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Posts Tagged ‘GEORGE W. BUSH’

A BRITISH HISTORY LESSON FOR AMERICA

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 22, 2015 at 10:13 am

The siege and fall of the Sudanese city of Khartoum is one of the truly epic stories of military history.

And in it lies an invaluable lesson for American policy-makers today.

Khartoum in the 1800s

From March 18, 1884 to January 26, 1885, the charisma and military genius of one man–British General Charles George Gordon–held at bay an army of thousands of fanatical Islamists intent on slaughtering everyone in the city.

At stake were the lives of Khartoum’s 30,000 residents.

Gordon’s story may seen antiquated.  But it bears close inspection as Republicans press the Obama Administration to commit ground forces to “freeing” Syria of its longtime dicator, “President” Bashar al Assad.

It’s a conflict Americans know nothing about–and where they have absolutely nothing to gain.

It’s not only a Syrian civil war but an inner-religious war between Shiite (minority) Muslims and Sunni (majority) Muslims.

The Assad regime is backed by the Iranian-supported terrorist group, Hezbollah (Party of God).  Its enemies include another terrorist group–Al Qaeda.

Hezbollah is comprised of Shiite Muslims, who form a minority of Islamics. A sworn enemy of Israel, it has kidnapped scores of Americans suicidal enough to visit Lebanon and truck-bombed the Marine Barracks in Beirut in 1983, killing 299 Americans.

Flag of Hezbollah

Al-Qaeda, on the other hand, is made up of Sunni Muslims, who form the majority of that religion. It considers Shiite Muslims to be “takfirs”–heretics–and thus worthy of extermination.

Al Qaeda has attacked the mosques and gatherings of liberal Muslims, Shias, Sufis and other non-Sunnis.  Examples of these sectarian attacks include the Sadr City bombings, the 2004 Ashoura massacre and the April, 2007 Baghdad bombings.

Flag of Al-Qaeda

It’s all very reminiscent of events in the 1966 epic film, “Khartoum,” starring Charlton Heston as British General Charles George Gordon.

Charlton Heston (left); Charles George Gordon (right)

In 1884, the British Government sends Gordon, a real-life hero of the Victorian era, to evacuate the Sudanese city of Khartoum.

Mohammed Achmed, a previously anonymous Sudanese, has proclaimed himself “The Madhi”  (The Expected One) and raised the cry of jihad.

The Madhi (played by Laurence Oliver) intends to drive all foreigners (of which the English are the largest group) out of Sudan, and exterminate all those Muslims who did not practice his “pure” version of Islam.

Gordon arrives in Khartoum to find he’s not fighting a rag-tag army of peasants.  Instead, the Madhi is a highly intelligent military strategist.

And Gordon, an evangelical Christian, also underestimates the Madhi’s religious fanaticism: “I seem to have suffered from the delusion that I had a monopoly on God.”

Laurence Oliver (left); Mohammed Achmed (“The Madhi”)

A surprised Gordon finds himself and 30,000 Sudanese trapped in Khartoum when the Madhi’s forces suddenly appear.  He sends off messengers and telegrams to the British Government, begging for a military relief force.

But the British Government wants nothing to do with the Sudan.  It had sent Gordon there as a sop to British public opion that “something” had to be done to quell the Madhist uprising.

The siege continues and tightens.

In Britain, the public hails Gordon as a Christian hero and demands that the Government send a relilef expedition to save him.

Prime Minister William Gladstone finally sends a token force–which arrives in Khartoum two days after the city has fallen to the Madhi’s forces.

Gordon, standing at the top of a staircase and coolly facing down his dervish enemies, is speared to death.

George W. Joy’s famous–and romanticized–painting of “The Death of Gordon”

(Actually, the best historical evidence indicates that Gordon fought to the last with pistol and sword before being overwhelmed by his dervish enemies.)

When the news reaches England, Britons mourn–and then demand vengeance for the death of their hero.

The Government, which had sought to wash its hands of the poor, militarily unimportant Sudan, suddenly has to send an army to avenge Gordon.

As the narrator of “Khartoum” intones at the close of the film:“For 15 years, the British paid the price with shame and war.”

There is a blunt lesson for Americans to learn from this episode–and from the 1966 movie, “Khartoum” itself.

Americans have been fighting in the Middle East since 2001–first in Afghanistan to destroy Al Qaeda, and then in Iraq, to pursue George W. Bush’s vendetta against Saddam Hussein.

The United States faces a crumbling infastructure, divided government and trillions of dollars in debt.

While Islamic nations like Syria and Egypt wage war within their own borders, they will lack the resources to launch attacks against the United States.

When Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, then-Senator Harry Truman said: “I hope the Russians kill lots of Nazis and vice versa.”

That should be America’s view whenever its sworn enemies start killing themselves off.   Americans should welcome such self-slaughters, not become entrapped in them.

THE WRONG QUESTION ABOUT IRAQ: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 17, 2015 at 1:27 am

Naturally the common people don’t want war, neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany.  That is understood.
But, after all, it’s the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along….

All you have to do is tell them that they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to greater danger.  It works the same way in any country.
–Rcichsmarshall Hermann Goering

Much of the moral basis for American leadership was destroyed by the dark parallels between Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939 and George W. Bush’s invasion of  Iraq in 2003.

Among these:

ADOLF HITLER

Adolf Hitler (third from left) with his generals

In 1970, Albert Speer, Adolf Hitler’s former architect and Minister of Aramaments, published his bestselling postwar memoirs, Inside the Third Reich.  In a striking passage, he revealed how the Fuehrer really felt about German soldiers who were suffering and dying in a war he had provoked.

One evening during the middle of the war, Speer was traveling with Hitler on the Fuehrer’s private train.  Late at night, they enjoyed a lavish dinner in the elegant rosewood-paneled dining car.

As they ate, Hitler’s train slowed down and passed a freight train halted on a side track.

From their open cattle car, recalled Speer, wounded German soldiers from the Russian Front–starved, their uniforms in rags–stared across the few yards to their Fuehrer’s dining-car window.

Hitler recoiled at seeing these injured men intently watching him–and he sharply ordered an adjutant to lower the window shades.

Hitler had served as a frontline soldier in World War 1 and had won the Iron Cross for bravery as a dispatch runner.

As Fuehrer, he often boasted of his affinity with the average German soldier.  He claimed that “my whole life has been one long struggle for Germany.”

Yet throughout the six years of World War II, he refused to visit German cities ravaged by British and American bombs.

Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, despaired at this.

Winston Churchill, prime minister of Great Britain, often visited cities hit by German bombers, and Goebbels knew these visits greatly boosted British morale.

Goebbels urged Hitler to make similar visits to bombed-out German cities, but theFuehrer refused.

Albert Speer believed that Hitler couldn’t bear to see the carnage wrought by his decision to provoke a needless war.

George W. Bush “looking” for WMDs in the White House

GEORGE W. BUSH

Similarly, Bush showed his contempt for the soldiers suffering and dying in his own unprovoked war.

On March 24, 2004, at a White House Correspondents dinner, he joked publicly about the absence of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs).

To Bush, the non-existent WMDs were nothing more than the butt of a joke that night. While an overhead projector displayed photos of a puzzled-looking Bush searching around the Oval Office, Bush recited a comedy routine.

“Those weapons of mass destruction have gotta be somewhere,” Bush laughed, while a photo showed him poking around the corners in the Oval Office.

“Nope-–no weapons over there! Maybe they’re under here,” he said, as a photo showed him looking under a desk.

In a scene that could have occurred under the Roman emperor Nero, an assembly of wealthy, pampered men and women–-the elite of America’s media and political classes–-laughed heartily during Bush’s performance.

Only later did the criticism come, from Democrats and Iraqi war veterans–especially those veterans who had suffered grievous wounds to protect America from WMDs.

Click here: Bush laughs at no WMD in Iraq – YouTube

In his Presidential memoirs, Decision Points, Bush failed to mention his joking about the “missing WMDs” at the correspondents dinner.

In writing about discovering insights into the human character, the ancient historian, Plutarch, said it best:

“And the most glorious exploits do not always furnish us with the clearest discoveries of virtue or vice in men.

“Sometimes a matter of less moment, an expression or a jest, informs us better of their characters and inclinations, than the most famous sieges, the greatest armaments, or the bloodiest battles whatsoever.”

* * * * *

So add it all up:

  • Two all-powerful leaders.
  • Two nations lied into unprovoked wars.
  • Adolf Hitler’s war costs the lives of 4.5 million German soldiers.
  • George W. Bush’s war costs the lives of 4,484 Americans.
  • Germany’s war results in the deaths of millions of Europeans and Russians.
  • America’s war results in the deaths of an estimated 655,000 Iraqis, according to a 2006 study in the Lancet medical journal.
  • America’s foray into Iraq costs its treasury at least $2 trillion.
  • Hitler is literally driven underground by his enemies and commits suicide to avoid capture, trial and certain execution for war crimes.
  • Bush retires from office with a lavish pension and full Secret Service protection.  He writes his memoirs and is paid $7 million for the first 1.5 million copies.

No world leader publicly claims to model himself upon Adolf Hitler.

How many Republicans look to George W. Bush as their ideal in Presidential leadership?

THE WRONG QUESTION ABOUT IRAQ: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 16, 2015 at 1:22 am

In late April, 1975, Vietnam veterans stared in horror at their TVs as the army of North Vietnam swept toward Saigon.  The “peace with honor” that former President Richard M. Nixon had claimed to fashion had lasted no more than two years.

American news media captured the appalling sight of United States military and Intelligence personnel being frantically airlifted by helicopter from the roof of the American embassy.

Related image

Americans’ scrambling to evacuate Vietnam

The eight-year war had cost $600 billion and the lives of more than 58,000 U.S. servicemen.  Suddenly, before the eyes of American TV viewers, the longest and most divisive war in United States history was ending in shame.

And now, it’s deja vu all over again.

From 2003 to 2011, the war in Iraq cost the United States $2 trillion and the lives of 4,484 servicemen.

And now, as a horde of Republicans compete for the Presidency in 2016, the Iraq war has resurfaced to haunt them with a vengeance.

And most candidates have claimed that, if they had been able to foresee the future, they wouldn’t have invaded Iraq, as President George W. Bush did on March 19, 2003.

But there is far more to the United States’ tortured intervention in Iraq than most Americans know.  Or than Republicans want to admit.

There is, in fact, a dark historical parallel to the events leading up to the Iraq war.  A parallel that has its roots in Nazi Germany.

ADOLF HITLER

When Germany’s Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler, decided to invade Poland in 1939, he refused to consider any efforts to avert a conflict: “I want war.  I am the one who will wage war.”

Despite frantic efforts by the French and British governments to resolve the crisis that Hitler had deliberately provoked, he refused all offers of compromise.

“I am only afraid,” Hitler told his generals at a military conference on August 22, 1939, “that some Schweinehund [pig dog] will make a proposal for mediation.”

GEORGE W. BUSH

Similarly, Bush made it clear to his closest aides that he sought a pretext for invading Iraq.

On the evening after the September 11 attacks, 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,” said Bush. “See if Saddam 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.

On September 22, 2001, Bush 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.

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

ADOLF HITLER

Adolf Hitler knew that Poland’s government could never accept his demands for the Polish city of Danzig.

GEORGE W. BUSH

So, too, did George W. Bush make a demand he knew could never be accepted.  On the eve of launching war on Iraq, Bush issued a humiliating ultimatum to Saddam Hussein:

“Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict, commenced at a time of our choosing.”

ADOLF HITLER

Hitler never regretted his decision to invade Poland.  Only hours before committing suicide in his Berlin bunker on April 30, 1945, he asserted in his “final political testatment”: “It is untrue that I or anyone else in Germany wanted war in 1939.”

GEORGE W. BUSH

Similarly, Bush never regretted his decision to invade Iraq, which occurred on March 19, 2003.  In his 2010 memoirs, Decision Points, he wrote:

“For all the difficulties that followed, America is safer without a homicidal dictator pursuing WMD and supporting terror at the heart of the Middle East.”

And in an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer on November 8, 2010, Bush again sought to justify his decision to go to war:

LAUER: Was there ever any consideration of apologizing to the American people?

BUSH: I mean, apologizing would basically say the decision was a wrong decision, and I don’t believe it was a wrong decision.

ADOLF HITLER 

On September 1, 1939, Adolf Hitler announced his attack on Poland before Germany’s rubber-stamp parliament, the Reichstag.

Hitler–a decorated World War I veteran–said: “I am from now on just first soldier of the German Reich. I have once more put on that coat that was the most sacred and dear to me.”

GEORGE W. BUSH

On May 1, 2003, Bush–who hid out the Vietnam war in the Texas Air National Guard-–donned a flight suit and landed a Navy jet aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.

A banner titled “Mission Accomplished” was displayed on the aircraft carrier as Bush announced–wrongly–that the war was over.

The effect–and intent–was to portray Bush as the triumphant warrior-chieftan he never was.

THE WRONG QUESTION ABOUT IRAQ: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 15, 2015 at 9:07 am

It’s the question feared by every Republican seeking to become President in 2016: “Would you have invaded Iraq in 2003 if you had known then what we know now?”

And when Republican Presidential candidates haven’t dodged the question, they’ve responded defensively–or argumentatively:

  • Florida United States Senator Marco Rubio: Invading Iraq was “not a mistake because the president was presented with intelligence that said that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.”
  • Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush: “In retrospect the intelligence that everybody saw, that the world saw, not just the United States, was faulty. Once we invaded and took out Saddam Hussein, we didn’t focus on security first.”
  • New Jersey Governor Chris Christie: “If we knew then what we know now and I were the president of the United States, I wouldn’t have gone to war. But you don’t get to replay history.”
  • United States Senator Ted Cruz of Texas: “Of course not. The entire predicate of the war against Iraq was the intelligence that showed they had weapons of mass destruction and that there was a real risk they would use them.”

Admittedly, the answers to many of life’s questions lie in the future–and can only be revealed over time.

As the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard observed: “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”

Related image

Soren Kierkegaard

Thus, it is pointless to hold anyone–including past Presidents–accountable for not knowing truths that would emerge only years later.

Instead, the question reporters should be asking Republican Presidential candidates is: “How do you feel about a President who provoked a needless, bloody and financially ruinous war in Iraq?”

Or: “How do you feel about a President who starts a war claiming that a ‘madman’ will attack America with WMDs–and then, when they aren’t found, publicly jokes about it?”

There is actually a dark historical parallel to the events leading up to the Iraq war.  A parallel in how Adolf Hitler launched his invasion of Poland.

ADOLF HITLER

When Germany’s Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler, wanted to invade Poland in 1939, he mounted a sustained propaganda campaign to “justify” his ambitions.

Adolf Hitler

German “newspapers”-–produced by Joseph Goebbels, the club-footed Minister of Propaganda–-carried fictitious stories of how brutal Poles were assaulting and even murdering their helpless German citizens.

In theaters, German audiences saw phony newsreels showing Poles attacking and raping German women living in Poland.

For a time, Hitler not only deceived the Germans but the world. Just before German tanks and troops invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, members of Hitler’s dreaded SS secret police rounded up a number of prisoners from German concentration camps.

The inmates were dressed in Polish Army uniforms and driven to a German radio station at Gleiwitz, on the German/Polish border.

There they were shot by SS men. Then Polish-speaking SS men “seized” the station and broadcast to Germany that a Polish invasion of Germany was now under way.

Hitler, addressing Germany’s rubber-stamp parliament, the Reichstag, dramatically asserted: “This night for the first time Polish regular soldiers fired on our territory. Since 5.45 a.m. we have been returning the fire, and from now on bombs will be met by bombs.”

Leaders of Britain and France were taken in by this ruse. They had pledged to go to war if Hitler attacked Poland.  But they didn’t want to take on Germany if Poland had been the aggressor.

By the time the truth became known, Poland was securely in German hands.

On August 22, 1939, Hitler had outlined his strategy to a group of high-ranking military officers:

I shall give a propagandist cause for starting the war.  Never mind whether it is plausible or not. The victor will not be asked, later on, whether he told the truth or not. In starting and waging a war, it is not Right that matters, but Victory.”

GEORGE W. BUSH

American President George W. Bush followed a similar strategy while he prepared to invade Iraq: He ordered the topmost members of his administration to convince the American people of the war’s necessity.

Among those members: National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice; Vice President Dick Cheney; Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Condaleeza Rice, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld

Among their arguments-–all eventually revealed as lies-–were:

  • Iraq’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, had worked hand-in-glove with Osama 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.
  • Iraq possessed huge quantities of chemical/biological weapons, in violation of UN resolutions.
  • Saddam was preparing to use those weapons against the United States.
  • American Intelligence agencies had determined the precise locations where those weapons were stored.
  • The war would be self-financing via the oil revenues that would come from Iraq.
  • Invading American forces would be welcomed as liberators.

ADOLF HITLER

Hitler intended Poland to be only his first conquest on what became known as “the Eastern Front.” Conquering Poland would place his powerful Wehrmacht on the border of the country that was his ultimate target: The Soviet Union.

GEORGE W. BUSH

Similarly, Vice President Dick Cheney–the “power-behind-the-throne” of the Bush Presidency–had his own ambitions for conquering Iraq.

According to former Bush speechwriter David Frum: Cheney longed for war in Iraq to gain reliable control of that nation’s vital oil resources. A successful occupation of Iraq would also allow the United States to threaten such bordering Islamic nations as Syria, Iran and even Saudi Arabia.

THE SENSUALITY OF REPUBLICAN HATRED

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on June 29, 2015 at 1:07 am

And the most glorious exploits do not always furnish us with the clearest discoveries of virtue or vice in men; sometimes a matter of less moment, an expression or a jest, informs us better of their characters and inclinations, than the most famous sieges, the greatest armaments, or the bloodiest battles whatsoever.

–Plutarch, The Life of Alexander the Great

On June 25, for the second time in three years, the United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), widely known as Obamacare.

Thirty-four Republican-led states have refused to set up state health insurance exchanges so their poor and medium-income residents can obtain affordable medical care.

In those Republican-governed states, citizens can obtain their health coverage only through subsidies given by the federal government.

A handful of words in the ACA suggested the subsidies were to go only to consumers using exchanges operated by the states. In its 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court said those subsidies did not depend on where people live.

But three years earlier, Republican suffered another setback in their efforts to deprive their fellow Americans of access to healthcare.

Republicans expected June 28, 2012 to be their day.  The day when the United States Supreme Court struck down the ACA.

It would be a day to celebrate–and to revel in the sheer ecstasy of their hatred for the country’s first black President.

The United States Supreme Court

The previous President, George W. Bush, had lied the nation into a needless and destructive war with Iraq by repeatedly claiming that:

  • Saddam Hussein and Osama bin laden had teamed up to bring on 9/11;
  • Saddam was trying to get a nuclear weapon; or
  • Saddam already had a nuclear weapon and intended to use it against the United States.

That war cost the lives of 4,486 Americans and well over $1 trillion.

And Bush–taking a “hands-off-business” attitude–had presided over the 2008 Wall Street “meltdown.”  By the time Obama took office in 2009, the unchecked greed and stupidity of wealthy businessmen threatened to bankrupt the country.

But for the American Right, these weren’t crimes.  They were simply incidents to be ignored or arrogantly explained away.

Yet when President Obama sought to provide full medical coverage for all Americans, regardless of wealth, that–-for the American Right–-was a crime beyond forgiveness.

“Obamacare,” at all costs, must be discredited and destroyed.

As President Obama’s best-known achievement, its destruction by the Supreme Court would discredit the reputation of its creator. And this would arm Republicans with a potent election-time weapon for making Obama a one-term President.

Mitt Romney, the party’s presumptive nominee for President, openly boasted that the Court would overturn the Act.

Among those Right-wingers poised to celebrate on the morning of June 28 was Ohio Congresswoman Jean Schmidt.

Wearing a white dress, she stood in front of the Supreme Court waiting to hear about the healthcare ruling–-when the joyful news came:

The Court had ruled the Act was not enforceable under the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution!

Although this was in fact true–-and reported on CNN and Fox News–-it was far from the whole story.

A cell phone camera-wielding onlooker spotted Schmidt on her own cell phone.

“Yes!  Yes!” Schmidt screamed.  “Oh, what else?  Thank God!  No, they struck down the individual mandate!  They took it away!   Yes!”

Jean Schmidt

Her fascistic joy manifested itself in ear-splitting screeches and air punches.  Her entire body rocked up and down, shuddering with the ecstasy of passion. She resembled, more than anything else, a woman caught up in the frenzy of an orgasm.

In this case, an orgasm of pure, undisguised hatred–-

  • for the Affordable Healthcare Act;
  • for those millions of uninsured Americans needing healthcare coverage; and
  • above all, for the President himself.

It is a lust so demonic, so characteristic of the all-out, lethal hatred that Republicans aim at Obama, that words alone cannot fully describe it.  It must be seen for its full, revolting quality to be felt.

Click here: Rep “Mean Jean” Schmidt Wigs Out Thinking Supreme Court Struck Down Health Care Reform – YouTube 

But then came the bad news:

The Court had ruled that the Act was Constitutional under the power of the Congress to levy taxes. Thus, the hated individual mandate–-requiring the wealthy to buy insurance–-was legal after all.

And suddenly the Right saw its orgiastic fantasies disappear.

Later in the day, Schmidt posted a conventional press release: “I’m disappointed by the Supreme Court ruling….”

Some commentators mocked Schmidt’s moment of orgiastic hatred, comparing it to the famous scene in When Harry Met Sally: Seated in a diner, Meg Ryan’s Sally fakes an orgasm to show Billy Crystal’s Harry how easy it is to fool a man.

But there is a huge difference between Sally and Schmidt.

Sally was clearly faking to drive home a humorous point.  Schmidt’s joy wasn’t faked–-it was primal, and fueled by pure hatred.

On March 6, 2012, Schmidt was defeated for re-election in the GOP primary by Brad Wenstrup.

After World War II, the United States occupied West Germany and rooted out those former Nazis who had so arrogantly and brutally ruled over the lives of millions.  And America helped to set in power a government equally determined to stamp out a return to Nazism.

It remains to be seen if Americans, as a people, have the courage to do the same for themselves.

REPUBLICANS AND “CHI-COMS” HATE THE SAME MAN: OBAMA

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 11, 2015 at 12:02 am

Psssst!  The Republicans and Chinese Communists (“Chi-Coms”) have something in common.

They both much preferred the foreign policy of George W. Bush to that of Barack Obama.

It’s one of the many fascinating revelations offered in Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Uses of American Power.

Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power

The author is David E. Sanger, the chief Washington correspondent for The New York Times.

Early in 2011, Sanger had lunch at the Central Party School outside Beijing.  This is where the party’s leadership debates questions that are thought too controversial to air in public.

A retired general in the People’s Liberation Army sat down next to Sanger and, in a relaxed moment of candor, said:

“I sat through many meetings of the People’s Liberation Army in the 80s and 90s where we tried to imagine what your military forces would look like in 10 to 20 years.

“But frankly, we never thought that you would spend trillions of dollars and so much time tied down in Afghanistan and the Middle East. We never imagined that as a choice you would make.”

Chinese military parade 

And, writes Sanger: “Not so secretly, the Chinese were delighted by the Bush-era wars.  The longer the United States was bogged down trying to build democracies in foreign lands, the less capable it was of competing in China’s backyard.

“But now that America was emerging from a lost decade in the Middle East, the Chinese began to ask: How should China respond?  With cooperation, confrontation, or something in-between?”

And the Chinese were equally thrilled that the United States had squandered so much of its treasury during the eight-year Bush Presidency.

In the decade following 9/11, the Pentagon went on an unprecedented spending binge.  The defense budget grew by 67%, to levels 50% higher than it had been per average year during the Cold War.

According to Sanger: “An estimate [the New York Times] put together for the tenth anniversary of the [9/11] attacks suggested that the United States had spent at least $3.3 trillion.”

These monies had gone on

  • securing the country;
  • invading and trying to rebuild Afghanistan and Iraq; and
  • caring for wounded American soldiers.

“Put another way,” writes Sanger, “for every dollar al-Qaeda spent destroying the World Trade Center and attacking the Pentagon, America had spent $6.6 million in response.

“The annual Pentagon budget of $700 billion was equivalent to the combined spending of the next twenty largest military powers….

“The world had come to expect that America would underwrite global security, regardless of the cost.  Obama was determined to change that mind-set.”

In short, America became financially and militarily vulnerable during the Presidency of George W. Bush.

And this flatly contradicts the standard Republican line: Obama is a weak President–and is betraying us to the (pick one or both) Muslims/Communists.

It also speaks volumes that the two most important members of the George W. Bush administration declined to attend the 2012 Republican National Convention.

That, of course, meant former President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney

And why was that?  Perhaps it’s because polls show that a majority of Americans continue

  • To blame Bush for lying the country into a needless, bloody and expensive war with Iraq.
  • To blame him for presiding over the 2008 Wall Street meltdown.
  • To see Dick Cheney as the Dr. Strangelovian manipulator of George W. Bush.

Even former President George H.W. Bush said he wouldn’t attend the convention.

It’s possible that Bush, Sr., didn’t want to serve as a reminder that his son left the White House with the lowest popularity rating of any modern President.

And that was just fine with those planning to attend the convention–especially its nominee-to-be, Mitt Romney.

They wanted to do with George W. Bush what Nikita Khrushchev and his fellow Communists did with the embarrassing Joseph Stalin: Bury him far from public view.

He didn’t want the viewing audience to be reminded that the United States sharply declined in wealth and prestige during the eight-year reign of George W. Bush and a Republican Congress.

Romney and his fellow conventioneers also didn’t want to remind the country of something else: That Obama has spent most of his own Presidency trying to undo the harm his predecessor did, in both foreign and domestic policy.

Thus, now approaching the 2016 election, the Republican party finds itself torn.

On one hand, its leaders want to claim that Barack Obama is the worst President in the history of the Republic.

On the other hand, they know that most Americans continue to view the last Republican President in just that way.

A FADING GLORY

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on April 9, 2015 at 12:27 am

Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg’s 1998 World War II epic, opens with a scene of an American flag snapping in the wind.

Except that the vivid red, white and blue we’ve come to expect in Old Glory has been washed out, leaving only black-and-white stripes.

And then the movie opens–not during World War II but the present day.

It makes you wonder: Did Spielberg know something–such as that the United States, for all its military power, has become a pale shadow of its former glory?

Consider the following:

May, 30, 1945, marked the first Memorial Day after World War II ended in Europe.

On that day the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery became the site of just such a ceremony. The cemetery lies near the modern Italian town of Nettuno.

In 1945, it held about  20,000 graves. Most were soldiers who died in Sicily, at Salerno, or at Anzio.

One of the speakers at the ceremony was Lieutenant General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr., the US Fifth Army Commander.

Lieutenant General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr.

Unlike many other generals, Truscott had shared in the dangers of combat, often going over maps on the hood of his jeep with company commanders as bullets or shells zipped close by.

When it came his turn to speak, Truscott moved to the podium–and then did something truly unexpected.

Looking at the assembled visitors–which included a number of Congressmen–Truscott turned his back on the living to face the graves of his fellow soldiers.

Among Truscott’s audience was Bill Mauldin, the famous cartoonist for the Army newspaper, Stars and Stripes.  Mauldin had created Willie and Joe, the unshaved, slovenly-looking “dogfaces” who came to symbolize the GI.

Bill Mauldin and “Willie and Joe,” the characters he made famous

It is from Mauldin that we have the fullest account of Truscott’s speech that day.

“He apologized to the dead men for their presence there.  He said that everybody tells leaders that it is not their fault that men get killed in war, but that every leader knows in his heart that this is not altogether true.

“He said he hoped anybody here through any mistake of his would forgive him, but he realized that was asking a hell of a lot under the circumstances….

“Truscott said he would not speak of the ‘glorious’ dead because he didn’t see much glory in getting killed in your late teens or early twenties.

“He promised that if in the future he ran into anybody, especially old men, who thought death in battle was glorious, he would straighten them out.  He said he thought it was the least he could do.

“It was the most moving gesture I ever saw,” said Mauldin.

Then Truscott walked away, without acknowledging his audience.

Fast forward 61 years–to March 24, 2004.

At a White House Correspondents dinner in Washington, D.C., President George W. Bush joked publicly about the absence of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in Iraq.

One year earlier, he had invaded Iraq on the premise that its dictator, Saddam Hussein, possessed WMDs he intended to use against the United States.

To Bush, the non-existent WMDs were nothing more than the butt of a joke that night.

While an overhead projector displayed photos of a puzzled-looking Bush searching around the Oval Office, Bush recited a comedy routine.

“Those weapons of mass destruction have gotta be somewhere,” Bush laughed, while a photo showed him poking around the corners in the Oval Office.

“Nope-–no weapons over there!  Maybe they’re under here,” he said, as a photo showed him looking under a desk.

In a scene that could have occurred under the Roman emperor Nero, an assembly of wealthy, pampered men and women–-the elite of America’s media and political classes–-laughed heartily during Bush’s performance.

Only later did the criticism come, from Democrats and Iraqi war veterans–especially those veterans who had lost comrades or suffered grievous wounds to protect America from non-existant WMDs.

Click here: Bush laughs at no WMD in Iraq – YouTube 

Then fast forward another 11 years–to February 27, 2015.

The Republican Party’s leading presidential contenders for 2016 gathered at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

Although each candidate tried to stake his own claim to the Oval Office, all of them agreed on two points:

First, President Barack Obama had been dangerously timid in his conduct of foreign policy.

Second, they would pursue aggressive military action in the Middle East.

“Our position needs to be to re-engage with a strong military and a strong presence,” said Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida.

And Bush added that he would consider sending ground forces to fight ISIS.

Scott Walker, the current governor of Florida, equated opposing labor unions to terrorists, and said: “If I could take on 100,000 protesters (in Wisconsin), I can do the same across the world.”

Neither Bush nor Walker saw fit to enter the ranks of the military he wishes to plunge into further combat.

And Bush and Walker are typical of those who make up the United States Congress:

Of those members elected or re-elected to the House and Senate in November, 2014, 97–less than 18%–have served in the U.S. military.

Small wonder that, for many people, Old Glory has taken on a darker, washed-out appearance.

SECRET SERVICE: REFORMS URGENTLY NEEDED – PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics on February 20, 2015 at 12:46 am

The United States Secret Service is an agency in trouble.

  • On September 16, 2014, while on a trip to Atlanta’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President Barack Obama was inside an elevator with a private security contractor who was armed with a pistol.  The Secret Service did not know he was armed until his supervisor, who fired him on the spot, requested his weapon.  A national database check revealed the contractor  had a criminal record with three convictions for assault and battery.
  • On September 27, 2014, an unidentified man posing as a member of Congress made his way into a secure area backstage at a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation awards dinner in Washington, D.C. where Obama was attending.

Asked for Obama’s reaction to a series of Secret Service foulups, White House spokesman Frank Benenati gave this boilerplate reply: “The president has full confidence in the Secret Service and is grateful to the men and women who day in and day out protect himself, his family and the White House.”

But by October 1, then-Director Julia Pierson was forced out of the agency and replaced by an interim director: Joseph Clancy, formerly head of the presidential protection detail.

But the blunt truth is that many of the problems now plaguing the U.S. Secret Service were on full display as early as 2009. That was when well-known investigative reporter Ronald Kessler published his latest book, In the President’s Secret Service.

Kessler had previously pubilshed books outlining the inner workings of the White House, the CIA and the FBI. Kessler praised the courage and integrity of Secret Service agents as a whole.

But he warned that the agency was risking the safety of many of its protectees, including President Obama. He was particularly critical of SS management for such practices as:

  • Shutting off weapon-scanning magnetometers at rallies for Presidential candidates–and even for Presidents George W. Bush and Obama. 
  • During a speech Bush gave at Tbilisi, Georgia in 2005, an assailant threw a live hand grenade–which failed to explode–at him.  
  • Despite 9/11, Secret Service agents are still being trained to expect an attempt by a lone gunman—rather than a professional squad of terrorist assassins.
  • The Service’s Counter Assault Teams (CATs) have generally been cut back from five or six agents to two, rendering them useless if a real attack occurred.
  • Salaries paid to SS agents have not kept pace with reality. Veteran SS men and women are now being offered up to four times their salary for moving to the private sector, and many are leavleaving the agency for that reason.

Secret Service agents protecting President Barack Obama

  • While Congress has greatly expanded the duties of this agency, Secret Service management has not asked for equivalent increases in funding and agents.
  • Many agents are leaving out of frustration that it takes “juice” or connections with top management to advance one’s career.
  • SS agents are being trained with weapons that are outdated (such as the MP5, developed in the 1960s) compared to those used by other law enforcement agencies and the potential assassins they face (such as the M4–with greater range and armor-piercing capabilities).
  • The Service refuses to ask for help from other agencies to meet its manpower needs. Thus, a visiting head of state at the U.N. General Assembly will usually be assigned only three agents as protection.
  • The agency tells agents to grade themselves on their physical training test forms. 
  • Agents are supposed to be evaluated on their marksmanship skills every three months.  But some agents have gone more than a year without being tested.
  • Some agents are so overweight they can’t meet the rigorous demands of the job.  As a result, they pose a danger to the people they’re supposed to be protecting.
  • The Secret Service inflates its own arrest statistics by claiming credit for arrests made by local police.
  • Congressional members who visit the agency’s James Rowley Training Center in Laurel, Maryland, are treated to rehearsed scenarios of how the agency would deal with attacks.  If agents were allowed to perform these exercises without rehearsals, Congress members would see they can and do make mistakes like everyone else.

Kessler closes his book with the warning: “Without….changes, an assassination of Barack Obama or a future president is likely.

“If that happens, a new Warren Commission will be appointed to study the tragedy. It will find that the Secret Service was shockingly derelict in its duty to the American people and to its own elite corps of brave and dedicated agents.”

And the effects will be not only momentary but long-term.  As Kessler writes: “By definition, an assassination threatens democracy.

“If Abraham Lincoln had not been assassinated, Andrew Johnson, his successor, would not have been able to undermine Lincoln’s efforts to reunite the nation and give more rights to blacks during the Reconstruction period.

“If John F. Kennedy had not been assassinated, Lyndon Johnson likely never would have become President.  If Robert F. Kennedy had not been killed and had won the presidency, Richard Nixon might never have been elected.”

SECRET SERVICE: REFORMS URGENTLY NEEDED – PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics on February 19, 2015 at 2:21 am

The White House has made it official: President Barack Obama has chosen the man he wants to run the agency responsible for protecting him.

It’s Joseph Clancy, the former special agent who Obama asked in October, 2014, to temporarily run the troubled Secret Service.

Clancy is the former head of the service’s presidential protective division.  He was quickly appointed on an interim basis in a hurry after then-Director Julia Pierson was forced to resign on October 1 after a series of highly embarrassing security breaches.

Joseph Clancy

On October 10, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security created a four-member panel to conduct an independent review of the Secret Service.  Its results were presented in December.

Among the panel’s recommendations: The next Secret Service director should be an outsider:

“The next director will have to make difficult choices, identifying clear priorities for the organization and holding management accountable for any failure to achieve those priorities.

“Only a director from outside the (Secret) Service, removed from organizational traditions and personal relationships, will be able to do the honest top-to-bottom reassessment this will require.”

Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said it was “disappointing” that Obama decided not to follow the panel’s recommendations.

If Clancy is serious about reforming the agency, he has a lot of work to do.

Consider:

On September 11, 2001, Secret Service agents literally grabbed Vice President Dick Cheney and hauled him from the White House to a secure facility beneath the Executive Mansion.

As for everyone else who worked in the White House, agents simply threw open the White House doors and ordered: “Run!”

“Women, take off your shoes!” agents shouted–so they could run faster. Frightened Presidential aides were told to remove their White House badges–just in case snipers were lurking nearby.

That was it.

A Secret Service agent posted outside the White House on September 11, 2001

Not knowing what to do, some aides walked home in a daze.

Click here: Amazon.com: Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House (9780385525190): Peter Baker: Books

(President George W. Bush was not in the White House at the time.  He was reading The Pet Goat to a group of children at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida.)

Three days later, on September 14, Andy Card, Bush’s chief of staff, addressed White House staffers in Room 450 of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the West Wing.

Card said he understood that “this is not what any of you signed up for when you joined the White House staff.”  And he offered them the chance to resign without anyone–himself or the President–thinking any less of them.

When no one offered to leave, Card let a Secret Service agent offer security advice:

  • Vary your routines to and from work.
  • Watch out for any cars that might be following you.
  • Go to different restaurants for lunch.

At least one member of the audience, Bradford Berenson, an associate White House counsel, knew he wouldn’t be taking that advice.

Like most of the others at the meeting, his name was listed in the local phone book.  A terrorist wanting to kill him need only lurk outside Berenson’s home and open fire when he appeared.

Click here: 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars: Kurt Eichenwald: 9781451669398: Amazon.com: Books

And that was it, as far as the Secret Service was concerned.

No offers of even temporary escorts by Secret Service agents.  No offers to install “panic buttons” in their homes in case of emergency.

In essence: “We’re really glad you’ve decided to serve your country.  But don’t expect us to protect you.  You’re on your own.”

Fast forward 13 years later.

On the night of September 19, 2014, an Iraq war veteran, Omar Gonzales, jumped the White House fence, ran more than 70 yards across the north lawn, and sprinted just past the north portico White House doors.

Gonzalez appeared unarmed as he ran across the lawn–which may be why Secret Service agents didn’t shoot him or release their service dogs to detain him. But he had a small folding knife with a three-and-one-half-inch serrated blade when he was apprehended.

And he could have been wearing a suicide vest under his shirt.

At least one Secret Service agent was on his cellphone at the time of the intrusion and thus missed the alarm.

According to a criminal complaint, when he was arrested he told Secret Service agents he was “concerned that the atmosphere was collapsing” and needed to contact the President “so he could get word out to the people.”

Even more disturbing: At the time of his arrest, Gonzalez had a machete, two hachets and 800 rounds of ammunition in his car.

In late August, Gonzalez had been stopped while walking along the White House fence. He was carrying a hatchet and allowed police to search his car, where they found camping gear and two dogs.  He was not arrested then.

Then, less than 24 hours after Gonzalez’s arrest, a second man was apprehended after he drove up to a White House gate and refused to leave.  This triggered a search of his vehicle by bomb technicians in full gear.  Other agents shut down nearby streets.  No bombs were found.

WHAT “AMERICAN SNIPER” DOESN’T TELL: PART THREE (END)

In Entertainment, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 30, 2015 at 12:15 am

Naturally the common people don’t want war, neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany.  That is understood.
But, after all, it’s the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along….

All you have to do is tell them that they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to greater danger.  It works the same way in any country.
–Rcichsmarshall Hermann Goering

Much of the moral basis for American leadership was destroyed by the dark parallels between Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939 and George W. Bush’s invasion of  Iraq in 2003.

Among these:

ADOLF HITLER

Adolf Hitler (third from left) with his generals

In 1970, Albert Speer, Adolf Hitler’s former architect and then Minister of Aramaments, published his bestselling postwar memoirs, Inside the Third Reich.  In a striking passage, he revealed how the Fuehrer really felt about German soldiers who were suffering and dying in a war he had provoked.

One evening during the middle of the war, Speer was traveling with Hitler on the Fuehrer’s private train.  Late at night, they enjoyed a lavish dinner in the elegant rosewood-paneled dining car.

As they ate, Hitler’s train slowed down and passed a freight train halted on a side track.

From their open cattle car, recalled Speer, wounded German soldiers from the Russian Front–starved, their uniforms in rags–stared across the few yards to their Fuehrer’s dining-car window.

Albert Speer

Hitler recoiled at seeing these injured men intently watching him–and he sharply ordered an adjutant to lower the window shades.

Hitler had served as a frontline soldier in World War 1 and had won the Iron Cross for bravery as a dispatch runner.

As Fuehrer, he often boasted of his affinity with the average German soldier.  He claimed that “my whole life has been one long struggle for Germany.”

Yet throughout the six years of World War II, he refused to visit German cities ravaged by British and American bombs.

Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, despaired at this.

Joseph Goebbels

Winston Churchill, prime minister of Great Britain, often visited cities hit by German bombers, and Goebbels knew these visits greatly boosted British morale.

Goebbels urged Hitler to make similar visits to bombed-out German cities, but the Fuehrer refused.

Albert Speer believed that Hitler couldn’t bear to see the carnage wrought by his decision to provoke a needless war.

George W. Bush “looking” for WMDs in the White House

GEORGE W. BUSH

Similarly, Bush showed his contempt for the soldiers suffering and dying in his own unprovoked war.

On March 24, 2004, at a White House Correspondents dinner, he joked publicly about the absence of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs).

To Bush, the non-existent WMDs were nothing more than the butt of a joke that night. While an overhead projector displayed photos of a puzzled-looking Bush searching around the Oval Office, Bush recited a comedy routine.

“Those weapons of mass destruction have gotta be somewhere,” Bush laughed, while a photo showed him poking around the corners in the Oval Office.

“Nope-–no weapons over there!  Maybe they’re under here,” he said, as a photo showed him looking under a desk.

In a scene that could have occurred under the Roman emperor Nero, an assembly of wealthy, pampered men and women–-the elite of America’s media and political classes–-laughed heartily during Bush’s performance.

Only later did the criticism come, from Democrats and Iraqi war veterans–especially those veterans who had suffered grievous wounds to protect America from WMDs.

Click here: Bush laughs at no WMD in Iraq – YouTube

In his Presidential memoirs, Decision Points, Bush failed to mention his joking about the “missing WMDs” at the correspondents dinner.

In writing about discovering insights into the human character, the ancient historian, Plutarch, said it best:

And the most glorious exploits do not always furnish us with the clearest discoveries of virtue or vice in men.

Sometimes a matter of less moment, an expression or a jest, informs us better of their characters and inclinations, than the most famous sieges, the greatest armaments, or the bloodiest battles whatsoever.

* * * * *

So add it all up:

  • Two all-powerful leaders.
  • Two nations lied into unprovoked wars.
  • Adolf Hitler’s war costs the lives of 4.5 million German soldiers.
  • George W. Bush’s war costs the lives of 4,486 Americans.
  • Germany’s war results in the deaths of millions of Europeans and Russians.
  • America’s war results in the deaths of an estimated 655,000 Iraqis, according to a 2006 study in the Lancet medical journal.
  • Hitler is literally driven underground by his enemies and commits suicide to avoid capture, trial and certain execution for war crimes.
  • Bush retires from office with a lavish pension and full Secret Service protection.  He writes his memoirs and is paid $7 million for the first 1.5 million copies.
  • Hitler is branded as a symbol of demonic evil.
  • Bush becomes a target of ridicule for comics.

Who says history is irrelevant?  Or that it doesn’t repeat itself?

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