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Posts Tagged ‘GEORGE W. BUSH’

A HEROIC SIEGE—AND A WARNING FOR AMERICA

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 27, 2020 at 12:04 am

January 26, 2020, marked the 135th anniversary of the fall of Khartoum, the Sudanese city that sits on the banks of the White and Blue Nile Rivers.

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

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 Islamics intent on slaughtering everyone in the city.

Khartoum in 1888—four years after the siege

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

By comparison: The defenders of the Alamo—a far better-known battle, in 1836—numbered no more than 250.  And the siege of the San Antonio mission lasted only 13 days against an army of about 2,000 Mexicans.

The Alamo

Gordon’s story may seem antiquated.  But it resembles the efforts Republicans made to pressure the Obama administration to commit ground forces to “freeing” Syria of its longtime dictator, “President” Bashir al-Assad.

The neocons of the George W. Bush Administration plunged the United States into an unprovoked war against Iraq in 2003. After Baghdad quickly fell, Americans cheered, thinking the war was over and the troops would soon return home.

Suddenly, American soldiers found themselves waging a two-front war in the same country: Fighting an Iraqi insurgency to throw them out, while trying to suppress growing sectarian warfare between Sunni and Shia Muslims.

And then, with Syria, Americans were being urged to plunge headfirst into a conflict they knew nothing about—and in which they had absolutely no stake.

On one side was the Ba’ath regime of Bashir al-Assad, supported by Russia, Iran, Hizbollah and elements in the Iraqi government. Hizbollah 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 Hizbollah

Al-Qaeda, on the other hand, is made up of Sunni Muslims, who form the majority of that religion.

It is intolerant of non-Sunni Muslims and has instigated violence against them.  It denounces them as “takfirs”–heretics—and thus worthy of extermination.

Flag of Al-Qaeda

In short, it’s a Muslim-vs.Muslim “holy war.

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.

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

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

Movie poster for “Khartoum”

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 finds he has underestimated the Madhi’s religious fanaticism: “I seem to have suffered from the delusion that I had a monopoly on God.”

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 has sent Gordon there as a sop to British public opinion 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 relief 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, military 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 infrastructure, millions living in poverty and trillions of dollars in debt.

It’s time for Americans to clean up their own house before worrying about the messes in other nations—especially those wholly alien to American values.

DONALD TRUMP: “TROOPS FOR SALE–TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER!”

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 14, 2020 at 12:05 am

Since the end of the Cold War, the American military and Intelligence communities have grown increasingly dependent on private contractors.

In his 2007 bestseller, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, Tim Weiner writes:

“Patriotism for profit became a $50-billion-a-year business….The [CIA] began contracting out thousands of jobs to fill the perceived void by the budget cuts that began in 1992. 

“A CIA officer could file his retirement papers, turn in his blue identification badge, go to work for a much better salary at a military contractor such as Lockheed Martin or Booz Allen Hamilton, then return to the CIA the next day, wearing a green badge….” 

Seal of the Central Intelligence Agency.svg

Much of the CIA became totally dependent on mercenaries. They appeared to work for the agency, but their loyalty was actually to their private—and higher-paying—companies.

Writes Weiner: “Legions of CIA veterans quit their posts to sell their services to the agency by writing analyses, creating cover for overseas officers, setting up communications networks, and running clandestine operations.”

One such company was Total Intelligence Solutions, founded in 2007 by Cofer Black, who had been the chief of the CIA’s counter-terrorism center on 9/11. His partners were Robert Richer, formerly the associate deputy director of operations at the CIA, and Enrique Prado, who had been Black’s chief of counter-terror operations at the agency.

Future CIA hires followed suit: Serve for five years, win that prized CIA “credential” and sign up with a private security company to enrich themselves.  

This situation met with full support from Right-wing “pro-business” members of Congress and President George W. Bush.

They had long championed the private sector as inherently superior to the public one. And they saw no danger that a man dedicated to enriching himself might put greed ahead of safeguarding his country. 

Now President Donald Trump is carrying the employment of mercenaries to an entirely different level.

A January 11 headline in Rolling Stone sums it up thus: “Trump Brags About Serving Up American Troops to Saudi Arabia for Nothing More Than Cash.” 

On January 10, Trump, interviewed by Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham, bragged about his positive relationship with Saudi Arabia—and how the Saudi royal family is paying to use American troops:

“Saudi Arabia is paying us for [our troops]. We have a very good relationship with Saudi Arabia. I said, ‘Listen, you’re a very rich country. You want more troops? I’m going to send them to you, but you’ve got to pay us.’

“They’re paying us. They’ve already deposited $1 billion in the bank.

“We are going to help them, but these rich countries have to pay for it. South Korea gave us $500 million… I said, ‘You gotta help us along. We have 32,000 soldiers in South Korea protecting you from North Korea. You’ve gotta pay.’”

Republicans have been silent on Trump’s plan to turn American soldiers into foreign-paid mercenaries. But at least one former Republican has dared to speak out.

Rep. Justin Amash (I-Michigan) recently tweeted: “He sells troops.”

In October, 2019, on “Meet the Press,” Amash accused Trump of breaking his campaign promise to bring troops home.

“There are people who support the president, who believe things he says, but it’s pretty clear he’s not bringing home the troops. He’s just moving them to other parts of the Middle East.” 

But there are dangers to relying on mercenaries. Recent examples include:

  • Edward Snowden deliberately joined Booz Allen Hamilton to secure a job as a computer systems administrator at the National Security Agency (NSA). This gave him access to thousands of highly classified documents—which, in 2013, he began publicly leaking to a wide range of news organizations. 
  • His motive, he has claimed, was to warn Americans of the privacy-invading dangers posed by their own Intelligence agencies.
  • On March 7, 2017, WikiLeaks published a “data dump” of 8,761 documents code-named “Vault 7.”
  • The documents exposed that the CIA had found security flaws in software operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, Android and Apple iOS. These allowed an intruder—such as the CIA—to seize control of a computer or smartphone. The owner could then be photographed through his iPhone camera and have his text messages intercepted.
  • According to anonymous U.S. Intelligence and law enforcement sources, the culprits were CIA contract employees. 

More ancient sources have also warned against the use of mercenaries. One of these was Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman of the Renaissance. 

Image result for Images of Niccolo Machiavelli

Niccolo Machiavelli

In The Prince, Machiavelli writes:

“Mercenaries…are useless and dangerous. And if a prince holds on to his state by means of mercenary armies, he will never be stable or secure. For they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, disloyal. They are brave among friends; among enemies they are cowards.

“They have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to man, and destruction is deferred only as the attack is. For in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy. 

“The cause of this is that they have no love or other motive to keep them in the field beyond a trifling wage, which is not enough to make them ready to die for you.”

Centuries after Machiavelli’s warning, Americans are realizing the bitter truth of it firsthand.

SUBVERTING OTHER GOVERNMENTS? IT’S THE AMERICAN WAY

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on January 3, 2020 at 12:03 am

“I have news for everybody: Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.”

The speaker was White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. And in an October 17 press conference, he was trying to put the best possible spin on President Donald Trump’s latest outrage: An attempt to extort a “favor” from the president of Ukraine.

In July, 2019, Trump told Mulvaney to withhold almost $400 million in promised military aid for Ukraine, which faces increasing aggression from Russia.

On July 25, Trump telephoned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “request” a “favor”: Investigate Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who had had business dealings in Ukraine.The reason for such an investigation: To find embarrassing “dirt” on Biden.

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Donald Trump

But then a CIA whistleblower filed a complaint about the extortion attempt—and the media and Congress soon learned of it. 

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., tweeted: “The transcript of the call reads like a classic mob shakedown: — We do a lot for Ukraine — There’s not much reciprocity — I have a favor to ask — Investigate my opponent — My people will be in touch — Nice country you got there. It would be a shame if something happened to her.”

On September 24, 2019, Nancy Pelosi, speaker to the House of Representatives, announced a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump.

As far as known, this marked a first in American foreign policy: Trying to extort a patently illegal favor from an ally.

During World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt didn’t hesitate to leverage the great economic and military power of the United States to gain concessions from Winston Churchill, the prime minister of Great Britain.

At Roosevelt’s insistence, for example, it was an American—General Dwight D. Eisenhower—who was appointed Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. Had the British gotten their way, the post would have almost certainly gone to British Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery.

Roosevelt’s insistence, however, had nothing to do with personally benefiting himself. 

But the unpleasant truth remains that subverting the governments of other countries is a right that Americans have long reserved for themselves. For example:

  • Between 1898 and 1934, the United States repeatedly intervened with military force in Central America and the Caribbean.
  • Americans staged invasions of Honduras in 1903, 1907, 1911, 1912, 1919, 1924 and 1925 to defend U.S. interests. These were defined as Standard Oil and the United Fruit Company.
  • The United States occupied Nicaragua almost continuously from 1912 to 1933. Its legacy was the imposition of the tyrannical Somoza family, which ruled from 1936 to 1979.
  • The United States occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934. American banks had lent money to Haiti and requested American government intervention.
  • In 1918, 13,000 American soldiers joined armies from Europe and Japan to overthrow the new Soviet government and restore the previous Tsarist regime. By 1920, the invading forces proved unsuccessful and withdrew.

Wladiwostok Parade 1918.jpg

Allied troops parading in Vladivostok, 1918  

  • In 1953, the Eisenhower administration ordered the CIA to overthrew the democratically-elected government of of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh. His crime: Nationalizing the Iranian oil industry, which had been under British control since 1913.
  • He was succeeded by Mohammad-Reza Shah Phlavi. Whereas Mossadeddgh had ruled as a constitutional monarch, Phlavi was a dictator who depended on United States government support to retain power until he was overthrown in 1979 by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
  • In 1954, the CIA overthrew the democratically-elected government of Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz. His crime: Installing a series of reforms that expanded the right to vote, allowed workers to organize, legitimized political parties and allowed public debate. Most infuriating to American Right-wingers: His agrarian reform law, which expropriated parts of large land-holdings and redistributed them to agricultural laborers.
  • From 1959 until 1963, the United States government was obsessed with overthrowing the revolutionary Cuban government of Fidel Castro. Although not democratically elected, Castro was wildly popular in Cuba for overthrowing the dictatorial Fulgencio Batista.
  • On April 17, 1961, over 1,400 CIA-trained Cuban exiles invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. Cuban military forces crushed the invasion in three days.
  • Infuriated with the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion, President John F. Kennedy authorized “Operation Mongoose” to remove Castro through sabotage and assassination. The CIA, wanting to please Kennedy, teamed up with the Mafia, which wanted to resurrect its casinos on the island.

Ernesto “Che” Guevera and Fidel Castro

  • In 1970, President Richard M. Nixon ordered the CIA to prevent Marxist Salvador Allende from being democratically elected as president of Chile. When that failed, he ordered the CIA to overthrow Allende.
  • Allende’s crime: A series of liberal reforms, including nationalizing large-scale industries (notably copper mining and banking). In 1973, he was overthrown by Chilean army units and national police. He was followed by Right-wing dictator Augusto Pinochet, who slaughtered 3,200 political dissidents, imprisoned 30,000 and forced another 200,000 Chileans into exile.

Americans reacted to all these attempts—successful and unsuccessful—with indifference or outright support.

The popular 1960s TV series, “Mission: Impossible,” regularly depicted a CIA-type agency supporting regimes “we” liked or toppling those “we” didn’t.

Americans generally assume their Presidents and Congress know best who is a “friend” and who is an “enemy.”  America’s friends often turn out, for the most part, to be Right-wing dictators like  Fulgencio Batista, Augusto Pinochet and Mohammad-Reza Shah Phlavi.

And its enemies often turn out to be liberal reformers like Augusto Sandino, Jacobo Arbenz, Mohammad Mosaddegh and Salvador Allende. 

“IF WE CAN’T RULE GERMANY / AMERICA, NOBODY ELSE CAN!”: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on November 21, 2019 at 12:13 am

During the summer of 2011, Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats agreed to massively cut social programs for the elderly, poor and disabled.

If Congress failed to raise the borrowing limit of the federal government by August 2, the date when the U.S. reached the limit of its borrowing abilities, America would begin defaulting on its loans.

As Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, explained the looming economic catastrophe:

“If you don’t send out Social Security checks, I would hate to think about the credit meeting at S&P and Moody’s the next morning.

“If you’re not paying millions and millions and millions of people that range in age from 65 on up, money you promised them, you’re not a AAA.” 

Warren Buffett

A triple-A credit rating is the highest possible rating that can be achieved.

And while Republicans demanded that the disadvantaged tighten their belts, they rejected any raising of taxes on their foremost constituency—the wealthiest 1%.

As the calendar moved ever closer to the fateful date of August 2, Republican leaders continued to insist: Any deal that includes taxes “can’t pass the House.”

To prevent the government from defaulting on its loans, President Barack Obama agreed to sign the Republican-crafted Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011.

The Act provided for a Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to produce legislation by late November to decrease the deficit by $1.2 trillion over ten years.

When the so-called “Super Committee” failed to reach agreement, the second part of the BCA went into effect.

This directed automatic across-the-board cuts (known as “sequestrations”) split evenly between defense and domestic spending, beginning on January 2, 2013.

A major casualty of sequestration was the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And this threatened the safety of the Nation Republicans claim to love: 

  • In 2013, the CDC was forced to cut 5%, or more than $285 million, from its budget.
  • The sequester cut $195 million from the National Centers for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, a CDC program that tries to prevent illness and death from infectious disease.
  • For fiscal 2014, CDC’s budget was $5.9 billion, down from the $6.5 billion allotted in 2010.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

In October, 2014, for the first time in United States history, the CDC faced an unexpected outbreak of the dreaded Ebola virus.  

To Americans’ horror, the agency initially seemed unable to deal effectively with the threat.

Moreover, the Nation was confronting the Ebola crisis without a Surgeon General—thanks to NRA-funded Republican Senators.

President Obama had nominated Dr. Vivek Murthy for the spot in November, 2013, when the previous surgeon general left the position. But the Senate still hadn’t approved Murthy.

And support for him declined since he tweeted on October 16, 2002, that “guns are a health care issue.”

(On December 15, 2014, the Senate approved Murthy as Surgeon General in a 51–43 Senate vote. He served until 2017.)

At the same time, Republicans rushed to blame President Obama for the continuing Ebola menace in West Africa—and the danger it posed to Americans.

“I think this Ebola outbreak in Africa is a serious problem,” said House Speaker John Boehner. “And I’m a bit surprised the administration hasn’t acted more quickly to address what is a serious threat, not only to Africans but to others around the world.”

“The President made a lot of commitments to combat Ebola, actions which I supported,” said North Carolina U.S. Senator Richard Burr. “But it has become clear that the administration’s capacity to fulfill these promises in a timeline that sufficiently addresses this crisis does not exist.”

But then a new Republican-inspired crisis threatened America.

On December 13, 2014, the U.S. Senate passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund almost the entire government through the September 30 end of the fiscal year.

But one Federal agency was pointedly exempted from full funding: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

President George W. Bush had created this agency to safeguard the country against terrorism. But he didn’t imagine that his fellow Republicans might willingly jeopardize the security of the Nation.

President Obama had requested $38.2 billion to fund DHS through fiscal year 2015. But Republicans ensured that its funding would end on February 27.

Republicans had gained control of the House of Representatives after the 2010 elections. And then they gained control of the Senate with the 2014 elections. With their new-found majorities in both houses of Congress, they intended to hold the security of the United States as a hostage.

Their goal: To force Obama to rescind the changes he had made in American immigration policy.

Homeland Security was charged with implementing those changes. And Republicans intended to strip it of funding to do so.

With more than 240,000 employees, DHS is the third largest Cabinet department, after the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

The Defense Department is charged with protecting the United States through military action abroad. DHS is responsible for safeguarding the Nation inside and outside its borders.

Its goal is to prepare for, prevent and—if prevention fails—respond to man-made accidents, natural disasters and terrorism.

Finally, just as DHS’ funding was about to expire, House Republicans capitulated. They approved a bill the Senate passed to fund DHS without any added conditions. 

“IF WE CAN’T RULE GERMANY / AMERICA, NOBODY ELSE CAN!”: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on November 20, 2019 at 12:09 am

Albert Speer, Minister of Armaments for the Third Reich, was appalled.

His Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler—the man he had idolized for 14 years—had just passed a death sentence on Germany, the nation he claimed to love above all others.

Albert Speer and Adolf Hitler pouring over architectural plans

On March 19, 1945, facing certain defeat, Hitler had ordered a massive “scorched-earth” campaign throughout Germany.

All German agriculture, industry, ships, communications, roads, food stuffs, mines, bridges, stores and utility plants were to be destroyed.

If implemented, it would deprive the entire German population of even the barest necessities after the war.

Click here: Hitler’s “Scorched Earth” Decree and Albert Speer’s Response

Now living in a bunker 50 feet below bomb-shattered Berlin, Hitler gave full vent to his most destructive impulses.

Adolf Hitler addressing boy soldiers as the Third Reich crumbles

“If the war is lost,” Hitler told Speer, “the nation will also perish. This fate is inevitable. There is no necessity to take into consideration the basis which the people will need to continue even a most primitive existence.

“On the contrary, it will be better to destroy these things ourselves, because this nation will have proved to be the weaker one and the future will belong solely to the stronger eastern nation.

“Besides, those who will remain after the battle are only the inferior ones, for the good ones have all been killed.”

Speer argued in vain that there must be a future for the German people. But Hitler refused to back down. He gave Speer 24 hours to reconsider his opposition to the order.

The next day, Speer told Hitler: “My Fuhrer, I stand unconditionally behind you!”

“Then all is well,” said Hitler, suddenly with tears in his eyes.

“If I stand unreservedly behind you,” said Speer, “then you must entrust me rather than the Gauleiters [district Party leaders serving as provincial governors] with the implementation of your decree.”

Filled with gratitude, Hitler signed the decree Speer had thoughtfully prepared before their fateful meeting.

By doing so, Hitler unintentionally gave Speer the power to thwart his “scorched earth” decree.

Speer had been the closest thing to a friend in Hitler’s life. Trained as an architect, he had joined the Nazi Party in 1931.

He met Hitler in 1933, when he presented the Fuhrer with architectural designs for the Nuremberg Rally scheduled for that year.

From then on, Speer became Hitler’s “genius architect” assigned to create buildings meant to last for a thousand years.

In 1943, Hitler appointed him Minister of Armaments, charged with revitalizing the German war effort.

Nevertheless, Speer now crisscrossed Germany, persuading military leaders and district governors to not destroy the vital facilities that would be needed after the war.

“No other senior National Socialist could have done the job,” writes Randall Hanson, author of Disobeying Hitler: German Resistance After Valkyrie.

“Speer was one of the very few people in the Reich–perhaps even the only one–with such power to influence actors’ willingness/unwillingness to destroy.”

Despite his later conviction for war crimes at Nuremberg, Speer never regretted his efforts to save Germany from total destruction at the hands of Adolf Hitler.

Fast-forward to the United States since the 2008 election of President Barack Obama.

Republicans have adopted the same my-way-or-else “negotiating” stance as the German Fuhrer. Like him, they are determined to gain and hold absolute power–or destroy the Nation they claim to love.

During his eight years in the White House, Ronald Reagan presided over a tripling of the national debt—and raised the debt limit 17 times.

President George W. Bush nearly doubled it again.  

During the George W. Bush Presidency, Republicans in Congress raised the debt ceiling seven times—when the national debt grew to $10.627 trillion due to tax cuts for the rich and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But none of that mattered to Republicans—so long as one of them held the White House.

Then Barack Obama, a Democrat—worse, a black one—became President.

Suddenly, “fiscal integrity” became the byword of Republicans.  And in its name, they repeatedly threatened to shut down the government if their legislative demands weren’t met.

In April, 2011, the United States government almost shut down over Republican demands about subsidized pap smears.

During a late-night White House meeting with President Obama and key Congressional leaders, Republican House Speaker John Boehner made this threat:

His conference would not approve funding for the government if any money were allowed to flow to Planned Parenthood through Title X legislation.

John Boehner

Facing an April 8 deadline, negotiators worked day and night to strike a compromise–and finally reached one.

Three months later—on July 9—Republican extortionists again threatened the Nation with financial ruin and international disgrace unless their demands were met.

By refusing to raise the debt ceiling, they would force the government to default on paying the bills it owed.

President Obama had offered to make historic cuts in the federal government and the social safety net–on which millions of Americans depend for their most basic needs.

But Boehner rejected that offer. He would not agree to the tax increases that Democrats wanted to impose on the wealthiest 1% as part of the bargain.

MACHIAVELLI: TRUMP AS A PRINCE? GET REAL!

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 4, 2019 at 12:25 am

No shortage of pundits have sized up Donald Trump–first as a Presidential candidate, and now as the nation’s 45th President.  

But how does Trump measure up in the estimate of Niccolo Machiavelli, the 16th-century Florentine statesman?

It is Machiavelli whose two great works on politics—The Prince and The Discourses—remain textbooks for successful politicians more than 500 years later.  

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Niccolo Machiavelli

Let’s start with Trump’s notoriety for hurling insults at virtually everyone, including:  

  • Latinos
  • Asians
  • Muslims
  • Blacks
  • The Disabled
  • Women
  • Prisoners-of-War

These insults delight his white, under-educated followers. But they have alienated millions of other Americans who might have voted for him.

Now consider Machiavelli’s advice on gratuitously handing out insults and threats:

  • “I hold it to be a proof of great prudence for men to abstain from threats and insulting words towards any one.
  • “For neither the one nor the other in any way diminishes the strength of the enemy–but the one makes him more cautious, and the other increases his hatred of you, and makes him more persevering in his efforts to injure you.”

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, many Trump supporters claimed he would act more “Presidential” if elected. For them, Machiavelli had a stern warning:

  • “…If it happens that time and circumstances are favorable to one who acts with caution and prudence he will be successful.  But if time and circumstances change he will be ruined, because he does not change the mode of his procedure.
  • “No man can be found so prudent as to be able to adopt himself to this, either because he cannot deviate from that to which his nature disposes him, or else because, having always prospered by walking in one path, he cannot persuade himself that it is well to leave it…
  • “For if one could change one’s nature with time and circumstances, fortune would never change.”

Then consider Trump’s approach to consulting advisers:

Asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” who he consults about foreign policy, Trump replied; “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”

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Donald Trump

This totally contradicts the advice given by Machiavelli:

  • “A prudent prince must [choose] for his counsel wise men, and [give] them alone full liberty to speak the truth to him, but only of those things that he asks and of nothing else.
  • “But he must be a great asker about everything and hear their opinions, and afterwards deliberate by himself in his own way, and in these counsels…comport himself so that every one may see that the more freely he speaks, the more he will be acceptable.”

And: 

  • “The first impression that one gets of a ruler and his brains is from seeing the men that he has about him. 
  • “When they are competent and loyal one can always consider him wise, as he has been able to recognize their ability and keep them faithful. 
  • “But when they are the reverse, one can always form an unfavorable opinion of him, because the first mistake that he makes is in making this choice.” 

Using Machiavelli as a guide, we can judge Trump’s ability to select advisers:

  • Founder of Latinos for Trump Marco Gutierrez told MSNBC’s Joy Reid: “My culture is a very dominant culture. And it’s imposing, and it’s causing problems. If you don’t do something about it, you’re gonna have taco trucks every corner.” 
  • At a Tea Party for Trump rally at a Harley-Davidson dealership in Festus, Missouri, former Missouri Republican Party director Ed Martin reassured the crowd that they weren’t racist for hating Mexicans.

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, 70% of women voiced an unfavorable opinion of Trump. So comments like this one didn’t increase his popularity among women—or anyone who received Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security.

  • Wayne Root, opening speaker and master of ceremonies at many Trump campaign events, told Virginia radio host Rob Schilling: People on public assistance and women getting birth control through Obamacare should not be allowed to vote.  

George W. Bush was President in 2004. Barack Obama became President in 2009. And Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State the same year. So voters were understandably startled when:

  • Trump’s spokeswoman, Katrina Pierson, claimed that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were responsible for the death of Captain Humayun Khan—who was killed by a truck-bomb in Iraq in 2004.  

Finally, Machiavelli offers a related warning that especially applies to Trump: Unwise princes cannot be wisely advised.

  • “It is an infallible rule that a prince who is not wise himself cannot be well advised, unless by chance he leaves himself entirely in the hands of one man who rules him in everything, and happens to be a very prudent man. In this case, he may doubtless be well governed, but it would not last long, for the governor would in a short time deprive him of the state.”

All of which would lead Niccolo Machiavelli to warn, if he could witness American politics today: “This bodes ill for your Republic.”

REGIME EXTORTION—IT’S THE AMERICAN WAY!

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 2, 2019 at 12:28 am

On June 12, 2019, during an interview with ABC News correspondent George Stephanopoulos, President Donald Trump said he would accept derogatory information on his 2020 opponents from hostile nations like Russia and China:

“It’s not an interference, they have information. I think I’d take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI. If I thought there was something wrong. But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right, they come up with oppo research.

“The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it, but you go and talk honestly to congressmen, they all do it, they always have. And that’s the way it is. It’s called oppo research.”

But Trump didn’t say he planned to extort derogatory information about his opponents from Ukraine.

In July, 2019, he told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to withhold almost $400 million in promised military aid for Ukraine, which faces increasing aggression from Russia.

On July 25, Trump telephoned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “request” a “favor”: Investigate Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who had had business dealings in Ukraine.

The reason for such an investigation: To find embarrassing “dirt” on Biden.

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Donald Trump

But then a CIA whistleblower filed a complaint about the extortion attempt—and the media and Congress soon learned of it. 

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., tweeted: “The transcript of the call reads like a classic mob shakedown: — We do a lot for Ukraine — There’s not much reciprocity — I have a favor to ask — Investigate my opponent — My people will be in touch — Nice country you got there. It would be a shame if something happened to her.”

On September 24, 2019, Nancy Pelosi, speaker to the House of Representatives, announced a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump.

In truth, however, subverting the governments of other countries is a right that Americans have long reserved for themselves. For example:

  • Between 1898 and 1934, the United States repeatedly intervened with military force in Central America and the Caribbean.
  • Americans staged invasions of Honduras in 1903, 1907, 1911, 1912, 1919, 1924 and 1925 to defend U.S. interests. These were defined as Standard Oil and the United Fruit Company.
  • The United States occupied Nicaragua almost continuously from 1912 to 1933. Its legacy was the imposition of the tyrannical Somoza family, which ruled from 1936 to 1979.
  • The United States occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934. American banks had lent money to Haiti and requested American government intervention.
  • In 1918, 13,000 American soldiers joined armies from Europe and Japan to overthrow the new Soviet government and restore the previous Tsarist regime. By 1920, the invading forces proved unsuccessful and withdrew.

Wladiwostok Parade 1918.jpg

Allied troops parading in Vladivostok, 1918  

  • In 1953, the Eisenhower administration ordered the CIA to overthrew the democratically-elected government of of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh. His crime: Nationalizing the Iranian oil industry, which had been under British control since 1913.
  • He was succeeded by Mohammad-Reza Shah Phlavi. Whereas Mossadeddgh had ruled as a constitutional monarch, Phlavi was a dictator who depended on United States government support to retain power until he was overthrown in 1979 by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
  • In 1954, the CIA overthrew the democratically-elected government of Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz. His crime: Installing a series of reforms that expanded the right to vote, allowed workers to organize, legitimized political parties and allowed public debate. Most infuriating to American Right-wingers: His agrarian reform law, which expropriated parts of large land-holdings and redistributed them to agricultural laborers.
  • From 1959 until 1963, the United States government was obsessed with overthrowing the revolutionary Cuban government of Fidel Castro. Although not democratically elected, Castro was wildly popular in Cuba for overthrowing the dictatorial Fulgencio Batista.
  • On April 17, 1961, over 1,400 CIA-trained Cuban exiles invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. Cuban military forces crushed the invasion in three days.
  • Infuriated with the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion, President John F. Kennedy authorized “Operation Mongoose” to remove Castro through sabotage and assassination. The CIA, wanting to please Kennedy, teamed up with the Mafia, which wanted to resurrect its casinos on the island.

Ernesto “Che” Guevera and Fidel Castro

  • In 1970, President Richard M. Nixon ordered the CIA to prevent Marxist Salvador Allende from being democratically elected as president of Chile. When that failed, he ordered the CIA to overthrow Allende.
  • Allende’s crime: A series of liberal reforms, including nationalizing large-scale industries (notably copper mining and banking). In 1973, he was overthrown by Chilean army units and national police. He was followed by Right-wing dictator Augusto Pinochet, who slaughtered 3,200 political dissidents, imprisoned 30,000 and forced another 200,000 Chileans into exile.

Americans reacted to all these attempts—successful and unsuccessful—with indifference or outright support.

The popular 1960s TV series, “Mission: Impossible,” regularly depicted a CIA-type agency supporting regimes “we” liked or toppling those “we” didn’t.

Americans generally assume their Presidents and Congress know best who is a “friend” and who is an “enemy.”  America’s friends often turn out, for the most part, to be Right-wing dictators like  Fulgencio Batista, Augusto Pinochet and Mohammad-Reza Shah Phlavi.

And its enemies often turn out to be liberal reformers like Augusto Sandino, Jacobo Arbenz, Mohammad Mosaddegh and Salvador Allende. 

BORROWING FROM THE NAZIS TO MURDER AMERICANS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on September 24, 2019 at 12:10 am

Seven years after Congress passed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Republicans remained determined to deny giving all Americans access to healthcare. 

A July 29, 2017 Newsweek article, “GOP Aims to Kill Obamacare Yet Again After Failing 70 Times,” states: “Newsweek has found at least 70 Republican-led attempts to repeal, modify or otherwise curb the Affordable Care Act [ACA] since its inception as law on March 23, 2010.” 

Barack Obama

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 going 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 Republicans had fully supported those expenditures—of lives and money.

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.  

George W. Bush

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

And there was always the predictable rants about the dangers of “socialized medicine.” (The fact that countries like France and Britain have had “socialized medicine” for decades and are still solvent and powerful has no meaning for these ideologues.)

But then President Obama sought to provide full medical coverage for all Americans, regardless of wealth.

And that—for the American Right—was a crime beyond forgiveness.

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.

On June 28, 2012, the United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. 

Republicans expected this to be their day. The day when the 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.

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

Jean Schmidt Official.jpg

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! 

This was in fact true—and reported on CNN and Fox News. But it was not the whole story. 

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

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 was a lust so demonic, so characteristic of the all-out, lethal hatred that Republicans aimed at Obama, that it had to 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.

There are three major reasons for Republicans’ vicious opposition to the Affordable Care Act:

  1. It was backed by and implemented under a black President; 
  2. Republicans want to placate their “campaign contributors” (i.e., bribers) in the insurance and medical industries; and 
  3. By making healthcare unavailable to poor and middle-class Americans, they expect to kill off, by illness and disability, millions of people they despise and consider disposable.

This last goal dovetails nicely with Republicans’ all-out assault on Social Security, Medicare and social services programs. By eliminating these social safety nets, Republicans intend to deprive their recipients of access to food, clothing and shelter.

If this seems outrageous, consider this:

When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, the Wehrmacht slaughtered at least 2.6 million captured Russians without firing a shot. They were deliberately fenced out in the cold without medical care or food. 

And while Republicans attack their critics as Nazis, they have reached into the depths of Nazi history for many of their goals. 

What Ronald Reagan once said about the leadership of the Soviet Union now applies to the leadership of his own party: “The only morality they recognize is what will further their cause, meaning they reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat.”

CIVILIZING THE BARBARIANS: A HOPELESS TASK

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 20, 2019 at 12:07 am

On February 9, 2017, Army General John Nicholson told the Senate Armed Services Committee he had enough U.S. and NATO troops for counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan. 

But he needed more to sufficiently “train, advise and assist” the Afghan forces.

Today, there are 14,000 U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan.

To put the consequences of this effort into human terms:

On December 21, 2015, a suicide-bomber rammed an explosives-laden motorcycle into a joint NATO-Afghan patrol.  Six American troops and an Afghan were killed.

One of the dead was Joseph Lemm, 45, a detective and 15-year veteran of the New York Police Department. A technical sergeant in the New York Air National Guard, he had been deployed three times—once to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan.

IMAGE: NYPD Detective Joseph Lemm

Joseph Lemm

Lemm left behind a daughter, Brook, 16, a son, Ryan, four, and his wife, Christine.

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo ordered that flags on all state government buildings be flown at half-staff on December 23 in Lemm’s honor.

“Staff Sergeant Joe Lemm served this nation with the selflessness and bravery that embodies the U.S. Armed Forces and the NYPD,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Lemm’s death was a double tragedy—that of a dedicated man who should not have died so needlessly.

In short: It’s long past time for the United States to quit its failed mission to civilize Afghanistan.

The history of American conflict in Afghanistan began on September 11, 2001.

On that date, 19 Islamic highjackers slammed two jetliners into the World Trade Center in New York and one into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

A fourth plane, headed for the White House or Capitol Building, failed to reach its target when its passengers rioted—and the highjackers dove it into a Pennsylvania field.

The mastermind of the attacks was Osama bin Laden, a Saudi millionaire then living in Afghanistan, under protection by its ruling thugocracy, the Taliban.

The administration of President George W. Bush demanded his immediate surrender to American justice.

The Taliban refused.

So, on October 7, 2011—less than one month from the 9/11 attacks—American bombers began pounding Taliban positions.

The whole point of the campaign was to pressure the Taliban to surrender Bin Laden.

But the Taliban held firm. Bin Laden holed up in the mountains of Tora Bora, and then ultimately escaped into Pakistan.

After December, 2001, American Intelligence completely lost track of Bin Laden.  CIA officials repeatedly said he was likely living in the “no-man’s-land” between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Thus, there was no longer any point in pressuring the Taliban to surrender Bin Laden.

Osama bin Laden

Still, the United States continued to commit forces to Afghanistan—to turn a primitive, warlord-ruled country into a modern-day democracy.

There was, admittedly, a great deal to detest about the Taliban:

  • When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, they turned soccer stadiums into execution plazas for mass beheadings or shootings.
  • Taliban “fighters” have proven their “courage” by throwing acid into the faces of women who dared to attend school.

Taliban religious police beating a woman

  • On August 8, 1989, the Taliban attacked Mazar-i-Sharif. Talibanists began shooting people in the street, then moved on to mass rapes of women. Thousands of people were locked in containers and left to suffocate.
  • The Taliban forbade women to leave their homes unless accompanied by a male relative and wearing the burqa—a traditional dress covering the entire body. Those who disobeyed were publicly beaten.

Yet, as horrific as such atrocities were, these did not obligate the United States to spend eternity trying to bring civilization to this barbaric country.

And, in pursuing that goal, both the Bush and Obama administrations have repeatedly overlooked the following realities:

  • Hamid Karzai, the “president” of Afghanistan (2001-2014) didn’t believe in democracy–despite American claims to support his efforts to bring this to Afghanistan.
  • His authority didn’t extend beyond Kabul, and he was viewed by most Afghans as an illegitimate ruler, imposed by America.
  • The same can be said for his successor, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani.
  • American soldiers in Afghanistan feel surrounded by enemies and hamstrung by unrealistic orders to win “hearts and minds” at the risk of their own lives.
  • The Taliban poses no threat to the security of the United States.
  • Afghan “insurgents” are fighting American forces because (1) they are in a civil war; and (2) they believe their country has once again been occupied by foreigners.
  • Counterinsurgency is being preached as the key to defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan—where it hasn’t worked.
  • Americans entered Afghanistan without an exit strategy.

All these truths applied just as firmly to America’s failed misadventure in Vietnam.

Almost 50 years ago, American “grunts” felt about their so-called South Vietnamese allies as American troops now feel about their Afghan “allies.”

Dr. Dennis Greenbaum, a former army medic, summed up how Americans had really felt about their supposed South Vietnamese allies.

“The highest [priority for medical treatment] was any U.S. person.

“The second highest was a U.S. dog from the canine corps.

“The third was NVA [North Vietnamese Army].

“The fourth was VC [Viet Cong].

“And the fifth was ARVIN [Army of the Republic of South Vietnam], because they had no particular value,” said Greenbaum.

When you despise the “ally” you’re spending lives and treasure to defend, it’s time to pack up.

3,000 DIED, WHILE THE GUILTY GO FREE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 11, 2019 at 12:03 am

On October 16, 2015, then-Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump told a brutal truth to take down his opponent, Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida.

Interviewed on Bloomberg TV, Trump said what—to Republicans—had been the unsayable about former President George W. Bush: “I mean, say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time.”

“Hold on,” said correspondent Stephanie Ruhle, “you can’t blame George Bush for that.”

“He was President, okay? Blame him or don’t blame him, but he was President,” Trump said. “The World Trade Center came down during his reign.”

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Donald Trump

Immediately after Trump’s remarks, the Right exploded.

Representative Peter King (R-NY) said that no one saw the 9/11 attacks coming and that blaming the former president was a cheap shot.

Speaking on Right-wing Fox Radio, King added: “I think Donald Trump is totally wrong there. That sounds like a Michael Moore talking point.”

And Jeb Bush rushed to his brother’s defense on Twitter: “How pathetic for @realdonaldtrump to criticize the president for 9/11. We were attacked & my brother kept us safe.”  

Of course, “my brother” didn’t keep safe those 3,000 Americans who died on 9/11

Nor did Jeb mention that, during his first eight months in office before September 11, “my brother” was on vacation 42% of the time.

But holding Bush accountable for the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center is taboo for Right-wing Republicans.

Conversely, Republicans spent four years blaming President Barack Obama for the deaths of four Americans killed in an American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012.

The World Trade Center on September 11, 2001

Fortunately, British historian Nigel Hamilton has brutally laid bare the facts of this needless tragedy.

Hamilton is the author of several acclaimed political biographies, including JFK: Reckless Youth and Bill Clinton: Mastering the Presidency.

His book: American Caesars: The Lives of the Presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush, appeared in 2010.

It was inspired by a classic work of ancient biography: The Twelve Caesars, by Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus—known as Suetonius. 

Suetonius, a Roman citizen and historian, had chronicled the lives of the first 12 Caesars of Imperial Rome: Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian.

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

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

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

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

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

These included:

  • Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy Secretary of Defense: “I don’t understand why we are beginning by talking about this one man, bin Laden.” 
  • National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice initially refused to hold a cabinet-level meeting on the subject. Then she insisted the matter be handled only by a more junior Deputy Principals meeting in April, 2001.
  • Vice President Dick Cheney focused his attention on fomenting a war against Iraq.
  • Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld repeatedly ignored American Intelligence warnings that Al-Qaeda was planning a major attack on the American mainland.

The only major administration official who did take Al-Qaeda seriously was Richard Clarke, the chief counter-terrorism adviser on the National Security Council. But Clarke’s position didn’t give him Cabinet-level rank.

Richard Clarke

This put him at a severe disadvantage when dealing with higher-ranking Bush officials—such as Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Rice.

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

Finally, at a meeting with Rice on September 4, 2001, Clarke challenged her to “picture yourself at a moment when in the very near future Al-Qaeda has killed hundreds of Americans, and imagine asking yourself what you wish then that you had already done.”

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

Neither Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld nor Wolfowitz ever apologized for their negligence. Nor has any of them ever been held accountable.

After 9/11, they wrapped themselves in the flag and posed as America’s saviors.

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

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

 

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