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FORGIVABLE–AND UNFORGIVABLE–TRAGEDIES: PART FOUR (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on November 30, 2012 at 12:00 am

On September 11, 2001, the criminally negligent behavior of senior members of the George W. Bush administration led to the deaths of 3,000 Americans.

Yet even worse was to come.

On the evening after the September 11 attacks, President Bush held a private meeting with Richard Clarke, the counter-terrorism advisor to the National Security Council.

“I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything, everything,” said Bush.  “See if Saddam [Hussein, the dictator of Iraq] did this.  See if he’s linked in any way.”

Clarke was stunned: “But, Mr. President, Al Qaeda did this.”

“I know, I know,” said Bush.  “But see if Saddam was involved.  I want to know.”

On September 12, 2001, Bush attended a meeting of the National Security Council.

“Why shouldn’t we go against Iraq, not just Al Qaeda?” demanded Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense.

Vice President Dick Cheney enthusiastically agreed.

Secretary of State Colin Powell then pointed out there was absolutely no evidence that Iraq had had anything to do with 9/11 or Al Qaeda.  And he added: “The American people want us to do something about Al-Qaeda”–not Iraq.

In 1940, Adolf Hitler had salivated for a war against the Soviet Union even while he was locked in mortal combat with England.  Now, 61 years later, Bush couldn’t wait to invade Iraq even before his armies had pacified Afghanistan.

On November 21, 2001, only 10 weeks after 9/11, Bush told Rumsfeld: It’s time to turn to Iraq.

Bush and his war-hungry Cabinet officials knew that Americans demanded vengeance on Al Qaeda’s mastermind, Osama bin Laden, and  not Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein,.  So they repeatedly fabricated “links” between the two:

  • Saddam had worked hand-in-glove with Bin Laden to plan 9/11.
  • Saddam was harboring and supporting Al Qaeda throughout Iraq.
  • Saddam, with help from Al Qaeda, was scheming to build a nuclear bomb.

Yet as early as September 22, 2001, Bush had received a classified President’s Daily Brief intelligence report, which stated that there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11.

The report added that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda.

Even more important: Saddam had tried to monitor Al Qaeda through his intelligence service–because he saw Al Qaeda and other theocratic radical Islamist organizations as a potential threat to his secular regime.

Bush administration officials repeatedly claimed that Iraq possessed huge quantities of chemical and biological weapons, in violation of UN resolutions.  And they further claimed that US intelligence agencies had determined:

  • the precise locations where these weapons were stored;
  • the identities of those involved in their production; and
  • the military orders issued by Saddam Hussein for their use in the event of war.

Among other lies stated as fact by members of the Bush administration:

  • Iraq had sought uranium from Niger, in west Africa;
  • Thousands of aluminum tubes imported by Iraq could be used in centrifuges to create enriched uranium;
  • Iraq had up to 20 long-range Scud missiles, prohibited under UN sanctions;
  • Iraq had massive stockpiles of chemical and biological
  • Iraq had massive stockpiles of chemical and biological agents, including nerve gas, anthrax and botulinum toxin;
  • Saddam Hussein had issued chemical weapons to front-line troops who would use them when US forces crossed into Iraq.

Consider the following:

August 26, 2002: Cheney told the Veterans of Foreign Wars, “There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us.”

September 8, 2002: National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice said on CNN: “There is certainly evidence that al Qaeda people have been in Iraq. There is certainly evidence that Saddam Hussein cavorts with terrorists.”

September 18, 2002: Rumsfeld told the House Armed Services Committee, “We do know that the Iraqi regime has chemical and biological weapons. His regime has amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of chemical weapons—including VX, sarin, cyclosarin and mustard gas.”

October 7, 2002:  Bush declared in a nationally televised speech in Cincinnati that Iraq “possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons.”

January 7, 2003: Rumsfeld told a Pentagon news briefing, “There’s no doubt in my mind but that they currently have chemical and biological weapons.” This certainty was based on contemporary intelligence, he said, not the fact that Iraq had used chemical weapons in the 1980s.

January 9, 2003: White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said, “We know for a fact that there are weapons there.”

February 8, 2003: Bush said in his weekly radio address: “We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons—the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have.”

March 16, 2003: Cheney declared on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “We believe [Saddam Hussein] has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.”

March 17, 2003: In his final prewar ultimatum, Bush declared, “Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.”

March 30, 2003:  On ABC’s “This Week” program, 10 days into the war, Rumsfeld said: “We know where they [weapons of mass destruction] are.”

FORGIVABLE–AND UNFORGIVABLE–TRAGEDIES: PART THREE (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on November 29, 2012 at 12:01 am

Republicans claim to be “deeply troubled” by the conduct of Susan Rice, the American ambassador to the United Nations, after the Benghazi tragedy, which left four dead Americans in its wake.

But they showed no such concerns when the George W. Bush administration refused to seriously address the mounting evidence that Al Qaeda intended to strike at the United States.

And when that refusal snuffed out the lives of 3,000 Americans.

Nigel Hamilton is the bestselling author of American Caesars: Lives of the Presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush. 

In his chapter on George W. Bush, he chronicles the futile struggles of counter-terrorism chief Richard Clarke to warn his superiors of an upcoming Al Qaeda attack.

As chef counter-terrorism advisor to President Bill Clinton, he had held cabinet-level access. But now he faced a serious handicap:  Although he retained his position under Bush, he was now denied such access.

This put him at a severe disadvantage when dealing with higher-ranking Bush officials–-who refused to believe that Al-Qaeda posed a lethal threat to the United States.

National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice initially refused to hold a cabinet-level meeting on the subject.  Then she insisted the matter be handled only by a more junior Deputy Principals meeting in April, 2001.

Paul Wolfowitz, the number-two man at the Department of Defense, said: “I don’t understand why we are beginning by talking about this one man, bin Laden.”

Even after Clarke outlined the threat posed by Al-Qaeda, Wolfowitz–whose real target was Saddam Hussein–said: “You give bin Laden too much credit.”

Wolfowitz insisted that bin Laden couldn’t carry out his terrorist acts without the aid of a state sponsor–namely, Iraq.

Wolfowitz, in fact, blamed Iraq for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Clarke was stunned, since there was absolutely no evidence of Iraqi involvement in this.

“Al-Qaeda plans major acts of terrorism against the United States,” Clarke warned his colleagues.

He pointed out that, like Adolf Hitler, bin Laden had actually published his plans for future destruction.

And he added: “Sometimes, as with Hitler in Mein Kampf, you have to believe that these people will actually do what they say they will do.”

Wolfowitz heatedly traded on his Jewish heritage to bring Clarke’s arguments to a halt: “I resent any comparison between the Holocaust and this little terrorist in Afghanistan.”

Writing in outraged fury, Hamilton sums up Clarke’s agonizing frustrations:

“For Clarke, the sheer obtuseness and sneering contempt of Bush’s senior advisors and colleagues towards officials who had served in the Clinton administration was galling.

“It was as if a sort of willful blindness seemed to afflict the new president [Bush], the vice president [Dick Cheney], the national security advisor [Rice] and her deputy, and the secretary of defense [Donald Rumsfeld] and his deputy [Wolfowitz].”

This left only Secretary of State Colin Powell, his deputy Richard Armitage, Richard Clarke and a skeptical Treasury Secretary, Paul O’Neill, to wage “a lonely battle to waken a seemingly deranged new administration.”

Clarke alerted Federal Intelligence agencies that “Al-Qaeda is planning a major attack on us.” He asked the FBI and CIA to report to his office all they could learn about suspicious persons or activities at home and abroad.

Finally, at a meeting with Rice on September 4, 2001, Clarke challenged Rice: 

“Picture yourself at a moment when in the very near future Al-Qaeda has killed hundreds of Americans, and imagine asking yourself what you wish then that you had already done.”

Apparently Rice couldn’t imagine such a scenario, because she took no action to prevent it. Nor did she urge anyone else to do so.

Seven days later, Al-Qaeda struck, and 3,000 Americans died horrifically–and needlessly.

In words that should be angrily–and forever–remembered by Americans, Hamilton writes:

“Neither the President, Rice, nor other senior members of the Bush administration would ever admit afterwards to their somnambulance. Nor would any of them be brought to account.”

Disgustingly, these are the same officials who, afterward, posed as the Nation’s  saviors-–and branded anyone who disagreed with them as a traitor, practices Republicans continue to use to this day.

Only Richard Clarke-–who had vainly argued for stepped-up security precautions and taking the fight to Al Qaeda–gave that apology.

On March 24, 2004, Clarke testified at the public 9/11 Commission hearings. Addressing relatives of victims in the audience, he said: “Your government failed you, those entrusted with protecting you failed you, and I failed you.”

Yet even worse was to come.

On the evening after the September 11 attacks, Bush took Clarke aside during a meeting in the White House Situation Room:

“I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything, everything.  See if Saddam [Hussein, the dictator of Iraq] did this.  See if he’s linked in any way.”

Clarke was stunned: “But, Mr. President, Al Qaeda did this.”

“I know, I know,” said Bush.  “But see if Saddam was involved.  I want to know.”

FORGIVABLE–AND UNFORGIVABLE–TRAGEDIES: PART TWO (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, Politics, Social commentary on November 28, 2012 at 12:00 am

Republicans claim to be “deeply troubled” by the conduct of Susan Rice, the American ambassador to the United Nations, after the Benghazi tragedy, which left four dead Americans in its wake.

But they showed no such concerns when the George W. Bush administration refused to seriously address the mounting evidence that Al Qaeda intended to strike at the United States.

And when that refusal snuffed out the lives of 3,000 Americans.

It’s important to remember those who made 9/11 not simply possible but inevitable.

And that does not mean only the 19 hijackers who turned those planes into fuel-bombs. It means those officials at the highest levels of the administration of President George W. Bush.

Officials who profited economically and/or politically from the tragedy but were never accountable for the resulting death and destruction. Starting with the former President himself.

Even at the Republican National Convention in Tampa in August, Bush was hailed as the man “who kept us safe.”  Except, of course, for that small matter of 3,000 dead Americans on 9/11.

British historian Nigel Hamilton has dared to lay bare the facts of this outrage. Hamilton is the author of several highly acclaimed political biographies, including JFK: Reckless Youth, and Bill Clinton: Mastering the Presidency.

In 2007, he began research on his latest book: American Caesars: The Lives of the Presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush.

The inspiration for this came from a classic work of ancient biography: The Twelve Caesars, by Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus–known as Suetonius.

Suetonius, a Roman citizen and historian, had chronicled the lives of the first twelve Caesars of imperial Rome: Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian.

Hamilton wanted to examine post-World War II United States history as Suetonius had examined that of ancient Rome: Through the lives of the 12 “emperors” who had held the power of life and death over their fellow citizens–and those of other nations.

For Hamilton, the “greatest of American emperors, the Caesar Augustus of his time,” was Franklin D. Roosevelt, who led his country through the Great Depression and World War II.

His “”great successors” were Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy–who, in turn, contained the Soviet Union abroad and presided over sustained economic prosperity at home.

By contrast, “arguably the worst of all the American Caesars” was “George W. Bush, and his deputy, Dick Cheney, who willfully and recklessly destroyed so much of the moral basis of American leadership in the modern world.”

Among the most lethal of Bush’s offenses: The appointing of officials who refused to take seriously the threat posed by Al-Qaeda.

And this arrogance and indifference continued–right up to September 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center and Pentagon became targets for destruction.

Among the few administration officials who did take Al-Qaeda seriously was Richard Clarke, the chief counter-terrorism adviser on the National Security Council.

Clarke had been thus appointed in 1998 by President Bill Clinton. He continued to hold this role under President Bush, but with a major difference: The position was no longer given cabinet-level access.

This put him at a severe disadvantage when dealing with other, higher-ranking Bush officials–such as:

  • Vice President Dick Cheney
  • Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
  • Rumsfeld’s deputy, Paul Wolfowitz and
  • National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice.

These turned out to be the very officials who refused to believe that Al-Qaeda posed a lethal threat to the United States.

In a perverse travesty of justice, Condoleeza Rice appeared as a featured speaker at the 2012 Republican National Convention that nominated Mitt Romney for President.

Without a hint of apology for her own neglectful role in making 9/11 not only possible but inevitable, she said on August 29:

“I will never forget the bright September day, standing at my desk in the White House, when my young assistant said that a plane had hit the World Trade Center–and then a second one–and a third, the Pentagon.

“And then the news of a fourth, driven into the ground by brave citizens that died so that many others would live. From that day on our sense of vulnerability and our understanding of security would be altered forever.”

Writes Hamilton: “Richard Clarke had no doubt that Osama bin Laden had been behind the [USS.] Cole bombing in Aden” on October 12, 2000.

“Day after day, week after week, month after month, Clarke attempted to convince his new colleagues there was going to be another attack, either on American installations abroad or at home.”

“Indeed,” notes Hamilton, “in the entire first eight months of the Bush Presidency, Clarke was not permitted to brief President Bush a single time, despite mounting evidence of plans for a new al-Qaeda outrage.”

Nor did it help that, during his first eight months in office before September 11, Bush was on vacation, according to the Washington Post, forty-two percent of the time.

FORGIVABLE–AND UNFORGIVABLE–TRAGEDIES: PART ONE (OF FIVE)

In Uncategorized on November 27, 2012 at 12:05 am

Republicans in the Senate and House of Representatives are once again on a witch hunt.

This time, their intended victim is Susan Rice, United States ambassador to the United Nations, and a possible successor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

With the re-election of President Barack Obama, Clinton is not expected to stay on during his second term.

And the reason for the witch hunt?

On September 11, a terrorist attack on the United States diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, left four Americans dead–including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Hours before the Benghazi violence, a mob had attacked the U.S. Embassy in Cairo in response to a “blasphemous” anti-Muslim video posted on YouTube.

Appearing on several political talk-shows just days after the attack, Rice attributed the attacks to the video. Later investigation showed it was the work of an Al Qaeda terrorist cell.

The Benghazi attack came on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., which killed about 3,000 Americans.

Republicans–and especially then-Presidential candidate Mitt Romney–charged that the Libya assault was clearly a terrorist attack aimed at the anniversary.

Republicans have since demanded that President Obama abandon any plans he might have to nominate Rice as Clinton’s replacement as Secretary of State.

Responding to her critics, Rice held a press conference outside the U.N. Security Council on November 21:

“As a senior U.S. diplomat, I agreed to a White House request to appear on the Sunday shows to talk about the full range of national security issues of the day, which at that time were primarily and particularly the protests that were enveloping and threatening many diplomatic facilities, American diplomatic facilities around the world, and Iran’s nuclear program.

“When discussing the attack against our facilities in Benghazi, I relied solely and squarely on the information provided to me by the intelligence community. I made clear that the information was preliminary, and that our investigations would give us the definitive answers.

“Everyone, particularly the intelligence community, has worked in good faith to provide the best assessment based on the information available.

“…I knew Chris Stevens.  I worked closely with him and had the privilege of doing so as we tried together, as a government, to free the Libyan people from the tyranny of [Libyan leader Moammar] Kadaffi.

“He was a valued colleague, and his loss, as well as the loss of his three colleagues, is a massive tragedy for all of us who serve in the U.S. government, and for all the American people,” said Rice.

Rice is no diplomatic lightweight.  She is a former Brookings Institute fellow, and served on the staff of the National Security Council and as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs during President Bill Clinton’s second term.

She was confirmed by unanimous consent of the Senate as America’s ambassador to the UN on January 22, 2009.

Yet, on November 19, almost 100 House Republicans sent President Barack Obama a letter, urging him to not nominate her as Secretary of State.

They argued that Rice’s credibility had been irreparably damaged by her statements coming after the Libya attacks.

“Dear Mr. President,” the letter opened.  “We, the undersigned, are deeply troubled by your current comments that you are considering Ambassador Susan Rice to succeed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.

“…We believe [Rice's] misleading statements over the days and weeks following the attack on our embassy in Libya that led to the deaths of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans caused irreparable damage to her credibility both at home and around the world.

“In her interviews over that time, Ambassador Rice propagated a falsehood that the attacks were ‘spontaneous,’ the outcome of a protest ‘spun out of control’ and the result of a YouTube video.

“Only on September 19–eight days after the attack–did the American people learn from National Counterterrorism Director Matthew Olson that the intelligence services quickly considered the attack an act of terrorism and that Al Qaeda may have played a role.

“We believe that making her the face of U.S. foreign policy…would greatly undermine your desire to improve U.S. relations with the world,” the letter concluded.

Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic U.S. Senator from California and chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Rice had solid reason to not label the Benghazi attack a terrorist mission.

That view, said Feinstein, was based on information that had not yet been cleared by intelligence officials for public release.

But that didn’t make any difference to Rice’s critics.

Republicans claim to be “deeply troubled” by Rice’s behavior after a tragedy that left four dead Americans in its wake.

But they showed no such concern when the George W. Bush administration refused to seriously address mounting evidence that Al Qaeda planned to strike inside the United States.

And when that refusal snuffed out the lives of 3,000 Americans.

THE 2012 PRESIDENTIAL RACE AS A GAME

In Humor, Social commentary, Uncategorized on November 26, 2012 at 12:05 am

Oligarchy: a government in which a small group exercises control, especially for corrupt and selfish purposes.

Let’s play:
“Buy Me a President.”
Step 1: 
Start off with at least
42 old, greedy billionaire oligarchs 
who want special favors–
such as eliminating taxes on themselves
and their corporations.
Billionaire oligarchs like:
Sheldon Adelson, Las Vegas Sands | $10,000,000 to Restore Our Future from Shel and his wife Miriam | #8 on Forbes 400, $24,900,000,000 Net Worth. (Updated: July 23, 2012)
Sheldon Adelson, Las Vegas Sands | $10,000,000 to Restore Our Future from Shel and his wife Miriam | #8 on Forbes 400, $24,900,000,000 Net Worth.
John Catsimatidis, United Refining Company | $100,000 to Restore Our Future (through United Refining) | #212 on Forbes 400, $2,000,000,000 Net Worth
John Catsimatidis, United Refining Company | $100,000 to Restore Our Future (through United Refining) | #212 on Forbes 400, $2,000,000,000 Net Worth.
Paul Singer, Elliott Management | $1 Million to Restore Our Future | #416 on Forbes, $1,000,000,000 Net Worth
Paul Singer, Elliott Management | $1 Million to Restore Our Future | #416 on Forbes, $1,000,000,000 Net Worth.
Harold Hamm, Continental Resources | $985,000 to Restore Our Future | #36 on Forbes 400, $11,000,000,000 Net Worth
Harold Hamm, Continental Resources | $985,000 to Restore Our Future | #36 on Forbes 400, $11,000,000,000 Net Worth.
Wilbur Ross, WL Ross & Company | $100,000 to Restore Our Future | #200 on Forbes 400, $2,200,000,000 Net Worth
Wilbur Ross, WL Ross & Company | $100,000 to Restore Our Future | #200 on Forbes 400, $2,200,000,000 Net Worth.
Step 2: 
Have another member of America’s privileged 1%–
Mitt Romney–
make them an offer
they don’t want to refuse: 
You bankroll my race for President
and, when I’m elected: 
–your personal taxes will disappear
–your corporate taxes will disappear
–your employees will become your slaves
–you can pollute as much as you want
–you can produce all the shoddy goods you want
–the rich will once again
be treated with awe and reverence.
“Because, under my Presidency:
–the IRS will be abolished
(except for the poor and middle class)
–the Department of Labor will be abolished
–the EPA will be abolished
–the FDA and all consumer-protection agencies
will be abolished
–it will be a felony
to criticize or oppose the rich.”
Step 3:
The rich oligarchs throw in
huge bags of money
to bankroll their man’s
quest for the Presidency.
Step 4:
The oligarchs wait for Election Day!
Step 5
On Election Day….
Whoops!
Sometimes money can’t
buy you
love
or
Seal Of The President Of The United States Of America.svg
even
the
Presidency.
Game over.  For now.

THE IDEAL REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE FOR 2016

In Humor, Social commentary on November 23, 2012 at 12:10 am

Right-wingers are still reeling from the election-night defeat of Mitt Romney, their nominee for Plutocrat-in-Chief.

As President John F. Kennedy put it, after his humiliation at the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba: “Victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan.”

Thus, many high-ranking Republicans are now looking for excuses for the stunning setback they suffered.

Among those excuses:

  • The voters were stupid.
  • Romney wasn’t conservative enough.
  • Romney wasn’t ruthless enough.
  • President Barack Obama “suppressed the vote”–through negative campaigning.
  • Hurricane Sandy took people’s attention away from Romney’s message.
  • New Jersey Governor Chris Christie actually praised Obama for the help FEMA gave to the storm’s victims.
  • The fact-checkers were out to get Romney.
  • The news media were out to get Romney.

It’s all highly reminiscent of another blame-game that occurred in post-World War 1 Germany: “We didn’t lose the war.  We were stabbed in the back by criminals, Communists and Jews.”

At least, that was Adolf Hitler’s take on the war.

And it made sense–if you were a German who didn’t want to blame Germany for starting a war it could not hope to win, only to be  defeated by the armies of France, Britain and the United States.

Similarly, the far-Right leadership of the Republican Party refuses to accept any blame for the loss.

It couldn’t be that

  • large numbers of women were outraged by the party’s attacks on abortion and even birth control;
  • large numbers of blacks were outraged by the party’s venomous, often racist attacks on Obama;
  • large numbers of Hispanics were outraged by the party’s attacks on them as all illegal aliens who must be deported;
  • large numbers of voters generally were outraged by the party’s blatant efforts to suppress voting rights.

Or could it?

Since Republican leaders seem unwilling to learn from their mistakes, only one course lies open to them: Repeat those mistakes.

And that means finding another “severely conservative” candidate to run for President.

But who might be “conservative” enough to gain the support of the right-wingers controlling the Republican party?

Perhaps the science of cloning can provide the answer.

By 2016, scientists may have perfected cloning–and thus allow Republicans to create their ideal Presidential candidate.

Imagine how this could affect the outcome of the 2016 election:

The top officials of the Republican Party decide to create the perfect, unbeatable Presidential candidate.

They direct scientists from the National Institute of Health to resurrect–via DNA samples–several past, hugely popular Republican leaders.

The first of these, of course, is Abraham Lincoln: Savior of the Union and destroyer of slavery.

The scientists then introduce him to a sample of Republican voters to gauge his current popularity.

The test audience erupts–but not the way party officials expect.

“Race-mixer!”

“He’s the reason we have all these damn civil rights laws.”

“He destroyed states’ rights!”

To head off a riot, the scientists rush the startled Lincoln-clone off the stage.

Then they introduce their next resurrected candidate: Theodore Roosevelt: warrior, Nobel Prize winner and trust-busting conservationist.

Again, the test-audience goes wild:

“Tree-hugger! Tree-hugger!”

“He’s the guy who broke up the big corporations–lousy Commie!”

Once again, there is a near-riot as startled Republican officials hustle Roosevelt out of the building.

Finally, they bring out their third choice for victory: A cloned Ronald Reagan.

“Not him! He legalized abortion in California when he was Governor!”

“Yeah, and his first wife, Jane Wyman, divorced him. We can’t have a divorced guy in the White House!”

Desperate, Republican leaders go into a huddle.

“What are we going to do?” asks one. ”Lincoln, Roosevelt and Reagan were our most popular Presidents.”

“Yeah, but that was in the PAST,” says another. “We need a candidate who speaks to our base TODAY.”

“Hey, I’ve got an idea, but it’s a bit radical. The guy I have in mind wasn’t actually born in the United States.”

“So what?”

“That would violate the Constitution.”

“You know what our friends in the oil industry say: Why spoil the beauty of the thing with legality?”

So the Republicans once again call in the scientists and tell them to go back to work one last time.

When the last resurrected candidate is presented to the test-audience, the crowd rises as one, shouting: “That’s him! That’s him!”

“The one we’ve been waiting for!”

“The one who REALLY speaks for us!”

“He’s totally anti-abortion and he REALLY hates uppity women!”

“Yeah–he hates Commies, gays and non-whites, and he REALLY believes in a STRONG military!”

“All right, all right, I’ll do it,” says the clone-candidate. ”But the last time I tried to lead people to greatness, they proved unworthy of me.

“So I’ll do it again–but only under VON condition!”

“Yes, yes!” screams the test-audience. “Anything you want! What is it?”

“Ziss time….”

….no more Mister Nice Guy!”

IF YOU DON’T WANT IT KNOWN, DON’T WRITE IT DOWN

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on November 22, 2012 at 12:35 am

Former general and CIA Director David Petraeus is one of the most highly educated men in the United States:

  • Alumnus of the United States Military Academy at West Point–graduating among the top 5% of his 1974 class.
  • General George C. Marshall Award winner as the top graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College class of 1983.
  • Earned an M.P.A. in 1985 and a Ph.D. in International Relations in 1987 from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.
  • Served as Assistant Professor of International Relations at the United States Military Academy
  • Completed a fellowship at Georgetown University.

Paula Broadwell is one of the most highly educated women in the United States:

  • Graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1995, majoring in political geography.
  • Earned a master’s degree in international security from the University of Denver’s Joseph Korbel School of International Studies in 2006.
  • Earned a Master of Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 2008.
  • A Research Associate in the Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership Fellows.
  • Entered the Ph.D. program at the Department of War Studies at King’s College in London in 2008.

In addition, Petraeus, as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, knew the importance of secrecy in keeping clandestine affairs (military and personal) out of sight.

And so did Broadwell, having earned a reputation as an expert on counterterrorism.

So you have to wonder:

  1. Why, when they embarked on an extramarital affair, did they exchange emails using a cyber trick known to both terrorists and teenagers?
  2. Why, in fact, did they flagrantly violate the First Rule of Conspiracies?

First, the moronically stupid cyber trick:  Sharing a private email account, or “dropbox,” where they composed drafts to each other in order not to directly transmit messages to one another.  Each could log onto the same account and read the draft emails there.  This avoids creating an email trail that is easier to trace.

Second, the First Rule of Conspiracies says: If you don’t want it known, don’t write it down.

The reason for this was eloquently given by Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of political science, in his masterwork, The Discourses, more than 500 years ago:

I have heard many wise men say that you may talk freely with any one man about everything, for unless you have committed yourself in writing, the “Yes” of one man is worth as much as the “No” of another. 

And therefore one should guard most carefully against writing, as against a dangerous rock, for nothing will convict you quicker than your own handwriting….You may escape, then, from the accusation of a single individual, unless you are convicted by some writing or other pledge, which you should be careful never to give.

Nor are Petraeus and Broadwell the only ones guilty of thumbing their noses at this most basic of precautions.

The top American commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, is under investigation for “inappropriate communications” with Jill Kelley, a Florida socialite who complained to the FBI that she was receiving harassing emails.

(The emails allegedly came from Broadwell, who thought that Kelley was trying to move in on “her man”–Petraeus.  Apparently, Broadwell didn’t feel similarly threatened by Holly, Petraeus’ wife.)

Although charged with directing American military efforts against the Taliban, Allen found time to exchange 20,000 to 30,000 pages’ worth of emails with Kelley between 2010 and 2012.

For many private-sector employers, reading and sending personal emails on company time is a firing offense.

There are several lessons to be learned for this behavior–none of them flattering to the above-mentioned participants .

  • They all believed they were so privileged–by education, status and/or wealth–that conventional rules of morality didn’t apply to them.
  • They all believed they were so clever they could violate the most basic rule of security and common sense–and get away with  it.
  • They all were so caught up in their illicit passions that they threw caution to the winds.
  • David Petraeus, a highly disciplined man, clearly expected Paula Broadwell to behave in a similarly disciplined manner–and do nothing to compromise their lives.
  • Petraeus felt so confident about the secrecy of his affair he had his wife and mistress present when he appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2011.  It was there that he won appointment as CIA director
  • Petraeus didn’t imagine that Broadwell suspected another of his admirers–Jill Kelley–of having romantic designs on him.
  • And he was utterly surprised when her harassing emails to Kelley led the FBI to uncover his illicit relationship.

General David Petraeus testifies at his hearings before the Senate Intelligence Committee to become CIA director.  With him:  His wife, Holly (in white) and mistress, Paula Broadwell (in black).

So far as is known, Petraeus broke no law–other than the law of common sense.

For that, he has suffered the loss of position, reputation and–possibly–a marriage of 38 years.

LINCOLN: ISSUES PAST AND PRESENT

In History, Politics, Social commentary on November 21, 2012 at 12:04 am

Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln is more than a mesmerizing history lesson.

It’s a timely reminder that racism and repression are not confined to any one period or political party.

At the heart of the film: Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) wants to win ratification of what will be the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  An amendment that will forever ban slavery.

True, Lincoln, in 1862, had issued the Emancipation Proclamation.  This–in theory–freed slaves held in the Confederate states that were in rebellion against the United States Government.

But Lincoln regards this as a temporary wartime measure.

He fears that, once the war is over, the Supreme Court may rule the Proclamation unconstitutional.  This might allow Southerners to  continue practicing slavery, even after losing the war.

To prevent this, Congress must pass an anti-slavery amendment.

But winning Congressional passage of such an amendment won’t be easy.

The Senate had ratified its passage in 1864.  But the amendment must secure approval from the House of Representatives to become law.

And the House is filled with men–there are no women menmbers during the 19th century–who seethe with hostility.

Some are hostile to Lincoln personally.  One of them dubs him a dictator–”Abraham Africanus.”  Another accuses him of shifting his positions for the sake of expediency.

Other members–white men all–are hostile to the idea of “equality between the races.”

To them, ending slavery means opening the door to interracial marriage–especially marriage between black men and white women.  Perhaps even worse, it means possibly giving blacks–or women–the right to vote.

In fact, the possibility that blacks might win voting rights arises early in the movie.  Lincoln is speaking to a couple of black Union soldiers, and one of them is unafraid to voice his discontent.

He’s upset that black soldiers are paid less than white ones–and that they’re led only by white officers.

He says that, in time, maybe this will change.  Maybe, in 100 years, he guesses, blacks will get the right to vote.

(To the shame of all Americans, that’s how long it will eventually take.  Not until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 will blacks be guaranteed legal protection against discriminatory voting practices.)

To understand the Congressional debate over the Thirteenth Amendment, it’s necessary to remember this:  In Lincoln’s time, the Republicans were the party of progressives.

The party was founded on an anti-slavery platform.  Its members were thus reviled as “Black Republicans.”

And until the 1960s, the South was solidly DemocraticDemocrats were the ones defending the status quo–slavery–and opposing freed blacks in the South of Reconstruction and long afterward.

In short, in the 18th century, Democrats in the South acted as Republicans do now.

The South went Republican only after a Democratic President–Lyndon B. Johnson–rammed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 through Congress.

Watching this re-enactment of the 1865 debate in Lincoln is like watching a rerun of the recent Presidential campaign.  The same mentalities are at work:

  • Those (in this case, slave-owners) who already have a great deal want to gain even more at the expense of others.
  • Those (slaves and freed blacks) who have little strive to gain more or at least hang onto what they still have.
  • Those who defend the privileged wealthy refuse to allow their “social inferiors” to enjoy similar privileges (such as the right to vote).

During the 2012 Presidential race, the Republicans tried to bar those likely to vote for President Barack Obama from getting into the voting booth.  But their bogus “voter ID” restrictions were struck down in courts across the nation.

Listening to those opposing the amendment, one is reminded of Mitt Romney’s infamous comments about the “47%: “

“Well, there are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what….

“Who are dependent upon government, who believe that–-that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they’re entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it.

“But that’s-–it’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them.”

In the end, however, it is Abraham Lincoln who has the final word.  Through diplomacy and backroom dealings (trading political offices for votes) he wins passage of the anti-slavery amendment.

The movie closes with a historically-correct tribute to Lincoln’s generosity toward those who opposed him–in Congress and on the battlefield.

It occurs during Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address: “With malice toward none, with charity for all….To bind up the nation’s wounds.  To care for him who shall have bourne the battle and for his widow and his orphan….”

This ending presents a vivid philosophical contrast with Romney’s sore-loser comments: “The president’s campaign, if you will, focused on giving targeted groups a big gift.”

Watching Lincoln, you realize how incredibly lucky we were as a nation to have had such leadership when it was most needed.

And how lucky we are as a nation to have the outcome of the 2012 election.

THE DEATH OF HEROES

In History, Politics, Social commentary on November 20, 2012 at 12:10 am

Steven Pressfield is the bestselling author of several novels on ancient Greece.

Steven Pressfield Focused Interview

In Gates of Fire (1998) he celebrated the immortal battle of Thermopylae, where 300 Spartans held at bay a vastly superior Persian army for three days.

In Tides of War (2000) he re-fought the ancient world’s 25-year version of the Cold War between the Greek city-states of Athens and Sparta.

In The Virtues of War (2004) he chronicled the military career of Alexander the Great–through the eyes of the conqueror himself.

And in The Afghan Campaign (2006) he accompanied Alexander’s army as it waged a vicious, three-year counterinsurgency war against native Afghans.

Besides being an amateur historian of armed conflict, Pressfield is a former Marine.  His novel, Gates of Fire, has been adopted by the Marine Corps as required reading.

So Pressfield knows something about the art–and horrors–of war.  And about the decline of heroism in the modern age.

Consider the events of November 9.

On that date, General David Petraeus suddenly resigned his position as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.  He had held this just slightly more than a year.

The reason: The revelation of–and his admission to–an extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell, the woman who had written an admiring biography of him called All In.

Ironically, this happened to be the same day that “Skyfall”–the latest James Bond film–opened nationwide.

Since Bond made his first onscreen appearance in 1962′s “Dr. No,” England’s most famous spy has bedded countless women.  And has become internationally famous as the ultimate ladykiller.

It seems that real-life doesn’t quite work the same way.

What is permitted–and even celebrated–in a fictional spy is not treated the same way in the real world of espionage.

Prior to this, Petraeus had been the golden boy of the American Army–the best-known and most revered general since Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The man who

  • had given 37 years of his life to protecting the nation;
  • had rewritten the book on how to fight counterinsurgency wars;
  • had turned around the stagnated war in Iraq;
  • had presided over the winding down of the war in Afghanistan.

As President Barack Obama put it:

“General Petraeus had an extraordinary career.  He served this country with great distinction in Iraq, in Afghanistan and as head of the CIA.

“I want to emphasize that from my perspective, at least, he has provided this country an extraordinary service.  We are safer because of the work that Dave Petraeus has done.

“And my main hope right now is that he and his family are able to move on and that this ends up being a single side note on what has otherwise been an extraordinary career.”

It’s why Pressfield candidly admits he prefers the ancient world to the present:

“If I’m pressed to really think about the question, I would answer that what appeals to me about the ancient world as opposed to the modern is that the ancient world was pre-Christian, pre-Freudian, pre-Marxist, pre-consumerist, pre-reductivist.

“It was grander, it was nobler, it was simpler. You didn’t have the notion of turn-the-other-cheek. You had Oedipus but you didn’t have the Oedipus complex. It was political but it was not politically correct.”

To illustrate what he meant, Pressfield cited this passage from Thucydides’ The Peloponnesian War, on how ancient-world politics took on its own tone of McCarthyism:

To fit in with the change of events, words, too, had to change their usual meanings. What used to be described as a thoughtless act of aggression was now regarded as the courage one would expect to find in a party member.

To think of the future and wait was merely another way of saying one was a coward. Any idea of moderation was just an attempt to disguise one’s unmanly character.

Ability to understand a question from all sides meant that one was totally unfitted for action.

As if speaking on the ongoing scandal involving David Petraeus, Pressfield states:

“Our age has been denatured. The heroic has been bled out of it.

“The callings of the past–the profession of arms, the priesthood, the medical and legal professions, politics, the arts, journalism, education, even motherhood and fatherhood–every one has been sullied and degraded by scandal after scandal.

“We’re hard up for heroes these days, and even harder up for conceiving ourselves in that light. That’s why I’m drawn to the ancient world. It’s truer, in my view, to how we really are.

“The ancient world has not been reductified and deconstructed as ours has; it has not been robbed of all dignity. They had heroes then. There was such a thing, truly, as the Heroic Age. Men like Achilles and Leonidas really did exist.

“There was such a thing, truly, as heroic leadership. Alexander the Great did not command via satellite or remote control; he rode into battle at the head of his Companion cavalry; he was the first to strike the foe.”

DAVY CROCKETT: “REMEMBER THE 47%!”

In History, Politics, Social commentary on November 19, 2012 at 9:38 am

It’s a scene you couldn’t imagine seeing in John Wayne’s 1960 film, “The Alamo.”  Especially with The Duke playing a hard-drinking, two-fisted Davy Crockett.

John Wayne as Davy Crockett

But it occurs in the novel, Crockett of Tennessee, by Cameron Judd.  And it is no less affecting for its being–so far as we know–entirely fictional.

It’s the last night of life for the Alamo garrison–the night before the 2,000 men of the Mexican Army hurl themselves at the former mission and slaughter its 200 Texian defenders.

The fort’s commander, William Barret Travis, has drawn his “line in the sand” and invited the garrison to choose: To surrender, to try to escape, or to stay and fight to the death.

And the garrison–except for one man–chooses to stay and fight.  That man is Louis “Moses” Rose, a Frenchman who has served in Napoleon’s Grande Armee and survived the frightful retreat from Moscow.

He vaults a low wall of the improvised fort, flees into the moonless desert, and eventually makes his way to the home of a family who give him shelter.

But for the garrison, immortality lies only hours away.  Or does it?

An hour after deciding to stand and die in the Alamo, wrapped in the dark of night, Crockett is seized with paralyzing fear.

“We’re going to die here,” he chokes out to his longtime friend, Persius Tarr.  “You understand that, Persius?  We’re going to die!”

“I know, Davy.  But there ain’t no news in that,” says Tarr.  “We’re born to die.  Every one of us.  Only difference between us and most everybody else is we know when and where it’s going to be.”

“But I can’t be afraid–not me.  I’m Crockett.  I’m Canebrake Davy.  I’m half-horse, half-alligator.”

“I know you are, Davy,” says Tarr. ”So do all these men here.  That’s why you’re going to get past this.

“You’re going to put that fear behind you and walk back out there and fight like the man you are.  The fear’s come and now it’s gone.  This is our time, Davy.”

“The glory-time,” says Crockett.

“That’s right, David.  The glory-time.”

And then Tarr delivers a sentiment wholly alien to money-obsessed men like Mitt Romney and Donald Trump–who comprise the richest and most privileged 1% of today’s Americans.

“There’s men out there with their eyes on you.  You’re the only thing keeping the fear away from them.  You’re joking and grinning and fiddling-–it gives them courage they wouldn’t have had without you.

Maybe that’s why you’re here, Davy–to make the little men and the scared men into big and brave men.  You’ve always cared about the little men, Davy.  Remember who you are.

“You’re Crockett of Tennessee, and your glory-time has come.  Don’t you miss a bit of it.”

The next morning, the Mexicans assault the Alamo.  Crockett embraces his glory-time-–and becomes a legend for all-time.

David Crockett (1786-1836) lived–and died–a poor man.  But this did not prevent him from trying to better the lives of his family and fellow citizens–and even his former enemies.

During the War of 1812, he served as a scout under Andrew Jackson.  His foes were the Creek Indians, who had massacred 500 settlers at Fort Mims, Alabama–and threatened to do the same to Crockett’s neighbors in Tennessee.

As a Congressman from Tennessee, he championed the rights of poor whites.  And he opposed then-President Jackson’s efforts to force the same defeated Indians to depart the lands guaranteed them by treaty.

To Crockett, a promise was sacred–whether given by a single man or the United States Government.

And his presence during the 13-day siege of the Alamo did cheer the spirits of the vastly outnumbered defenders.

It’s a matter of historical record that he and a Scotsman named MacGregor often staged musical “duels” to see who could make the most noise.

It was MacGregor with his bagpipes against Crockett and his fiddle.

Contrast this devotion of Crockett to the rights of “the little men,” as Persius Tarr called them, with the attitude of the Republican candidate for President in 2012.

On May 17, at a fund-raiser closed to the press, Mitt Romney said:

“Well, there are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right? There are 47% who are with him.

“Who are dependent upon government, who believe that–that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they’re entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it.

“But that’s–it’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what….

“These are people who pay no income tax. 47% of Americans pay no income taxes. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. And he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean that’s what they sell every….four years.”

Those who give their lives for others are rightly loved as heroes.  Those who dedicate their lives only to their wallets are rightly soon forgotten.

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