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A TALE OF TWO KILLINGS: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on February 16, 2016 at 12:10 am

When Osama bin Laden died, two weapons were within easy reach–an AK-47 assault rifle and a Russian-made nine-millimeter Makarov pistol.

But according to his wife, Amal, he was shot by Navy SEALS before he could reach either one.

A SEAL flashed coded news of bin Laden’s death to the Pentagon and the White House Situation Room, where President Barack Obama and the topmost officials of his administration anxiously followed events via a closed-circuit television.

“Geronimo E-KIA” read the message: “Geronimo [bin Laden] E-KIA [Enemy Killed in Action].”    

The entire raid–including Intelligence sweeps of the compound–was over in less than 40 minutes. The SEALS moved quickly because they rightly feared that the Pakistani army would intervene to protect bin Laden.  

Bin Laden had been living undisturbed at a large compound in Abbottabad for at least five years, just a short distance from Pakistan’s version of West Point.

Furthermore, the ISI–Pakistan’s Intelligence agency–had long been riddled with Al-Qaeda sympathizers, if not agents.  

Within 24 hours of his death, Bin Laden’s body was transported to the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson for final rites and burial at sea. 

Related image

U.S.S. Carl Vinson

President Obama and other U.S. officials feared that his grave site would become a memorial for members of Al-Qaeda and other Islamic terrorist organizations.  

In the late evening of May 1, 2011, the White House surprised major television networks by informing them that the President had a major announcement to make.

At 11:35 P.M. Eastern Standard Time, the President appeared at a podium in the East Room of the White House.  

“Good evening. Tonight I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States had conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al-Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women and children….

“For over two decades, bin Laden has been Al-Qaeda’s leader and symbol, and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and allies. The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s efforts to defeat Al-Qaeda.”  

He added that “no Americans were harmed” in the raid and that the SEALS had taken care to avoid civilian casualties.  

President Barack Obama announcing Osama bin Laden’s death

Like Ernesto “Che” Guevara, bin Laden had become a pale, largely irrelevant figure by the time of his death.

Knowing he was the world’s most wanted man, he imprisoned himself within a fortified compound–which he never left.  

Afraid to use a phone or the Internet, he relayed orders–which were often ignored–via the cumbersome use of couriers. All trash generated by the inhabitants of the compound was burned within its walls.

Ironically, the lack of Internet and phone lines to the compound–and the burning of its trash–had led CIA officials to suspect that Osama bin Laden might be hiding there.  

Pakistan was outraged. Officially an American ally, its territory had been secretly invaded by American military forces. Even more embarrassing: For years, Pakistani Intelligence had denied knowing bin Laden’s whereabouts.  

Meanwhile, leaders of Islamic expansionist groups rallied to praise the dead bin Laden. Among these was his son, Omar, who denounced his father’s killing as a “criminal” act, and his burial at sea as demeaning to the Islamic faith.  

In a letter published on the website of Islamic ideologue Abu Walid al-Masri, the younger bin Laden said the former Al-Qaeda leader’s children reserved the right to take legal action in the United States and internationally to “determine the true fate of our vanished father.” 

Bin Laden’s death drew protests from hundreds of people in the city of Quetta, in southwestern Pakistan, who burned American flags and paid homage to the late terrorist leader. 

On May 13, a pair of Taliban suicide bombers attacked paramilitary police recruits eagerly heading home for a break after months of training, killing 80 people. It was the first act of retaliation for the killing of bin Laden.

Americans reacted differently.  

Almost as Obama was addressing the nation, cheering crowds gathered outside the White House and in New York City’s Times Square. Many of them shouted “USA! USA! USA!” and waved American flags in celebration. 

Celebration also broke out at the site of the former World Trade Center, the primary victim of the September 11 attacks. 

For the next two weeks, Americans continued to rejoice. Much of their feelings were best expressed in grisly humor on websites and late night comedy shows such as “Tonight” and “Late Night With  David Letterman.”  

Killing Osama bin Laden removed Al-Qaeda’s most important member. But its treasury of secret materials–such as computer hard-drives, DVDs, notebooks, diaries–proved even more important to American military and Intelligence officials. 

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, many Vietnam protesters marched carrying blown-up photos of Ernesto “Che” Guevara or tacked them to the walls of their dormitory rooms. 

Most of these college students were members of the middle-class which Guevara had so despised.  

Going on five years since the death of bin Laden, his poster has been noticeably absent from American college campuses–and everywhere else in the United States. 

It remains to be seen whether, decades from now, Osama bin Laden will attain the iconic status of Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

A TALE OF TWO KILLINGS: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on February 15, 2016 at 12:00 am

Ernesto “Che” Guevara was dead. But that wasn’t enough for the Bolivian government that had authorized his execution. His corpse was disappear from the face of the earth.

On October 10, 1967, Guavara’s body was flown to nearby Vallegrande, where photographs were taken of him lying on a concrete slab in the laundry room of the Nuestra Senora de Malta.  

Che Guevara in death

Several witnesses were called in to confirm that it was indeed Guevara. As hundreds of local residents filed past the corpse, men of them felt Guevara resembled images of a bearded, long-haired Jesus Christ. Some of them even surreptitiously clipped locks of his hair as divine relics.  

After a military doctor amputated his hands, Bolivian army officers transferred Guevara’s body to an undisclosed location. The government refused to say whether his remains had been buried or cremated.  

Che’s hands were preserved in formaldehyde and sent to Buenos Aires, Argentina, for fingerprint identification. (His prints were on file with the Argentine police)  

On October 15, Fidel Castro acknowledged that Guevara was dead and proclaimed three days of public mourning throughout Cuba.

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Fidel Castro

Che, in one sense, was lucky to die as he did–and when he did.  He was only 39, but he was already running to fat and increasingly troubled by his lifelong asthma. 

His Don Quixote-like venture into Bolivia proved a failure from first to last. Peasants didn’t flock to his banner; in fact, some of them betrayed his movements to the Bolivian army.  

And 24 years after Guevara’s execution, Communism, his secular religion, died a violent death in its birthplace–the Soviet Union. It wasn’t killed off by invading capitalist forces, but thrown off by the Russian people themselves. 

Nor would Che be pleased with the course of “revolutionary” events in Cuba. Until the death of the Soviet Union, the island remained dependent on what amounted to Soviet welfare.

Since then, Cubans have supported themselves by turning their island into a privileged playground for the rich–especially rich Americans.  

On October 17, 1997–30 years after their deaths–Guevara and six of his fellow combatants were buried with full military honors in a specially built mausoleum in Santa Clara, Cuba.  It was there in 1958 that he had commanded the decisive military victory of the Cuban Revolution.

Having described, in Part One, how Ernesto “Che” Guevara met his end, it’s time to examine how Osama bin Laden earned his 72 willing virgins.  

After the September 11, 2001 attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, the United States quickly established that bin laden had plotted them.

World Trade Center on 9/11/01

But bin Laden was then living in Afghanistan and protected by its Islamic rulers, the Taliban. President George W. Bush gave the Taliban an ultimatum: Surrender bin Laden–or else.  

The Taliban refused.

On October 7, 2001, the United States’ new allies, the Northern Alliance, supported by American airstrikes, began a ground campaign against the Taliban.  

Taliban resistance quickly vanished. Bin Laden retreated to Tora Bora, a series of bunkers in a mountainous region near the Pakistani border. With the mountains literally shaking under a rain of “bunker-busting” bombs, bin Laden decided to move on.  

Suddenly, in December, 2001, he seemed to vanish from the earth.

Reports circulated that he was living in a cave in the no-man’s-land lying between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Strangely, the Bush administration lost interest in locating him. Increasing numbers of American troops were quietly transferred from Afghanistan to staging areas near Iraq–for Bush’s long-planned overthrow of its dictator, Saddam Hussein.  

Only when Barack Obama took office as President in 2009 was the CIA ordered to make finding bin Laden its top priority. Over the next two years, CIA agents sifted through a conflicting series of reports about bin Laden’s possible whereabouts.  

Finally, the agency tracked a courier linked to bin Laden to a large, high-walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.  

On April 28, 2011, President Obama authorized a U.S. military raid on the compound, dubbed “Operation Neptune Spear.”  On May 1, 2011, two teams of 12 U.S. Navy SEALS, working with the CIA, traveled in two helicopters to the compound.  

The helicopters were specially outfitted to emit little noise.  But an accident resulted when the tail rotor of one helicopter grazed the compound’s stone wall.  

The damaged aircraft was “hard-landed” and then destroyed on-site to protect its technological secrets. Back-up forces were immediately available, and another helicopter was brought in to retrieve the commandos and relevant contents.  

All combined, a total of 79 commandos and a dog (believed to have explosive-detection training) were involved in the raid.  

SEALS attacking bin Laden’s compound in the 2012 movie, “Zero Dark Thirty”

Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, bin Laden’s courier, opened fire on the SEALS from the guesthouse with an AK-47 assault rifle. He and his wife were killed by return fire.  

A male relative of the courier was shot and killed by the SEALS before he could reach a weapon lying nearby.

Bin Laden’s 22-year-old son rushed toward the SEALS on the staircase of the main house.  SEAL gunfire instantly killed him.  

Osama bin Laden, standing at the top of a staircase, retreated into his room–where SEALS followed and shot him in the head and chest.

A TALE OF TWO KILLINGS: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 12, 2016 at 12:12 am

They both had beards. They both saw military action. They both passionately hated the United States.

And they both died in a hail of bullets.

And immediately after their deaths, both seemed to disappear from the face of the earth.

Ernesto “Che” Guevara and Osama bin Laden.

Two men who inspired widespread admiration among their supporters–and fear among their enemies.

Guevara, an Argentinian doctor-turned-Cuban revolutionary, sought to destroy the United States’ power to fight Communism. Bin Laden sought to destroy its power to intervene in the Middle East.

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Ernesto “Che” Guevara

Guevara’s most optimistic hope was that Americans would eventually see the error of their capitalistic ways and convert to Communism.  His last words were: “Tell Fidel [Castro] that he will soon see a triumphant revolution in America.”

But he was prepared to fight to the death–as indeed he did–to force revolutionary change upon the United States.

For Bin Laden, the cause was Islam, not Communism. His most optimistic hope was that Christian and Jewish Americans would eventually convert to Islam.

But if that didn’t happen, he, too, was prepared to attack Americans anywhere and in any way he could–as his private diary and documents have revealed.  

Guevara died on October 9, 1967, at the hands of a CIA-directed operation run by the Bolivian army.  

Bin Laden, creator of the Al-Qaeda (“The Base” terrorist network, met his end on May 1, 2011, during a raid by U.S. Navy SEALS on his compound in Pakistan.

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Osama bin Laden

One man–Guevara–has since attained secular sainthood in the eyes of millions of Communists and their sympathizers.

The other–bin Laden–has attained instant “martyr” status in the eyes of untold numbers of Islamic terrorists and their sympathizers.

Both men plotted constantly against the United States and eagerly sought its destruction.

In November, 1962, during an interview with the Communist newspaper, the London Daily Worker, Guevara raged against the Soviet Union’s recent withdrawal of nuclear missiles from Cuba.

Those “thirteen days” of the Cuban Missile Crisis that October had brought the world to the brink of nuclear destruction.

“If the missiles had remained, we would have used them against the very heart of the United States, including New York,” said Guevara.

“We must never establish peaceful coexistence.  We must walk the path of victory even if it costs millions of atomic victims.”

Similarly, until the end of his life, bin Laden demanded more attacks like the one on September 11, 2001, that snuffed out the lives of 3,000 Americans.  

This brought him into conflict with other Al-Qaeda members who wanted to launch assaults on more vulnerable targets outside the United States.

Guevara died as he had lived–violently.  

In late October, 1966, he slipped out of Cuba. On November 3, he secretly arrived in La Paz, Bolivia, intent on re-staging the Cuban revolution among the Bolivian peasantry.  

But the peasants showed no interest in his aims and in fact reported his movements to the Bolivian army.

The army, in turn, was being advised by United States Green Berets under the direction of the CIA.  

On October 7, 1967, an informant tipped off the Bolivian Special Forces to the location of Guevara’s guerrilla camp in the Yuro ravine.

On October 8, they encircled the area with 1,800 soldiers. In the shootout that followed, Guevara was wounded and taken prisoner while leading a detachment.

His rifle broken by a lucky shot, a twice-wounded Guevara shouted: “Do not shoot!  I am Che Guevara and worth more to you alive than dead.”

Quickly informed of Guevara’s capture, the Bolivian government debated his fate: Should he be immediately executed or placed on trial?

On the morning of October 9, Bolivian President Rene Barrientos ordered that Guevara be executed. Barrientos feared that placing him on trial would create an international media circus and/or render Bolivia vulnerable to efforts to free him.

The Bolivian government planned to declare that Guevara had been killed in action during a clash with the nation’s armed forces. Special instructions were thus issued.

These came from Felix Rodrieguez, a CIA agent acting as advisor to the Bolivians.  

The executioner would be Mario Teran, a Bolivian army sergeant who had lost three of his friends in an earlier firefight with Guevara’s band of guerrillas.

Rodriguez ordered Teran to aim carefully to make it appear that Guevara had been killed in action.

To his surprise, Rodriguez found himself highly impressed with Guevara’s courage. When informed of his imminent execution, Guevara blanched, then quickly got control of himself.

Felix Rodriguez, left, Che, center

“It is better like this,” he said. “I should never have been captured alive.”

Rodriguez asked if he had any messages for his family. Guevara replied: “Tell Fidel [Castro, the president/dictator of Cuba] that he will soon see a triumphant revolution in America.

“And tell my wife to remarry and try to be happy.”

When Sergeant Teran entered the hut, Guevara told his executioner: “I know you’ve come to kill me.  Shoot, coward!  You are only going to kill a man!”

Teran hesitated, then opened fire with his semiautomatic rifle, hitting Guevara in his arms and legs.

Guevara writhed on the ground, apparently biting one of his wrists to avoid crying out. Teran then fired several more times, finally killing him with a shot in the chest.

DONALD TRUMP AND “THE KGB METHOD”

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on December 3, 2015 at 12:05 am

Donald Trump is a staunch anti-Communist.  So it might seem surprising that he would favor a “hostage negotiation” method used by the KGB.

Yet that is what he proposed during a December 1 appearance on “Fox & Friends.”

There Trump offered his latest take on how to deal with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Donald August 19 (cropped).jpg

Donald Trump

One of the hosts of the Fox News program asked him about minimizing civilian casualties. And Trump replied:

“I would do my best–absolute best.  I mean, one of the problems that we have and one of the reasons we’re so ineffective is they’re using [civilians] as shields–it’s a horrible thing.  They’re using them as shields. But we’re fighting a very politically correct war.

“And the other thing is with the terrorists, you have to take out their families. When you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. But they say they don’t care about their lives. You have to take out their families.”

That was precisely the approach the KGB took in 1981 when “negotiating” with Islamic hostage-takers.

It’s in direct contrast to the methods used by American hostage-negotiators.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, American law enforcement agencies began creating Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams. These units were armed with automatic weapons and trained to enter barricaded buildings.  They were also given special training in hostage negotiation.

Their men came from the most physically and mentally fit officers of those departments.  And the police departments whose SWAT teams were universally recognized as the best were the LAPD and NYPD.

 

The first commandment for American SWAT teams–local, state and Federal–is: Don’t try to enter a barricaded area unless (1) hostages’ lives are directly at risk; and (2) there is no other way to effect their rescue.

Even if hostages are murdered before a SWAT team arrives on the scene, officers will usually try to enter into negotiations with their captors.  They will send in food and other comfort items in hopes of persuading the criminals to surrender peacefully.

These negotiations can last for hours or days–so long as police feel they have a chance of success.

But there is another way agencies can try to rescue hostages.  It might be called, “The KGB Method.”

The KGB served as a combination secret police/paramilitary force throughout the 74-year life of the Soviet Union.  Its name (“Commitee for State Security”) has changed several times since its birth in 1917: Cheka, NKVD, MGB and KGB.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the formation of the Russian Federation, its name was officially changed to the FSB (Federal Security Service).

By any name, this is an agency known for its brutality and ruthlessness.  The numbers of its victims literally run into the millions.

On September 30 1985, four attaches from the Soviet Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, were kidnapped by men linked to Hizbollah (“Party of God”), the Iranian-supported terrorist group.

The kidnappers sent photos of the four men to Western news agencies.  Each captive was shown with an automatic pistol pressed to his head.

The militants demanded that Moscow pressure pro-Syrian militiamen to stop shelling the pro-Iranian militia in Lebanon’s northern port city of Tripoli.

And they threatened to execute the four Soviet captives, one by one, unless this demand was met.

The Soviet Union began negotiations with the kidnappers, but could not secure a halt to the shelling of Tripoli.

Only two days after the kidnappings, the body of Arkady Katov, a 30-year-old consular secretary, was found in a Beirut trash dump.  He had been shot through the head.

That was when the KGB took over negotiations.


Insignia of the KGB

They kidnapped a man known to be a close relative of a prominent Hizbollah leader. Then they castrated him, stuffed his testicles in his mouth, shot him in the head, and sent the body back to Hizbollah.

With the body was a note: We know the names of other close relatives of yours, and the same will happen to them if our diplomats are not released immediately.

Soon afterward, the remaining three Soviet attaches were released only 150 yards from the Soviet Embassy.

Hizbollah telephoned a statement to news agencies claiming that the release was a gesture of “goodwill.”

In Washington, D.C., then-CIA Director William Casey decided that the Soviets knew the language of Hizbollah.

Click here: Hostages? No Problem Soviets Offer ‘How-to’ Lesson In Kidnapping – Philly.com

Both the United States and Israel–the two nations most commonly targeted for terrorist kidnappings–have elite Special Forces units.

Military hostage-rescue units operate differently from civilian ones.  They don’t care about taking alive hostage-takers for later trials.  The result is usually a pile of dead hostage-takers.

These Special Forces could be ordered to similarly kidnap the relatives of whichever Islamic terrorist leaders are responsible for the latest outrages.

Ordering such action would instantly send an unmistakable message to Islamic terrorist groups: Screw with us at your own immediate peril.

In the United States, such elite units as the U.S. Navy SEALS, Green Berets and Delta Force stand ready.  They require only the orders.

HOSTAGE NEGOTIATION, KGB-STYLE

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 3, 2015 at 1:47 am

Retrieving  hostages is always a difficult task.

The first concern is always: Saving the lives of the hostages taken.

The secondary concern–for American police agencies–is: Preserving the lives of the hostage-takers.

While some people question the point of taking pains for the lives of captors, there are several reasons for doing so.

The first is that if others are behind the hostage-taking, their identities will never be revealed without testimony from their confederates.

The second is that people who feel they have been marked for death are likely to go out in a blaze of glory–taking their hostages with them.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, American law enforcement agencies began creating Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams. These units were armed with automatic weapons and trained to enter barricaded buildings.  They were also given special training in hostage negotiation.

Their men came from the most physically and mentally fit officers of those departments.  And the police departments whose SWAT teams were universally recognized as the best were the LAPD and NYPD.

At the Federal level, the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) stands as the go-to unit for other Federal law enforcement agencies.  Created in 1982, its duties include:

  • Apprehending barricaded subjects;
  • Executing helicopter operations and rescue missions;
  • Executing mobile assaults;
  • Performing high-risk raids, searches, arrests, and warrants;
  • Coordinating manhunt and rural operations; and
  • Providing force protection for FBI personnel overseas.

Hostage Rescue Team

The first commandment for American SWAT teams–local, state and Federal–is: Don’t try to enter a barricaded area unless (1) hostages’ lives are directly at risk; and (2) there is no other way to effect their rescue.

Even if hostages are murdered before a SWAT team arrives on the scene, officers will usually try to enter into negotiations with their captors.  They will send in food and other comfort items in hopes of persuading the criminals to surrender peacefully.

These negotiations can last for hours or days–so long as police feel they have a chance of success.

But there is another way agencies can try to rescue hostages.  It might be called, “The KGB Method.”

The KGB served as a combination secret police/paramilitary force throughout the 74-year life of the Soviet Union.  Its name (“Commitee for State Security”) has changed several times since its birth in 1917: Cheka, NKVD, MGB and KGB.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the formation of the Russian Federation, its name was officially changed to the FSB (Federal Security Service).

By any name, this is an agency known for its brutality and ruthlessness.  The numbers of its victims literally run into the millions.

On September 30 1985, four attaches from the Soviet Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, were kidnapped by men linked to Hizbollah (“Party of God”), the Iranian-supported terrorist group.

The kidnappers sent photos of the four men to Western news agencies.  Each captive was shown with an automatic pistol pressed to his head.

The militants demanded that Moscow pressure pro-Syrian militiamen to stop shelling the pro-Iranian militia in Lebanon’s northern port city of Tripoli.

And they threatened to execute the four Soviet captives, one by one, unless this demand was met.

The Soviet Union began negotiations with the kidnappers, but could not secure a halt to the shelling of Tripoli.

Only two days after the kidnappings, the body of Arkady Katov, a 30-year-old consular secretary, was found in a Beirut trash dump.  He had been shot through the head.

That was when the KGB took over negotiations.


Insignia of the KGB

They kidnapped a man known to be a close relative of a prominent Hizbollah leader. Then they castrated him, stuffed his testicles in his mouth, shot him in the head, and sent the body back to Hizbollah.

The KGB then informed the Hizbollah leader: We know the names of other close relatives of yours, and the same will happen to them if our diplomats are not released immediately.

Soon afterward, the remaining three Soviet attaches were released only 150 yards from the Soviet Embassy.

Hizbollah telephoned a statement to news agencies claiming that the release was a gesture of “goodwill.”

In Washington, D.C., then-CIA Director William Casey decided that the Soviets knew the language of Hizbollah.

Click here: Hostages? No Problem Soviets Offer ‘How-to’ Lesson In Kidnapping – Philly.com

Both the United States and Israel–the two nations most commonly targeted for terrorist kidnappings–have elite Special Forces units.

Military hostage-rescue units operate differently from civilian ones.  They don’t care about taking alive hostage-takers for later trials.  The result is usually a pile of dead hostage-takers.

These Special Forces could be ordered to similarly kidnap the relatives of whichever Islamic terrorist leaders are responsible for the latest outrages.

Ordering such action would instantly send an unmistakable message to Islamic terrorist groups: Screw with us at your own immediate peril.

In the United States, such elite units as the U.S. Navy SEALS, Green Berets and Delta Force stand ready.  They require only the orders.

THE REAL CULPRIT IN THE “DARK NIGHT” TRIAL: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on May 5, 2015 at 12:20 am

The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one–no matter where he lives or what he does–can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on.

–Robert F. Kennedy, April 4, 1968

Senator Robert F. Kennedy announcing the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

What should the surviving victims of the Aurora massacre do to seek redress?

And how can the relatives and friends of those who didn’t survive seek justice for those they loved?

Two things:

First, don’t count on politicians to support a ban on assault weapons.

Politicians–with rare exceptions–have only two goals:

  1. Get elected to office, and
  2. Stay in office.

And too many of them fear the economic and voting clout of the NRA to risk its wrath.

Consider Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.

Both rushed to offer condolences to the surviving victims of the Aurora massacre.  And both steadfastly refused to even discuss gun control–let alone support a ban on the type of assault weapons used by James Holmes.

On July 22–only two days after the Century 16 Theater slaughter–U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said: “The fact of the matter is there are 30-round magazines that are just common all over the place.

“You simply can’t keep these weapons out of the hands of sick, demented individuals who want to do harm.  And when you try and do it, you restrict our freedom.”

That presumably includes the freedom of would-be mass murderers to carry out their fantasies.

Second, those who survived the massacre–and the relatives and friends of those who didn’t–should file wrongful death, class-action lawsuits against the NRA.

There is sound, legal precedent for this.

  • For decades, the American tobacco industry peddled death and disability to millions and reaped billions of dollars in profits.
  • The industry vigorously claimed there was no evidence that smoking caused cancer, heart disease, emphysema or any other ailment.

  • Tobacco companies spent billions on slick advertising campaigns to win new smokers and attack medical warnings about the dangers of smoking.
  • Tobacco companies spent millions to elect compliant politicians and block anti-smoking legislation.
  • From 1954 to 1994, over 800 private lawsuits were filed against tobacco companies in state courts. But only two plaintiffs prevailed, and both of those decisions were reversed on appeal.
  • In 1994, amidst great pessimism, Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore filed a lawsuit against the tobacco industry.  But other states soon followed, ultimately growing to 46.
  • Their goal: To seek monetary, equitable and injunctive relief under various consumer-protection and anti-trust laws.
  • The theory underlying these lawsuits was: Cigarettes produced by the tobacco industry created health problems among the population, which badly strained the states’ public healthcare systems.
  • In 1998, the states settled their Medicaid lawsuits against the tobacco industry for recovery of their tobacco-related, health-care costs.  In return, they exempted the companies from private lawsuits for tobacco-related injuries.
  • The companies agreed to curtail or cease certain marketing practices.  They also agreed to pay, forever, annual payments to the states to compensate some of the medical costs for patients with smoking-related illnesses.

The parallels with the NRA are obvious:

  • For decades, the NRA has peddled deadly weapons to millions, reaped billions of dollars in profits and refused to admit the carnage those weapons have produced: “Guns don’t kill people.  People kill people.”  With guns.

  • The NRA has bitterly fought background checks on gun-buyers, in effect granting even criminals and the mentally ill the right to own arsenals of death-dealing weaponry.
  • The NRA has spent millions on slick advertising campaigns to win new members and frighten them into buying guns.

  • The NRA has spent millions on political contributions to block gun-control legislation.
  • The NRA has spent millions attacking political candidates and elected officials who warned about the dangers of unrestricted access to assault and/or concealed weapons.

  • The NRA has spent millions pushing “Stand Your Ground” laws in more than half the states, which potentially give every citizen a “license to kill.”
  • The NRA receives millions of dollars from online sales of ammunition, high-capacity ammunition magazines, and other accessories through its point-of-sale Round-Up Program–thus directly profiting by selling a product that kills about 30,288 people a year.

  • Firearms made indiscriminately available through NRA lobbying have filled hospitals–such as those in Aurora–with casualties, and have thus badly strained the states’ public healthcare systems.

It will take a series of highly expensive and well-publicized lawsuits to significantly weaken the NRA, financially and politically.

The first ones will have to be brought by the surviving victims of gun violence–and by the friends and families of those who did not survive it.  Only they will have the courage and motivation to take such a risk.

As with the cases first brought against tobacco companies, there will be losses.  And the NRA will rejoice with each one.

But, in time, state Attorneys General will see the clear parallels between lawsuits filed against those who peddle death by cigarette and those who peddle death by armor-piercing bullet.

And then the NRA–like the tobacco industry–will face an adversary wealthy enough to stand up for the rights of the gun industry’s own victims.

Only then will those politicians supporting reasonable gun controls dare to stand up for the victims of such needless tragedies as the one in Aurora, Colorado.

THE REAL CULPRIT IN THE “DARK KNIGHT” TRIAL: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on May 4, 2015 at 12:29 am

Among the major accomplishments of the National Rifle Association:

  • In July, 2005, George Zimmerman was arrested for shoving a police officer during an underage drinking raid. The charges were dropped after he completed an alcohol education program. That same summer, his ex-fiancée filed a restraining order against him, alleging that Zimmerman hit her.
  • Yet he was allowed to carry a loaded, hidden handgun as a Florida resident–thanks to the 2005 “Stand Your Ground” law the NRA had rammed through the legislature.
  • Under that law: A Concealed Carry Permit is revoked only if a gun owner is convicted of a felony.  It is not suspended if he’s being investigated for a felony.  It is suspended only if he is actually charged.

George Zimmerman

  • On February 26, 2012, Zimmerman shot unarmed, 17-year-oldTrvon Martin, who was wearing a “hoodie.”  A jury subsquently acquitted him, believing his claim of “self-defense.”
  • In March, the NRA issued its own version of a “hoodie”–the Concealed Carry Hooded Sweatshirt, designed to hide firearms.  Selling on the NRA’s website for $60 to $65, it is advertised thusly:
  • “Inside the sweatshirt you’ll find left and right concealment pockets.  The included Velcro®-backed holster and double mag pouch can be repositioned inside the pockets for optimum draw.  Ideal for carrying your favorite compact to mid-size pistol, the NRA Concealed Carry Hooded Sweatshirt gives you an extra tactical edge, because its unstructured, casual design appears incapable of concealing a heavy firearm – but it does so with ease!”    http://www.nrastore.com/nrastore/ProductDetail.aspx?c=11&p=CO+635&ct=e

  • Anyone—including convicted criminals—can buy these “hide-a-gun” sweatshirts, putting both the public and law enforcers at deadly risk.
  • The NRA often claims that law-abiding citizens defend themselves with guns millions of times every year. But the FBI has determined that, of the approximately 11,000 gun homicides every year, fewer than 300 are justifiable self-defense killings.
  • The NRA supports loopholes that allow criminals to buy guns without background checks, or allow terrorists to buy all the AK-47s they desire.
  • The NRA’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, declared the NRA was “all in” to defeat Barack Obama in 2012.  Yet the President had meekly signed legislation allowing guns to be brought into national parks and onto trains.
  • High-capacity magazines were prohibited under the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban–which expired in 2004. The NRA–aided by the Bush administration and Republicans generally–easily overcame efforts to renew the law.
  • Political scientist Robert Spitzer, author of the book The Politics of Gun Control,notes that since the passage of the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and the assault weapons ban in 1994, state and national laws have been drifting toward more open gun access:
  • “In 1988, there were about 18 states that had state laws that made it pretty easy for civilians to carry concealed hand guns around in society. By 2011, that number is up to 39 or 40 states having liberalized laws, depending on how you count it, and the NRA has worked very diligently at the state level to win political victories there, and they’ve really been quite successful.”
  • On January 8, 2011, Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head while meeting with constituents outside a,Tucson, Arizona, grocery store.  Also killed was Arizona’s chief U.S. District judge, John Roll, who had just stopped by to see his friend Giffords after celebrating Mass.  The total number of victims: 6 dead, 13 wounded.
  • “The NRA’s response to the Tucson shootings has been to say as little as possible and to keep its head down,” said Spitzer. “And their approach even more has been to say as little as possible and to simply issue a statement of condolence to the families of those who were injured or killed and to wait for the political storm to pass over and then to pick up politics as usual.”
  • This is the standard NRA response to each continuing massacre.
  • In the spring of 2012, the House Oversight Committee prepared to vote on whether to hold U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for allegedly refusing to provide documents related to “Fast and Furious.”  This was an undercover operation launched by the Bush administration to track firearms being sold to Mexican drug cartels.
  • The NRA notified Congressional members that how they voted would reflect how the NRA rated them in “candidate evaluations” for the November elections. This amounted to blatant extortion, since the NRA had long accused Holder of having an “anti-gun” agenda.

Summing up the still-current state of gun politics in America, the April 21, 2012 edition of The Economist noted:

“The debate about guns is no longer over whether assault rifles ought to be banned, but over whether guns should be allowed in bars, churches and colleges.”

That is precisely the aim of the NRA–an America where anyplace, anytime, can be turned into the O.K. Corral.

So what should the surviving victims of the Aurora massacre do to seek redress?  And how can the relatives and friends of those who didn’t survive seek justice for those they loved?

THE REAL CULPRIT IN THE “DARK KNIGHT” TRIAL: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on May 1, 2015 at 12:07 am

On July 20, 2012, James Holmes slaughtered 12 Aurora, Colorado, moviegoers and critically wounded another 58.

On May 4, 2015, he finally goes on trial.

Even his attorneys admit he staged the masscare.

Of course, they’re claiming he was insane at the time and thus not responsible for his actions.  And certainly not deserving of the death penalty.

But there is another culprit whose presence at the trial makes it the proverbial elephant in the room.

The National Rifle Association (NRA).

Like Al Qaeda, the NRA promotes violence on an unprecedented scale.  Yet there are profound differences in the way Americans view these organizations.

Consider:

On September 11, 2001, Islamic terrorists snuffed out the lives of 3,000 Americans in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania.

The World Trade Center under attack on 9/11

For more than ten years, the United States–through its global military and espionage networks–has relentlessly hunted down most of those responsible for that September carnage.

On May 1, 2011, U.S. Navy SEALS invaded Osama bin Laden’s fortified mansion in Abbottabad, Pakistan–and shot Al Qaeda’s leader dead.

Navy SEALS

Turning from foreign death-dealers to domestic ones: According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence:

Every day–365 days a year:

  • 270 people in America, 47 of them children and teens, are shot in murders, assaults, suicides, accidents and police intervention;
  • 87 people die from gun violence, 33 of them murdered;
  • 8 children and teens die from gun violence;
  • 183 people are shot, but survive their gun injuries;
  • 38 children and teens are shot, but survive their gun injuries.

And what does all of this add up to?

  • In one year, almost 100,000 people in America are shot in murders, assaults, suicides, accidents, or by police intervention.
  • Over a million Americans have been killed with guns since 1968, when Dr.  Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated.
  • U.S. homicide rates are 6.9 times higher than rates in 22 other populous high-income countries combined, despite similar non-lethal crime and violence rates.  The firearm homicide rate in the U.S. is 19.5 times higher.
  • Gun violence impacts society in numerous ways: medical costs; costs of the criminal justice system; security precautions; and reductions in quality of life owing to fear of gun violence.
  • An estimated 41% of gun-related homicides would not occur under the same circumstances had no guns been present.

(This average annual estimated composite picture of gun violence is based on death certificates and estimates from emergency room admissions.)

And who, more than anyone (including the actual killers themselves) has made all this carnage possible?

The National Rifle Association, of course.

But unlike the leadership of Al Qaeda, that of the NRA is not simply known, but celebrated.  Its director, Wayne LaPierre, is courted as a rock star by Democrats and Republicans seeking NRA endorsements–and campaign contributions.

Wayne LaPierre

He frequently appears as an honored guest at testimonial dinners and political conventions.

The largest of the 13 national pro-gun groups, the NRA has nearly 4 million members, who focus most of their time lobbying Congress for unlimited “gun rights.”

The NRA claims that its mission is to “protect” the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

NRA members conveniently ignore the first half of that sentence: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State….”

For the NRA, the Second Amendment is the Constitution, and the rest of the document is a mere appendage.

At the time Congress ratified the Constitution in 1788, the United States was not a world power.

A mere 26 years later, the British seized and burned Washington, D.C., after repeatedly defeating American armies.  On the frontier, settlers had to defend themselves against hostile Indians and marauding bandits.

Only after World War II did the country maintain a powerful standing army during peacetime.

But World War II ended 70 years ago, and today the United States is a far different country than it was in 1788:

  • It boasts a nuclear arsenal that can turn any country into nuclear ash–anytime an American President decides to do so.
  • It boasts an Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps that can target any enemy, anywhere in the world.
  • Its Special Forces–Green Berets, Delta Force and Navy SEALs–are rightly feared by international terrorists.
  • American Intelligence has come a long way since 9/11.  The FBI’s top priority is to prevent another such terrorist attack, not simply investigate it afterward.
  • And waging war on criminals generally are about 836,787 full-time sworn local/state/Federal law enforcement officers.

If a criminal flees or conducts business across state lines, powerful Federal law enforcement agencies–such as the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration–can put him out of business.

But apparently the NRA hasn’t gotten the word.

  • The NRA has steadfastly defended the right to own Teflon-coated “cop killer” bullets,” whose only purpose is to penetrate bullet-resistant vests worn by law enforcement officers.

“Cop-killer” bullets

  • The NRA and its lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, is responsible for the “stand-your-ground” ordinances now in effect in more than half the states. These allow for the use of deadly force in self-defence, without any obligation to attempt to retreat first.
  • The NRA rushed to the defense of accused murderer George Zimmerman, the self-appointed “community watchman” who  ignored police orders to stop following 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and ended up shooting him.
  • Police did not initially charge Zimmerman because of Florida’s “Stand-Your-Ground” law, which the NRA had rammed through the legislature.

THE REAL CULPRIT IN “THE DARK KNIGHT” TRIAL: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on April 30, 2015 at 9:01 am

It had happened it before–all too many times before:

  • Midnight vigils for the victims of yet another spree-killer.

  • Makeshift memorials of flowers, candles and teddy bears.
  • Grief counselors for students at elementary, junior high and high schools.
  • And, of course, the inevitable question: “Why?”

And Americans had seen it all before–-too many times before:

  • After the San Ysidro McDonald’s shootings, 1984: 21 dead, 19 wounded.
  • After the 101 California Street shootings in San Francisco, 1993: 9 dead, 6 injured.
  • After the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado, 1999: 15 dead, 21 wounded.
  • After the Virginia Tech shootings, 2007: 32 dead, 23 wounded.
  • After the Tucson shootings, 2011: 6 dead, 13 wounded.

And then, on July 20, 2012, came the massacre at the Century 16 Theater in Aurora, Colorado: 12 dead, 58 wounded.

People who wanted nothing more than to see a movie they were eagerly anticipating: The latest addition to the hugely popular “Batman” franchise: The Dark Knight Rises.

The scene of the crime: The Century 16 Theater in Aurora, Colorado

Snuggled into their seats, some eating popcorn or candy, others sipping sodas. None of them expecting that the violence on the screen would suddenly consume them in real-life.

It was a scene of which nightmares are made:

  • A sudden eruption of smoke and fire as a tear-gas canister explodes.
  • A lone gunman–brandishing a Smith & Wesson AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, a 12-gauge Remington Model 870 shotgun, and a G23 .40 caliber Smith & Wesson Glock pistol.
  • First he blasts the ceiling with a shotgun, and then opens fire on the audience, stopping only to reload his weapon.
  • He begins aiming at the back of the room, and then targets people who are scrambling to escape in the aisles.
  • Some bullets penetrate the wall of the cinema and injure people in an adjoining theater, where the same film is being screened.
  • Adding to the nightmarish quality of the scene: The appearance of the gunman–dressed all in black: a ballistic helment, vestand leggings; a throat protector; a groin protector; a gas mask; and black tactical gloves.

As terrible as the massacre was, it could have been worse.

Police arrived in about 90 seconds and arrested the shooter, James Holmes, in the parking lot of the Century 16 Theater he had just ravaged.

Still, the statistics were terrible enough:

  • Twelve people–several of them heroes who died shielding others with their bodies–would never return to those who loved them.
  • Of the 58 wounded, an unknown number would be physically scarred for life.
  • Some would never fully recover from their injuries.
  • They would not be able to walk. Or see. Or use their arms or hands.
  • Almost all those who were in that theater–-even those who escaped without a scratch-–would be emotionally tormented for months or years to come.
  • Some would never escape those moments of murderous insanity.

It’s possible that Holmes, then 24, an honors graduate of the University of California Riverside, became that most lethal specimen: The genius who slides into madness.

James Holmes

Holmes moved to the University of  Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora in May, 2011, to pursue a PhD in neuroscience.

He had always excelled in his studies, but in early 2012, his grades took a sharp decline. In June, he told the college that he was going to drop out.

Meanwhile, he was amassing an arsenal of weapons and ammunition.

He bought two Glock pistols, a semi-automatic rifle and a shotgun over the last two months from local gun stores and 6,000 rounds of ammunition via the Internet–-all purchased legally under state law.

In early July, 2012, Holmes ordered the paramilitary bulletproof clothing and gas mask that he intended to wear on his rampage.

Finally, he dyed his hair a shocking red-orange and rigged his university apartment with trip-wires and homemade booby-traps. When he was arrested, he told police: “I am the Joker.”

Commentators immediately began asking: Why did Holmes choose to snuff out the lives and dreams of so many people?

But a better question is: “How did he do it?”

It may never be finally known why he did it. But the answer to how makes clear a fundamental truth:

He could not have done it without access to the awesome firepower he was legally able to purchase:

  • The AR-15 semi-automatic rifle is designed for easy reloading. “Even without the grand-sized mag[azine]s, many people who are practiced can reload in 1½ to 2 seconds,” said Steven Howard, a Michigan attorney and security and firearms expert.

  • The AR-15 is a weapon of war.  Its only purpose is to kill large numbers of people–quickly.  Its 100-round drum magazine  allowed Holmes to five 50 to 60 rounds within one minute.
  • The Glock pistol uses a 15-round clip. When it’s done the shooter simply ejects the empty clip and slams in another one, and he’s ready for more killing.

And who has made all of this mayhem not only possible but politically invincible?

Who ultimately bears responsibility not only for those murdered and maimed at an Aurora theater but for the almost 100,000 people who are killed or wounded every year from gun violence?

Your friends at the National Rifle Association.

HOSTAGE NEGOTIATION: KGB STYLE

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on June 18, 2014 at 10:12 am

Retrieving hostages is always a difficult task.

Even when you get your hostages back, there can be serious repercussions–as President Barack Obama learned firsthand.

Several Republican lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate believe that Obama broke the law by exchanging five Taliban leaders for captured U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.

And they are urging Congress to investigate whether this is grounds for impeachment.

A Federal law requires the Secretary of Defense to notify Congress 30 days before releasing any detainees from prison.  He must also explain why they are not expected to again pose a threat to the United States.

“I think in the eyes of many, he broke the law by not informing Congress 30 days before that,” California Rep. Buck McKeon, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in an interview on MSNBC Monday.

“[National Security Advisor Susan] Rice said Congress has been informed of this along the way. I don’t know who they were talking to. I have not been a part of this, and I’m the chairman of the committee.”

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is highly concerned that the five released Taliban prisoners could will return to wage war against Americans.

Senator Lindsey Graham

In a letter he recently sent to Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Ranking Member Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Graham stated:

“The five terrorists released were the hardest of the hard-core. They have American blood on their hands and surely as night follows day they will return to the fight.

“In effect, we released the ‘Taliban Dream Team.’ The United States is less safe because of these actions.”

Graham predicted that the release will “inevitably lead to more Americans being kidnapped and held hostage throughout the world.”

Meanwhile, in Israel, tensions are high over the kidnapping, on June 12, of three teenagers in the West Bank.  They were hitchhiking home near the Palestinian city of Hebron.  Two of the teens are Israelis; the third is an American.

Their kidnappers are presumed to be Palestinian militants.

Israeli soldiers scoured the West Bank but, so far, no signs of the missing teens have turned up.  And, so far, no one has claimed responsibility for the kidnappings.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, warned his countrymen in a televised statement: “We are in the midst of a complex operation. We need to be prepared for the possibility that it will take time.”

Usually, political kidnappings trigger ransom demands and agonizing decisions by high-ranking government officials as to whether they should be met.

But there is another way governments can respond to such terroristic blackmail.  It might be called, “The KGB Method.”

On September 30 1985, four attaches from the Soviet Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, were kidnapped by men linked to Hizbollah (“Party of God”), the Iranian-supported terrorist group.

The kidnappers sent photos of the four men to Western news agencies.  Each captive was shown with an automatic pistol pressed to his head.

The militants demanded that Moscow pressure pro-Syrian militiamen to stop shelling the pro-Iranian militia in Lebanon’s northern port city of Tripoli.

And they threatened to execute the four Soviet captives, one by one, unless this demand was met.

The Soviet Union began negotiations with the kidnappers, but could not secure a halt to the shelling of Tripoli.

Only two days after the kidnappings, the body of Arkady Katov, a 30-year-old consular secretary, was found in a Beirut trash dump.  He had been shot through the head.

That was when the KGB took over negotiations.


Insignia of the KGB

They kidnapped a man known to be a close relative of a prominent Hizbollah leader. Then they castrated him, stuffed his testicles in his mouth, shot him in the head, and sent the body back to Hizbollah.

The KGB then informed the Hizbollah leader: We know the names of other close relatives of yours, and the same will happen to them if our diplomats are not released immediately.

Soon afterward, the remaining three Soviet attaches were released only 150 yards from the Soviet Embassy.

Hizbollah telephoned a statement to news agencies claiming that the release was a gesture of “goodwill.”

In Washington, D.C., then-CIA Director William Casey decided that the Soviets knew the language of Hizbollah.

Click here: Hostages? No Problem Soviets Offer ‘How-to’ Lesson In Kidnapping – Philly.com

Both the United States and Israel–the two nations most commonly targeted for terrorist kidnappings–have elite Special Forces units.

These could be ordered to similarly kidnap the relatives of whichever Islamic terrorist leaders are responsible for the latest outrages.

Ordering such action would instantly send an unmistakable message to Islamic terrorist grouops: Screw with us at your own immediate peril.

As Niccolo Machiavelli warned more than 500 years ago: “Men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared. 

“For love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose; but fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.”

In the United States, the U.S. Navy SEALS, Green Berets and Delta Force stand ready.  They require only the orders.

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