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SECRET SERVICE PROBLEMS – A LONG HISTORY: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 24, 2014 at 12:15 am

On the night of September 19, 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–possibly why agents didn’t shoot him or release their service dogs to detain him. But in his pants pocket he had a small folding knife with a three-and-onoe-half inch serrated blade when he was apprehended.

According to a criminal complaint, when Gonzalez was apprehended 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.”

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.

Asked for Obama’s reaction, 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 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 tworendering 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 leaving the agency for that reason.

  • 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 guarding.
  • The Secret Service inflates its own arrest statistics by claiming credit for arrests made by local police.
  • Congressional members who visit the agency’s 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, Congressional members would see they can and do make mistakes like anyone 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 PROBLEMS – A LONG HISTORY: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics on September 23, 2014 at 12:15 am

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.

With the World Trade Center and Pentagon in flames, and the White House seemingly next in line as a target, this was the sum total of protection offered White House staffers by the agency considered the elite in Federal law enforcement.

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, 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–possibly one reason 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.

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 July, he had been arrested in Wythe County, Virginia, and charged with possession of a shotgun and a sniper rifle. He was also charged with eluding and evading arrest.

In addition, police found that Gonzalez had a map with the White House circled.

Then, in late August, Gonzalez was 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.

Why was he even allowed outside a jail cell?

Secret Service agents standing post.

Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) has called for a “full investigation” of the incident.

“I have great respect for the Secret Service, but this is absolutely inexcusable,” King said in an appearance two days later on “Fox News Sunday.”

King said officers should have acted more quickly, as the man could have had a body bomb or vest.  He also argued that given the tensions between the United States and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) the Secret Service should have been especially alert.

King said the House Homeland Security Committee would likely hold hearings on the incident.

The Secret Service’s Office of Professional Responsibility will review the incident.

(President Barack Obama was not in the White House at the time.  He and his daughters had just left to spend the weekend at Camp David, the Presidential retreat.)

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.

HEROES: REAL AND FICTIONAL

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on August 22, 2014 at 8:01 pm

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

Steven Pressfield Focused Interview

 Steven Pressfield

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, 2012.

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 golde            n boy of the American Army–the best-known and most revered general since Dwight D. Eisenhower.

David  Petraeus

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.”

Today, generals stationed thousands of miles from the front command armies.  Andthey face more danger from heart attacks than from dying in the heat of battle.

SEVERED HEADS IN SYRIA: LET ALLAH SORT IT OUT

In History, Military, Politics on August 14, 2014 at 10:57 am

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has some advice on Syria.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the Faith and Freedom Coalition on June 15, 2013, Palin said the United States should not intervene in Syria while Barack Obama holds the Presidency:

“Until we have a commander in chief who knows what he is doing… let Allah sort it out!”

Actually, she got it half-right: “Let Allah sort it out”–regardless of who is President.

Anyone who doubts the wisdom of this should look at a photo now making the rounds on the Internet.

Taken in Syria, it shows a seven-year-old boy, wearing a baseball cap and, with both hands, holding aloft a severed head.  “That’s my boy,” reads a caption underneath.

It may been written by Khaled Sharrouf, a wanted terrorist who fled Australia to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

It is ISIS that now threatens to overwhelm Iraq and re-establish an Islamic Caliphate.

Click here: Seven-Year-Old Jihadi Poses with Severed Head

That photo is the real face of Syria.  It’s worth remembering as Democratic and Republican politicians seek to prove their toughness to voters.

One of the Democrats is former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who blames President Obama for not sending military forces to Syria.

“I know that the failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad—there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle—the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled,” Clinton recently said.

There’s an old saying: When your enemy is digging himself into a hole, let him keep digging.  And that is exactly the case with those groups now waging all-out war against each other in Syria.

Yes, it’s Hezbollah (Party of God) vs. Al-Qaeda (The Base).

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 241 Marines.

Flag of Hezbollah

Al-Qaeda, on the other hand, is made up of Sunni Muslims, who form the majority of Islamics.  Intolerent of non-Sunni Muslims, it has instigated violence against them.  It denounces them as “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 sectarian attacks include the Sadr City bombings, the 2004 Ashoura massacre and the April, 2007 Baghdad bombings.

Flag of Al Qaeda

In a June 1, 2013 column entitled, “Stop the Madness,” Dr. James J. Zogby, the founder and president of the Arab American Institute, warned:

“What began as a popular revolt against a brutal and ossified dictatorship, Syria has now degenerated into a bloody battlefield pitting sects and their regional allies against each other in a ‘dance unto death.’

“On the one side, is the Ba’ath regime, supported by Russia, Iran, Hizbullah, and elements in the Iraqi government.

“Arrayed against them are a host of Syrians (some of whom have defected from the armed forces and others who have formed militias receiving arms and support from a number of Arab states and Turkey) and a cast of thousands of foreign Sunni fighters (some of whom have affiliated with al Qaeda) who have entered Syria to wage war on behalf of their brethren.”  [Emphasis added.]

But Hillary Clinton isn’t the only one urging Obama to waste American lives in a cause that only Islamic terror groups and right-wing Americans find compelling.

Republican U.S. Senator from Arizona John McCain has repeatedly urged the Obama administration to wage war on Syria.

He has demanded that the United States create a “no-fly” zone over Syria to deny Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad the use of his air force against his rebellious subjects.

McCain, unlike Clinton, served in Vietnam as a U.S. Navy pilot.  In October 1967, while on a bombing mission over Hanoi, he was shot down, seriously injured, and captured by the North Vietnamese.  He remained a prisoner of war until his release in 1973.

Now McCain wants today’s young servicemen to have the same opportunities he did–to be blown out of the sky and taken prisoner for another worthless cause.

President Obama is reportedly weighing his options for intervention in Syria.  But it’s not too late for him to draw back from the brink.

He can establish an all-volunteer brigade for those Americans willing to fight and possibly die in yet another pointless war.  And he can especially offer the same opportunity to tough-talking politicians eager to put others’ lives in harm’s way.

Finally, Obama can offer to fly them to the border of Syria so they can carry out their self-appointed “conquer or die” mission.

If these armchair strategists refuse to put their own lives on the line in defense of a “cause” they claim to believe in, Obama should have the courage to brutally–and repeatedly–point this out.

BUSHITLER AND WARS OF SHAME: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on June 24, 2014 at 9:35 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 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?

BUSHITLER AND WARS OF SHAME: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on June 23, 2014 at 1:19 pm

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.

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 2013, the war in Iraq cost the United States $1.7 trillion and the lives of 4,488 servicemen.

America completed its military withdrawal from Iraq in December, 2011.  And now, less than two years later, Iraq seems about to self-destruct in religious civil war.

But there is more to the United States’ tortured intervention in Iraq than most Americans know.

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

Among the similarities between these two conflicts, fought 64 years apart:

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.

“DR. STRANGELOVE” LIVES: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 19, 2014 at 12:21 am

He’s the man who sends a nuclear bomber wing off to attack the Soviet Union–thus triggering all-out thermonuclear war between the U.S.S.R and America.

Sterling Hayden as General Jack D. Ripper

While others feel he has clearly gone insane, Ripper is certain he’s done the right thing–and for the right reason: To stop “the most monstrously conceived and dangerous Communist plot” of all: Fluoridation.

And Ripper has assigned himself the task of saving “our precious bodily fluids”–although the result can only be universal destruction.

Fortunately, Ripper is only a fictitious character–played by Sterling Hayden in Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1964 dark comedy, “Dr. Strangelove.”

But America has had its share of irrational behavior among its Presidents.

RICHARD NIXON: In 1970, while deciding whether to widen the Vietnam war by invading Cambodia, he repeatedly watched the movie “Patton.”

Richard Nixon

In 1974, as journalistic and Justice Department investigations of Watergate increasingly threatened his Presidency, his behavior grew increasingly erratic.

He drank heavily, took pills by the handful, and, on at least one occasion, was seen talking to pictures of Presidents that adorned the walls of the White House.

In the final weeks of his administration, as impeachment for Watergate abuses seemed inevitable, Nixon inspired fears of a military coup in his Secretary of Defense.

James Schlesinger warned all military commands to ignore any direct orders from the White House–or any other source–without the counter-signature of the SecDef himself.

* * * * *

GEORGE W. BUSH:  In June, 2001, he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Slovenia.  Bush judged others–even world leaders–through the lens of his own fundamentalist Christian theology.

And Putin was quick to take advantage of it.

Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush

BUSH:  Let me say something about what caught my attention, Mr. President, was that your mother gave you a cross which you had blessed in Israel, the Holy Land.

PUTIN:  It’s true.

BUSH:  That amazes me, that here you were a Communist, KGB operative, and yet you were willing to wear a cross.  That speaks volumes to me, Mr. President.  May I call you Vladimir?

Falling back on his KGB training, Putin seized on this apparent point of commonality to build a bond.  He told Bush that his dacha had once burned to the ground, and the only item that had been saved was that cross.

BUSH:  Well, that’s the story of the cross as far as I’m concerned.  Things are meant to be.

Afterward, Bush and Putin gave an outdoor news conference.

“Is this a man that Americans can trust?” Associated Press correspondent Ron Fournier asked Bush.

“Yes,” said Bush. “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue.

“I was able to get a sense of his soul, a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country.  I wouldn’t have invited him to my ranch if I didn’t trust him.”

In early 2003, Bush telephoned French President Jaques Chirac, hoping to enlist his support–and troops–for his long-planned invasion of Iraq.

Failing to convince Chirac that overthrowing Saddam Hussein was politically advantageous, Bush took a different tack.

BUSH: Jaques, you and I share a common faith.  You’re Roman Catholic, I’m Methodist, but we’re both Christians committed to the teachings of the Bible.  We share one common Lord.

Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East.  Biblical prophecies are being fulfilled.

This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase His people’s enemies before a new age begins.

When the call ended, Chirac asked his advisors: “Gog and Magog–do any of you know what he’s talking about?”

When no one did, Chirac ordered: Find out.

The answer came from Thomas Roemer, a professor of theology at the University of Lausanne.

Romer explained that the Old Testament book of Ezekiel contains two chapters (38 and 39) in which God rages against Gog and Magog, sinister and mysterious forces menacing Israel.

Jehovah vows to slaughter them ruthlessly. In the New Testament book of Revelation (20:8) Gog and Magog are depicted as gathering nations for battle: “And fire came down from God out of Heaven, and devoured them.”

Chirac decided to oppose joining the upcoming invasion of Iraq.  France, he said, would not fight a war based on an American Presient’s interpretation of the Bible.

The incident is chronicled in 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars, by investigative journalist Kurt Eichenwald.

Click here: 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars: Kurt Eichenwald

Bush’s war cost the lives of 4,486 Americans–and an estimated 655,000 Iraqis.

Bush, however, was not the first President to invoke Gog and Magog.

Ronald Reagan predicted that this Biblical confrontation would pit the United States against the Soviet Union–which had abandoned God at the time of the Russian Revolution.

Evangelical Christians twice elected Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush to the Presidency.

In light of this, voters should think carefully before choosing candidates who accept superstitious beliefs over rational inquiry.

“DR. STRANGELOVE” LIVES: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 18, 2014 at 12:15 am

In December, 1916, a group of outraged aristocrats, led by Prince Felix Yusspov, one of the wealthiest men in Russia, decided to take action.

They would murder Grigori Rasputin and–they believed–save the Czar from his corrupting influence.

On the night of December 29, 1916, Yusspov lured Rasputin to his estate on the pretext of meeting his lovely wife, Irina.

While Rasputin waited eagerly to meet the princess, Yusspov plied him with cakes and glasses of wine–all poisoned with potassium cyanide.  When these had no effect, Yusspov drew a revolver and shot him in the back.

Shortly afterward, Rasputin, with superhuman strength, tried to escape from the palace.  The rest of the assassins shot him several more times, wrapped his body in chains, and dumped it into an icy river.

The conspirators were hailed as heroes by the outraged aristocracy.  They believed that Rasputin’s death would ensure the salvation of the monarchy.

But it didn’t.  The notoriety of Rasputin’s life had by now fully attached itself to Nicholas and Alexandra.

In February, 1917, food riots broke out in St. Petersburg, and the Czar was forced to abdicate.   On July 17, 1916, he and his family–including Alexandra, their four daughters and Alexei–were executed by the Bolsheviks.

Click here: Nicholas and Alexandra: Robert K. Massie: 9780345438317: Amazon.com: Books

But Nicholas II was not the only world leader who placed his faith in the supernatural.

A modern-day example of this was Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States from 1981 to 1989.

Ronald Reagan

Nancy Reagan met an astrologer named Joan Quigley on “The Merv Griffin Show” in 1973.

Quigley supposedly gave Nancy–and through her, Reagan himself–astrological advice during the latter’s campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination in 1976.

That effort failed to unseat President Gerald Ford–who was defeated that November by Jimmy Carter.

Four years later, in 1980, Reagan defeated Carter to become the 40th President of the United States.

On March 30, 1981, a mentally-disturbed loner named John W. Hinckley shot and critically wounded Reagan.  Hinckley’s motive: Fixiated on actress Jodie Foster, he believed that by shooting the President he could gain her affection.

For Nancy, the assassination attempt proved a watershed.

Shortly after the shooting, Merv Griffin told her that Quigley had told him: If Nancy had called her on that fateful day, she–Quigley–could have warned that the President’s astrological charts had foretold a bad day.

From that moment on, Nancy made sure to regularly consult Quigley on virtually everything that she and the President intended to do.

Click here: The President’s Astrologers – Joan Quigley, Nancy Reagan, Politicians and Their Families, Ronald Reagan : People.c

Many–if not most–of these calls from the White House to Quigley’s office in San Francisco were made on non-secure phone lines.

Joan Quigley

This meant that foreign powers–most notably the Soviet Union and Communist China–could have been privy to Reagan’s intentions.

Nancy passed on Quigley’s suggestions in the form of commands to Donald Regan, chief of the White House staff.

As a result, Regan kept a color-coded calendar on his desk to remember when the astrological signs were good for the President to speak, travel, or negotiate with foreign leaders.

Green ink was used to highlight “good” days, red for “bad” days, and yellow for “iffy” days.

A list provided by Quigley to Nancy made the following recommendations–which Nancy, in turn, made into commands:

Late Dec thru March    bad
Jan 16 – 23    very bad
Jan 20    nothing outside WH–possible attempt
Feb 20 – 26    be careful
March 7 – 14    bad period
March 10 – 14    no outside activity!
March 16    very bad
March 21    no
March 27    no
March 12 – 19    no trips exposure
March 19 – 25    no public exposure
April 3    careful
April 11    careful
April 17    careful
April 21 – 28    stay home

Donald Regan, no fan of Nancy’s, chafed under such restrictions: “Obviously, this list of dangerous or forbidden dates left very little lattitude for scheduling,” he later wrote.

Forced out of the White House in 1987 by Nancy, Regan struck back in a 1988 tell-all memoir: For the Record: From Wall Street to Washington.

The book revealed, for the first time, how Ronald Reagan actually made his Presidential decisions.

All–including decisions to risk nuclear war with the Soviet Union–were based on a court astrologer’s horoscopes.  Rationality and the best military intelligence available played a lesser, secondary role.

In 1990, Quigley confirmed the allegations an autobiography, What Does Joan Say?: My Seven Years As White House Astrologer to Nancy and Ronald Reagan.

Click here: What Does Joan Say?: My Seven Years As White House Astrologer to Nancy and Ronald Reagan: Joan Quigley

The title came from the question that Ronald Reagan asked Nancy before making important decisions–including those that could risk the destruction of the United States.

Among the success Quigley took credit for:

  • Strategies for winning the Presidential elections of 1980 and 1984;
  • Visiting a graveyard for SS soldiers in Bitburg, Germany;
  • Pursuing “Star Wars” as a major part of his strategy against the Soviet Union;
  • The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty; and
  • Moving from seeing the Soviet Union as the “Evil Empire” to accepting Mikhail Gorbachev as a peace-seeking leader.

Thirty-three years after he became President, Ronald Reagan remains the most popular figure among Republicans.

His name is constantly invoked by Right-wing candidates, while his deliberately-crafted myth is held up as the example of Presidential greatness.

“DR. STRANGELOVE” LIVES: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 17, 2014 at 12:58 am

Most people–especially Americans–like to believe they choose rational men and women for their political leaders.

This is especially true when it comes to deciding who will govern the country for the next four years as President of the United States.

And those voters like to believe that, once elected, the new President will base his or her decisions on a firm foundation of rationality and careful consideration.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always true.

And in an age when a Presidential decision can, in a matter of minutes, hurl nuclear bombers and missiles to lay waste entire nations, it’s essential for Americans to realize this.

Of course, Americans have no monopoly on leaders who rule by irrationality.

The classic foreign-affairs version of this is that of Nicholas 11, Czar of All the Russias, his wife, the Czarina Alexandra, and the “mad monk” from Siberia, Grigori Rasputin.

Rasputin arrived in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1905.  Founded by Czar Peter the Great in 1703, it was then the capitol of Russia–and the center of Russian cultural life.

(When Russia entered World War 1 against Germany in 1914, the Imperial government renamed the city Petrograd, meaning “Peter’s City”, to remove the German words “saint” and “burg.”

(After the Bolsheviks came to power in 1917, they renamed it Leningrad in honor of Vladimir Lenin, the first Communist dictator.  After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the city reclaimed its original name: St. Petersburg.)

Rasputin carried with him the auroa of a holy man and a healer.  A woman friend of the Empress made his fateful introduction to the royal family in late 1095. 

It was Rasputin’s claim to be a healer that cemented his relationship with the Czar and Czarina–and especially the latter.

For Nicholas and Alexandra lived with a frightening secret–one known to only a handful of trusted doctors: Their only son, Alexei–next in line to the throne when his father died–was a hemophiliac.

Nicholas 11 and Alexandra

A disease inherited on the mother’s side, hemophilia prevents the blood from clotting normally.  A slight cut can result in massive–and fatal–bleeding.  Even a slight bruise cause internal bleeding.

Doctors had told the Czar there was nothing they could do to cure his young son.  If an accident happened, all that could be done was to await the outcome.

Alexei

So when Nicholas and Alexandra learned of Rasputin’s supposed reputation as a healer, they dared to hope that a miracle might be possible for their son.

And on several occasions, Rasputin seemed to deliver on his reputation–and claims–of being able to work miracles in God’s name.

One such instance occurred in October, 1912.  Alexei, riding in a train carriage, received an unexpected jolt, and began bleeding internally.

His condition became steadily worse.  He was given the last rites, and Russians were informed that the Czarevich was ill and needed their prayers to recover.  No mention of hemophilia was made.

Finally, Alexandra sent word–via telegram–of the situation to Rasputin, who was then in Siberia.  He promptly sent back a telegram: “The Little One will not die.  Do not allow the doctors to bother him too much.”

From that moment, Alexei underwent a steady recovery.

For Rasputin–and the royal family–it was a fateful moment.

Rasputin had been exiled to Siberia because the Czar was outraged by his notorious womanizing.  Drunk on his newfound celebrity at court, Rasputin had found himself sought out by scores of women.

Grigori Rasputin

They came in all ages and comprised both rich and poor.  For jaded aristocratic women, going to bed with a semi-literate peasant was a novel and deliciously carnal experience.

And Rasputin, who claimed to be a holy man, had a ready formula for relieving the guilt so many women felt after such encounters.

Rasputin preached a gospel that one could not truly repent until one had committed sin.  So first came the sinning, and then the repenting–and this, in turn, brought the sinner closer to God.

But Rasputin’s outrageous reputation made the Czar a target for scandal.  Gossips even whispered that Rasputin and the Czarina were lovers.

So, in 1912, Nicholas had sent Rasputin packing back to Siberia.

But with his apparent healing of Alexei, Czarina Alexandra demanded that he be returned to the nation’s capitol.

For her, Rasputin offered the only promise of hope for her constantly endangered son.

With Rasputin’s return, the rumors–increasingly uttered in public–started up again.

In 1914, Russia was drawn into World War 1 against Imperial Germany.  The Russian army–poorly equipped and trained–suffered a series of disastrous reverses early on.

The Czar decided to take personal command of the war effort–which meant spending most of his time at the front.

This, in turn, left the Czarina, Alexandra, behind in St. Petersburg, to essentially run the country.  And at her side, “guiding” her decisions, was the semi-literate peasant, Grigori Rasputin.

Rasputin, in turn, was the subject of countless and scandalous affairs–with wives, daughters, aristocrats and chambermaids.

Enemies of Nicholas II–including the Communistic Bolsheviks–relished the scandals as a way to attack the Czar through one of his intimates.

Finally, a group of outraged aristocrats, led by Prince Felix Yusspov, one of the wealthiest men in Russia, decided to “save” the Czar–by murdering Rasputin.

GETTING HELP FROM YOUR ENEMIES: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Military, Politics on January 6, 2014 at 12:37 am

Sometimes your worst enemies aid you in ways you could never help yourself.

From July 10 to October 31, 1940, hundreds of badly-outnumbered pilots of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) fought off relentless attacks by Germany’s feared Luftwaffe.

For Germany’s Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, it was a major setback.

He was forced to concede that he lacked the strength to destroy the British air force–thus making it possible for his navy to land German troop on English soil.

But Hitler wasn’t prepared to give up.  He believed he could so terrorize Britons that they would demand that their government submit to German surrender demands.

From September 7, 1940 to May 21, 1941, the Luftwaffe subjected England–and especially London–to a ruthless bombing campaign that became known as The Blitz.

The undamaged St. Paul’s Cathredal, December, 1940

More than 100 tons of high explosives were dropped on 16 British cities.  During 267 days (almost 37 weeks):

  • London was attacked 71 times;
  • Birmingham, Plymouth and Liverpool were attacked eight times;
  • Bristol was attacked six times; Glasgow, five; Southampton four; and
  • There was also at least one large raid on another eight cities.

Between 40,000 and 43,000 British civilians were killed.  About 139,000 others were wounded.

“London can take it” went the British slogan.  But, in the United States, Americans–including President Franklin D. Roosevelt–wondered: For how much longer?

Clearly, what Great Britain desperately needed most was a miracle.

Exactly that happened on June 22, 1941.

With 134 Divisions at full fighting strength and 73 more divisions for deployment behind the front, the German Wehrmacht invaded the Soviet Union.

German tank commander

Joseph Stalin, the longtime Soviet dictator, was stunned.  The invasion had come less than two years after Germany had signed a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union.

Hitler had turned on his partner-in-crime.  The two dictators had greedily split Poland between them when Hitler launched his invasion on September 1, 1939.

Now they were locked in a fight to the death.

People in England were also surprised–but also suddenly hopeful.   Britain now had an ally whose resources might tip the balance against Hitler.

In the United States, then-Senator Harry S. Truman spoke for many Americans when he said: “I hope the Russians kill lots of Nazis and vice versa.”

Today the United States faces just such an opportunity.

In Syria, two of America’s most deadly enemies are now waging war–with each other.

Yes, it’s Hezbollah (Party of God) vs. Al-Qaeda (The Base).

United Nations officials estimate that more than 70,000 people have died in Syria’s civil war since conflict began on March 15, 2011.  The trigger: Protests demanding political reforms and the ouster of dictator Bashar al-Assad.

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 is intolerent of non-Sunni Muslims and has instigated violence against them.  It denounces them as “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 sectarian attacks include the Sadr City bombings, the 2004 Ashoura massacre and the April, 2007 Baghdad bombings.

Flag of Al-Qaeda

On one side is the Ba’ath regime of Bashir al-Assad, whose allies include Russia, Iran, Hezbullah, and elements in the Iraqi government.

On the other side are a host of Syrians and thousands of foreign Sunni fighters some of whom have affiliated with Al-Qaeda.

And now that civil war has spread into neighborhing Lebanon.

On January 2, at least four people were killed and 77 injured when a car bomb exploded in a residential  neighborhood in southern Beirut.

The Shiite-dominated district, Haret Hreik, is known as a Hezbollah stronghold.

Two days later, an Al-Qaeda linked group claimed responsibility for the attack.

At a press conference for President Barack Obama on March 20, 2013, a reporter asked:

“Morally, how is it possible that for the last two years, tens of thousands of innocent civilians [in Syria] are being massacred and no one–the world, the United States and you–are doing anything to stop it immediately?”

That is entirely the wrong way to view this conflict.

There are solidly practical reasons why the United States should avoid this bloodfest–while cheering on each of its mortal enemies to do its worst.

First, the United States recently disengaged from Iraq.  On Dec. 15, 2011, the American military formally ended its mission there. The war–begun in 2003–had cost the lives of 4,487 service members, with another 32,226 wounded.

Second, the war in Iraq fell victim to the law of unintended consequences. The Bush administration invaded Iraq to turn it into a base–from which to intimidate its neighboring states: Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Turkey, Syria and Iran.

But while Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had been a counter-weight to the regional ambitions of Iran, the destruction of the Iraqi military created a power-vacumn.  Into this–eagerly–stepped the Iranian mullahs.

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