics are focused on destroying "Christianity and The West".  This war is not just taking place in Syria, Iraq, Europe, Africa and the United States.  Its also underway in far western China, as the Chinese government is forced to confront its own Muslim extremist population.  It is also brewing in the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Indian Subcontinent.  This plague has succeeded in reaching every corner of the globe, and obviously its not only ISIS.  If we focus exclusively on ISIS, the phalanges of Islamic extremism, either as Boko Haram or Al-Qaida in the Maghreb, will continue to spread the virus. And if this scenario isn't scary enough, remember that this movement has had years to perfect methods of disguising how it raises and launders money, and also how it smuggles weapons and operatives from one country to the next.  No one abuses the goodwill offered to humanitarian organizations as effectively as Muslim extremists.

The best-case scenario would be the continued disruption of active terror plots and the apprehension of terrorists.  Our Law Enforcement Officers are the best in the world, and they are on-the-job 24 hours a day, while we sleep or watch the Sugar Bowl with our friends and families.  We will never know the stories about all the successes, believe me.  I was stateside on September 11, 2001, and I remember how quickly the Intelligence Community and Law Enforcement came together to respond to the threat.  In a matter of days, our men and women in local Police, Sheriff's offices, Constables, and Federal Law Enforcement started rooting out groups of people with plans to cause mayhem.  I'm not at liberty to discuss where, when, or how many, but rest assured that it is happening, even as I write this blog.  As for me, I'm praying for the best-case scenario.  I believe that anything is possible, and we can defeat this monster without having to endure any additional loss of life in our nation.  It may seem unlikely to some, but law enforcement all over the world successfully disrupted numerous attacks during the Christmas-New Years Holidays.  As the bad guys get better at what they do, we get better at finding them.  They are the ones who must hide like criminals, and there are still more of us then them.

In January 2016, our biggest concern has to be with the spread of ISIS and other terrorist groups to other parts of the world.  Areas of the third world provide extremists with ideal recruitment opportunities, and the lack of civil authority simplifies the need to remain clandestine as weapons are purchased and smuggled.  The United States does a tremendous job working with many third-world governments to locate and root-out terror groups, but administrations have a tendency to change quickly, and president so-and-so one day may not be as helpful as his predecessor was the day before.  Speaking of changes in administration, the United States will elect a new president in 2016, and the American people are already being subjected to endless promises from all the candidates regarding national security and foreign affairs.  This has no bearing on the job Federal Law Enforcement and the Intelligence Community faces today, in locating any terror cells presently in the United States, while at the same time preventing new ones from getting in.  At the moment, no one is talking seriously about the use of profiling to assist in identifying potential terror suspects.  But if the United States suffers from a string of terror attacks similar to what happened in San Bernardino, there is no doubt that people will be more willing to give up certain conveniences.  As we begin 2016, the worst-case scenario would be the activation of a string of sleeper cells throughout urban America.  I have no reason to believe that these cells exist in any great number.  I have great faith in our Law Enforcement and Border Patrol to keep us safe.  But in the United States, we love our liberties and have a tremendous history of welcoming visitors, and extremists won't think twice about abusing our courtesy.  But if we consider the worst-case scenario, and the United States is faced with terror-related incidents in numerous locations, we must remember what the enemy is trying to achieve.  They don't care about the number of people they kill; their only goal is to create a sense of fear in our nation that directly impacts the way we lead our lives.  We must let our Law Enforcement authorities do their job and deal with the terrorists directly, while we do everything that we can to stay out of the way and follow instructions.  For those of us without weapons, our job is just as important.  Once the dust clears, it is incumbent upon us to continue living our lives as we did the week before.  Go to the movies, go to the beach, go to dinner, celebrate a birthday, take a trip overseas.  We must keep our faith strong, support each other, and draw strength from the examples being set by those first-responders and soldiers in the field who remind us everyday what it means to be a brave American.