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FROM “CREDIBILITY GAP” TO “ORWELL LAND”: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 30, 2016 at 1:31 am

For five years, Donald Trump, more than anyone else, popularized the slander that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya–and was therefore not an American citizen.

In April, 2011, Obama released the long-form version of his Hawaiian birth certificate. Still, Trump questioned its–and Obama’s–legitimacy.

For more than a year during his 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump continued doing so. 

Meanwhile, Trump’s popularity steadily fell among blacks. In June, 2016, a Quinnipiac poll revealed that Trump had 1% of support from black voters–while 91% of black voters backed Hillary Clinton.

Even the managers of Trump’s campaign urged him to put the “birther” issue behind him.

And so, on September 16, 2016–10 days before his scheduled first debate with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton–Trump made his version of a reversal.  

Image result for Images of Donald Trump's birther press conference

Donald Trump: “President Barack Obama was born in the United States.”

He did so in about seven seconds and 40 words–after spending a half hour paying tribute to the military and promoting his new upscale hotel in Washington, D.C.:

“Now, not to mention her in the same breath, but Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy.

“I finished it.  I finished it.  You know what I mean.

“President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period. Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.”  

His tone made it clear that he felt uneasy making that statement–and wanted to get it over with as fast as possible.

He refused to take questions from reporters covering the event. Nor did he apologize for his five-year campaign of slander.  

On the evening of September 16, Hillary Clinton strongly responded to Trump’s comments: 

“For five years, he has led the birther movement to delegitimize our first black president. His campaign was founded on this outrageous lie. There is no erasing it in history.”  

And First Lady Michelle Obama slammed Trump for his “birther” claims: 

“Then, of course, there were those who questioned, and who continue to question for the past eight years, and up to this very day, whether my husband was even born in this country.

“Well, during his time in office, I think Barack has answered those questions with the examples he set, by going high when they go low. And he’s answered these questions with the progress we’ve achieved together.” 

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Michelle Obama

But perhaps the best perspective on this event was provided by syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks. Each Friday they appear on the PBS Newshour to review the week’s major political events.

Image result for Images of Mark Shields and David Brooks on PBS Newshour

David Brooks and Mark Shields

On September 16, Shields (a liberal) and Brooks (a conservative) addressed Trump’s about-face on birtherism.    

MARK SHIELDS: “I think it’s important to establish right at the outset that [Trump] wasn’t only the loudest and the highest-profile and the most persistent and the most well-publicized birther, he, Donald Trump. He lied. He lied consistently and persistently.

“And, today, without explanation or excuse, he just changed his position and tried to absolutely falsely shift the blame onto Hillary Clinton.

“And this was an appeal to–he debased democracy. He debased the national debate. He appealed to that which is most ignoble or least noble in all of us.”

DAVID BROOKS: “Usually, there’s some tangential relationship to the truth, but a corroding relationship to the truth, frankly, as politics has gone on over the years.

“But now we’re in a reverse, Orwellian inversion of the truth with this. And so we have a team of staffers and then the candidate himself who have taken the normal spin and smashed all the rules.

“And so we are really in Orwell land. We are in 1984. And it’s interesting that an authoritarian personality type comes in at the same time with a complete disrespect for even tangential relationship to the truth that words are unmoored.

“And so I do think this statement sort of shocked me with the purification of a lot of terrible trends that have been happening. And so what’s white is black, and what is up is down, what is down is up. And that really is something new in politics.

“And the fact that there is no penalty for it, apparently–he’s doing fantastic in the last two weeks in the polls–is just somehow where we have gotten.”  

* * * * *  

Americans were slow to recognize the dangers of their government’s committing armed forces to South Vietnam. But when the record of government lies reached critical mass, Americans demanded an end to the war.  

Similarly, Americans were reluctant to brand Richard Nixon, their newly-re-elected President, a criminal worthy of impeachment. But when the evidence of his criminality steadily mounted, they demanded his ouster.  

Today, Americans are flooded with overwhelming evidence of Donald Trump’s unfitness to become President. His narcissism, vindictiveness, ignorance and hair-trigger temper have been on public display for more than a year.  

Yet millions of ignorant, hate-filled, Right-wing Americans plan to catapult this man–who “debased democracy, debased the national debate, appealed to that which is most ignoble or least noble in all of us”–to the Presidency.

If that happens, future historians–if there are any–may similarly condemn those Americans who stood by like “good Germans” and allowed their country to fall into the hands of a ruthless tyrant.

FROM “CREDIBILITY GAP” TO “ORWELL LAND”: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 29, 2016 at 12:01 am

In 2011, Donald Trump, host of NBC’s “The Apprentice,” was thinking of running for President against Barack Obama.

Seeking to gain popularity among America’s Right-wing, Trump almost singlehandedly created the popular fiction that the President was born in Kenya–and was not an American citizen.

His motive: To convince Americans that Obama was an illegitimate President.

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Donald Trump

Among the statements Trump made:

February 10, 2011: “Our current president came out of nowhere. Came out of nowhere. In fact, I’ll go a step further: The people that went to school with him, they never saw him, they don’t know who he is. It’s crazy.”

March 23, 2011: “I want him to show his birth certificate. I want him to show his birth certificate. … There’s something on that birth certificate that he doesn’t like.”

March 28, 2011: “I am really concerned” [that Obama wasn’t born in the United States]. He said that the birth announcement for Obama in a Hawaii newspaper could have been planted “for whatever reason.”

March 30, 2011: “If you are going to be president of the United States you have to be born in this country. And there is a doubt as to whether or not he was. … He doesn’t have a birth certificate. He may have one, but there’s something on that, maybe religion, maybe it says he is a Muslim. I don’t know. Maybe he doesn’t want that. Or he may not have one. But I will tell you this. If he wasn’t born in this country, it’s one of the great scams of all time.”

April 7, 2011: “I have people that have been studying it, and they cannot believe what they’re finding. You are not allowed to be a president if you’re not born in this country. Right now I have real doubts.”

April 25, 2011: “I’ve been told very recently…that the birth certificate is missing. I’ve been told that it’s not there or it doesn’t exist. And if that’s the case, it’s a big problem.”

On April 27, President Obama released his original, long-form Hawiian birth certificate.

The long-form version of President Obama’s birth certificate

“We do not have time for this kind of silliness,” said Obama at a press conference, speaking as a father might to a roomful of spiteful children. “We have better stuff to do. I have got better stuff to do. We have got big problems to solve.

“We are not going to be able to do it if we are distracted, we are not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other…if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts, we are not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by side shows and carnival barkers.”

And on May 1, he announced the solving of one of those “big problems”: Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, had been tracked down and shot dead by elite U.S. Navy SEALS in Pakistan.

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

And how did Trump respond?  With the following series of Tweets on Twitter:

May 18, 2012:  “Let’s take a closer look at that birth certificate.@BarackObama was described in 2003 as being “born in Kenya.” http://bit.ly/Klc9Uu

August 6, 2012: “An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama‘s birth certificate is a fraud.”

August 27, 2012: “Why do the Republicans keep apologizing on the so called “birther” issue? No more apologies–take the offensive!”

September 13, 2012: “Wake Up America! See article: “Israeli Science: Obama Birth Certificate is a Fake” 

June 30, 2013: @davidrhythmguit: @realDonaldTrump @Chuffman48 Mark Cuban accepts the fact that the President of the United States was born here. Doubt it”

August 22, 2013: “Why are people upset w/ me over Pres Obama’s birth certificate? I got him to release it, or whatever it was, when nobody else could!”

December 12, 2013:  “How amazing, the State Health Director who verified copies of Obama’s “birth certificate” died in plane crash today. All others lived”

November 23, 2014: “@futureicon: @pinksugar61 Obama also fabricated his own birth certificate after being pressured to produce one by @realDonaldTrump

Even after declaring his candidacy for President on June 16, 2015, Trump continued to insist that Barack Obama was an illegitimate President.

Meanwhile, Trump’s popularity among blacks had steadily fallen. In June, 2016, a Quinnipiac poll revealed that Trump had 1% of support from black voters. By comparison, 91% of black voters backed Hillary Clinton.

Among the reasons for this:

  • His enthusiastic support by racist white supremacist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party.
  • His “birther” attacks on President Obama as a non-citizen from Kenya–and thus ineligible to hold the Presidency.
  • His attacks on the Black Lives Matter movement and calling on his supporters at rallies to rough up minority protesters.

Even the managers of Trump’s campaign urged him to put the “birther” issue behind him.

And so, on September 16–10 days before his scheduled first debate with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton–Trump made his version of a reversal.

FROM “CREDIBILITY GAP” TO “ORWELL LAND”: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 28, 2016 at 12:09 am

“Credibility gap” is a term that came into use during the mid-1960s to describe public and journalistic distrust of President Lyndon B. Johnson. In particular, the term was applied to his administration’s conduct of the Vietnam war.

It was, in short, a euphemism for accusing government officials of outright lying.

An example of the credibility gap in full swing appeared in Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1987 Vietnam war movie, Full Metal Jacket

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Vietnam was a war where military and political officials spewed a gung-ho version of constant American progress against a tough enemy.

And where civilian reporters like David Halberstam and Walter Cronkite saw–and labeled–the war as a brutal, wasteful and ultimately doomed effort. 

Midway through the film, there’s an editorial meeting of The Sea Tiger, the official Marine newspaper.

Lieutenant Lockhart is presiding–and he is determined to give his superiors an endless stream of “all-systems-go” propaganda reports. He reads a series of stories that have been published:

Story #1: DIPLOMATS IN DUNGAREES–MARINE ENGINEERS LEND A HELPING HAND REBUILDING DONG PHUC VILLAGES.

LOCKHART: “Chili, “if we move Vietnamese, they are evacuees. If they come to us to be evacuated, they are refugees.”

Story #2: N.V.A. SOLDIER DESERTS AFTER READING PAMPHLETS.

LOCKHART: “A young North Vietnamese Army regular, who realized his side could not win the war, deserted from his unit after reading Open Arms program pamphlets.”

Story #3: NOT WHILE WE’RE EATING: N.V.A. LEARN MARINES ON A SEARCH AND DESTROY MISSION DON’T LIKE TO BE INTERRUPTED WHILE EATING CHOW.

LOCKHART: “‘Search and destroy.’  Uh, we have a new directive on this. In the future, in place of ‘search and destroy,’ substitute the phrase ‘sweep and clear.’ Got it?” 

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Lt. Lockhart, editor of The Sea Tiger 

LOCKHART:  “And, Joker–where’s the weenie?”

JOKER:  “Sir?”

LOCKHART  “The Kill, Joker. I mean, all that fire, the grunts must’ve hit something.”

JOKER:  “Didn’t see ’em.”

LOCKHART:  “Joker, I’ve told you, we run two basic stories here: Grunts who give half their pay to buy gooks toothbrushes and deodorants–winning of hearts and Minds–okay? And combat action that results in a kill–Winning the War. Now you must have seen blood trails … drag marks?”

JOKER:  “It was raining, sir.”

LOCKHART:  “Well, that’s why God passed the law of probability. Now rewrite it and give it a happy ending–say, uh, one kill. Make it a sapper or an officer. Grunts like reading about dead officers.”

JOKER:  “Okay, an officer. How about a general?”

LOCKHART:  “Joker, maybe you’d like our guys to read the paper and feel bad. I mean, in case you didn’t know it, this is not a particularly popular war. Now, it is our job to report the news that these why-are-we-here civilian newsmen ignore.”

So great became the divide between truth and lies during military “press briefings” that reporters started calling them “The Five O’clock Follies.” And even some soldiers took to wearing buttons that said: “Ambushed at Credibility Gap.”

Reporters who dared to write truthfully about the military’s crimes and failures–like David Halberstam of the New York Times and Peter Arnett of the Associated Press–were regarded as traitors by military and political officials.

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy became enraged by Halberstam’s reporting on the corruption of the South Vietnamese government. He pressured New York Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger to transfer Halberstam to another locale. Sulzberger politely refused–and then extended Halberstam’s stay in Vietnam another six months.

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David Halberstam

In 1965, when CBS Correspondent Morley Safer filmed Marines setting fire to the village of Cam Ne with Zippo lighters, President Lyndon B. Johnson was similarly outraged.

He placed an early-morning call to CBS News President Frank Stanton and shouted: “Your boys shat on the American flag!”

The trail of deceit and attempted censorship continued right up to the end of the war–in April, 1975. That was when North Vietnamese forces invaded the South and quickly overwhelmed the incompetent defenses arrayed against them.

And while America was still bogged down in Vietnam, the Watergate scandal erupted on June 17, 1972.

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Watergate Hotel

Members of the Nixon administration’s secret “Plumbers Unit” burglarized the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Hotel.

Obsessed with re-electing Richard Nixon, they sought incriminating information to discredit U.S. Senator George McGovern, the Democrats’ nominee for President.

When the burglars were caught, President Richard M. Nixon and his topmost officials lied and stonewalled both reporters and investigators seeking the truth.

Nixon’s press secretary, Ronald Ziegler, repeatedly slandered the integrity of The Washington Post for its coverage of the mushrooming Watergate scandal. He called the Watergate break-in “a third-rate burglary” and attacked the Post for “shabby journalism.”

Finally, on April 17, 1973, Ziegler, announced at a press conference: “This is the operative statement. The others are inoperative.”

In short: We’ve been lying to you for the last 10 months.  But now we’re telling the truth.

Like Vietnam, the Watergate scandal destroyed the reputations of many of its chief architects. Forty government officials were indicted or jailed.

Vietnam and Watergate were seminal events for Americans coming of age in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They taught an entire generation: Don’t trust the government.  Its officials routinely lie, and their lies can be deadly.

FROM “CREDIBILITY GAP” TO “ORWELL LAND”: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 26, 2016 at 3:03 pm

For five years, Donald Trump, more than anyone else, popularized the slander that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya–and was therefore not an American citizen.

In April, 2011, Obama released the long-form version of his Hawaiian birth certificate. Still, Trump questioned its–and Obama’s–legitimacy.

For more than a year during his 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump continued doing so. 

Meanwhile, Trump’s popularity steadily fell among blacks. In June, 2016, a Quinnipiac poll revealed that Trump had 1% of support from black voters–while 91% of black voters backed Hillary Clinton.

Even the managers of Trump’s campaign urged him to put the “birther” issue behind him.

And so, on September 16, 2016–10 days before his scheduled first debate with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton–Trump made his version of a reversal.  

Image result for Images of Donald Trump's birther press conference

Donald Trump: “President Barack Obama was born in the United States.”

He did so in about seven seconds and 40 words–after spending a half hour paying tribute to the military and promoting his new upscale hotel in Washington, D.C.:

“Now, not to mention her in the same breath, but Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy.

“I finished it.  I finished it.  You know what I mean.

“President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period. Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.”  

His tone made it clear that he felt uneasy making that statement–and wanted to get it over with as fast as possible.

He refused to take questions from reporters covering the event. Nor did he apologize for his five-year campaign of slander.  

On the evening of September 16, Hillary Clinton strongly responded to Trump’s comments: 

“For five years, he has led the birther movement to delegitimize our first black president. His campaign was founded on this outrageous lie. There is no erasing it in history.”  

And First Lady Michelle Obama slammed Trump for his “birther” claims: 

“Then, of course, there were those who questioned, and who continue to question for the past eight years, and up to this very day, whether my husband was even born in this country.

“Well, during his time in office, I think Barack has answered those questions with the examples he set, by going high when they go low. And he’s answered these questions with the progress we’ve achieved together.” 

Related image

Michelle Obama

But perhaps the best perspective on this event was provided by syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks. Each Friday they appear on the PBS Newshour to review the week’s major political events.

Image result for Images of Mark Shields and David Brooks on PBS Newshour

David Brooks and Mark Shields

On September 16, Shields (a liberal) and Brooks (a conservative) addressed Trump’s about-face on birtherism.    

MARK SHIELDS: “I think it’s important to establish right at the outset that [Trump] wasn’t only the loudest and the highest-profile and the most persistent and the most well-publicized birther, he, Donald Trump. He lied. He lied consistently and persistently.

“And, today, without explanation or excuse, he just changed his position and tried to absolutely falsely shift the blame onto Hillary Clinton.

“And this was an appeal to–he debased democracy. He debased the national debate. He appealed to that which is most ignoble or least noble in all of us.”

DAVID BROOKS: “Usually, there’s some tangential relationship to the truth, but a corroding relationship to the truth, frankly, as politics has gone on over the years.

“But now we’re in a reverse, Orwellian inversion of the truth with this. And so we have a team of staffers and then the candidate himself who have taken the normal spin and smashed all the rules.

“And so we are really in Orwell land. We are in 1984. And it’s interesting that an authoritarian personality type comes in at the same time with a complete disrespect for even tangential relationship to the truth that words are unmoored.

“And so I do think this statement sort of shocked me with the purification of a lot of terrible trends that have been happening. And so what’s white is black, and what is up is down, what is down is up. And that really is something new in politics.

“And the fact that there is no penalty for it, apparently–he’s doing fantastic in the last two weeks in the polls–is just somehow where we have gotten.”  

* * * * *  

Americans were slow to recognize the dangers of their government’s committing armed forces to South Vietnam. But when the record of government lies reached critical mass, Americans demanded an end to the war.  

Similarly, Americans were reluctant to brand Richard Nixon, their newly-re-elected President, a criminal worthy of impeachment. But when the evidence of his criminality steadily mounted, they demanded his ouster.  

Today, Americans are flooded with overwhelming evidence of Donald Trump’s unfitness to become President. His narcissism, vindictiveness, ignorance and hair-trigger temper have been on public display for more than a year.  

Yet millions of ignorant, hate-filled, Right-wing Americans plan to catapult this man–who “debased democracy, debased the national debate, appealed to that which is most ignoble or least noble in all of us”–to the Presidency.

If that happens, future historians–if there are any–may similarly condemn those Americans who stood by like “good Germans” and allowed their country to fall into the hands of a ruthless tyrant.

RIGHT-WING TREASON: FIRST FOX, NOW TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 28, 2016 at 12:08 am

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

The speaker was Donald Trump, holding a July 27 press conference in Doral, Fla.

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Donald Trump

And he was urging a foreign leader to hack into the private email server of his Presidential rival, Hillary Clinton.

Five days earlier, Wikileaks had released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

Cyber-security experts believe the hacking originated from Russia–and that Russian President Vladimir Putin may have authorized it.

Politicians on the Left and Right expressed outrage at Trump’s remarks.

But this is not the first time the Right has jeopardized American security.

During the 2012 Presidential campaign, supporters of Mitt Romney accused President Barack Obama of leaking top-secret details of the U.S. Navy SEALs raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

The raid, launched on May 1, 2011, resulted in the death of the 9/11 mastermind and the capture of a treasury of highly sensitive Al Qaeda documents.

According to Right-wingers, Obama wanted to provide Hollywood screenwriters with material for a movie to glorify his role in authorizing the raid.

In August, 2012, the Right found its own secrets-leakers.  And they operated under the name of the Fox News Network.

Their motive: To promote a book–No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden. It was slated to hit bookstores on September 11–the 11th anniversary of Al Qaeda’s attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.

It had been penned under the pseudonym “Mark  Owen.” But the real name of the author–a 36-year-old former Navy SEAL Team Six member who took part in the raid–was Matt Bissonnette, of Wrangell, Alaska.

Bissonnette’s real name became public after multiple sources leaked it to Fox News–who revealed it on August 23.

The Navy SEALs who killed bin Laden had previously been left unidentified.

Fox News had repeatedly accused President Obama and members of his administration of treasonously leaking military secrets to the media to glorify the President.

Many former and current SEAL members feared that the book would release information that could compromise future missions.

U.S. Navy SEALs insignia

One Navy SEAL told Fox News, “How do we tell our guys to stay quiet when this guy won’t?”  Some SEALs called Bissonnette a “traitor.”

And Colonel Tim Nye, a Special Operations Command spokesman, said the author “put himself in danger” by writing the book.

“This individual came forward. He started the process. He had to have known where this would lead. He’s the one who started this, so he bears the ultimate responsibility for this.”

But Bissonnette placed more than his own life in jeopardy. He endangered the lives of every one of the men who participated in the bin Laden raid.

If Bissonnette fell into the hands of Al Qaeda terrorists or sympathizers, he could conceivably be tortured into revealing at least some of the names and locations of his former team members.

And Fox News not only revealed his true name but the town where he lived.

Even the liberal Nation magazine was appalled at the recklessness of this Right-wing propaganda outlet. Jeremy Scahill, a writer for Nation, tweeted:

“Why on earth would FOX News publish the alleged identity of one of the ST6 members who was in the OBL raid? Seriously.”

Millions of Right-wing Americans have been conditioned by decades of Fascistic propaganda to believe that:

  • Democrats are all traitors–or at least potential traitors.
  • Even those Democrats who aren’t traitors are too weak-kneed to protect the nation from its sworn enemies.
  • Democrats (have betrayed) (are betraying) (intend to betray) national security secrets to the Soviet/Chinese Communists.
  • Democrats have (betrayed/) (are betraying) (intend to betray) national security secrets to Islamic Jihadists.
  • Only Republicans can be trusted to protect the nation.

Republicans blamed President Harry S. Truman for “losing China” to the forces of Mao Tse Tung in 1949. America could not have prevented a corrupt and incompetent Chiang Kai-Shek from being driven off the Chinese mainland by Mao’s overwhelmingly powerful armies.

Then, in 1950, Senator “Tail Gunner Joe” McCarthy charged that the State Department was infested by Communists–and that the Truman administration knew it but refused to take action. The charges were false.

Joseph R. McCarthy

During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Republicans charged that Barack Obama was really a Muslim non-citizen who intended to sell out America’s security to his Muslim “masters.”

Attacking the patriotism of their opponents has repeatedly elected Republicans:

  • It elected Dwight Eisenhower President and turned Congress Republican in 1952 and 1956.
  • It elected Richard Nixon President in 1968 and 1972.
  • It elected Ronald Reagan President in 1980 and 1984.
  • It elected George H.W. Bush President in 1988.
  • It gave Republicans control of the Congress in 1994 (although Bill Clinton had been elected President in 1992).
  • It elected George W. Bush President in 2000 and 2004.
  • It gave control of the House to Republicans in 2010 and the Senate in 2014.

And now Republicans hope this appeal will elect a man who has openly called on Vladimir Putin to hack into American computers.

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. 

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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.

FORGET ABOUT “VICTORY THROUGH AIR POWER”

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 27, 2015 at 12:07 am

Victory Through Air Power is a 1943 Walt Disney animated Technocolor feature film released during World War II.  It’s based on the book–of the same title–by Alexander P. de Seversky.

Its thesis is summed up in its title: That by using bombers and fighter aircraft, the United States can attain swift, stunning victory over its Axis enemies: Germany, Italy and Japan.

Although it’s not explicitly stated, the overall impression given is that, through the use of air power, America can defeat its enemies without deploying millions of ground troops.

The movie has long since been forgotten except by film buffs, but its message has not.  Especially by the highest officials within the U.S. Air Force.

Although the Air Force regularly boasted of the tonage of bombs its planes dropped over Nazi Germany, it failed to attain its primary goal: Break the will of the Germans to resist.

On the contrary: Just as the German bombings of England had solidified the will of the British people to resist, so, too, did Allied bombing increase the determination of the Germans to fight on.

Nor did the failure of air power end there.

On June 6, 1944–D-Day–the Allies launched their invasion of Nazi-occupied France.

It opened shortly after midnight, with an airborne assault of 24,000 American, British, Canadian and Free French troops.  This was followed at 6:30 a.m. by an amphibious landing of Allied infantry and armored divisions on the French coast.

The operation was the largest amphibious invasion in history.  More than 160,000 troops landed–73,000 Americans, 61,715 British and 21,400 Canadians.

Allied air power bombed and strafed German troops out in the open.  But it couldn’t dislodge soldiers barricaded in steel-and-concrete-reinforced bunkers or pillboxes.  Those had to be dislodged, one group at a time, by Allied  soldiers armed with rifles, dynamite and flamethrowers.

This situation proved true throughout the rest of the war.

Then, starting in 1964, the theory of “Victory Through Air Power” once again proved a dud–in Vietnam.

Air Force General Curtis E. LeMay said, “We should bomb Vietnam back into the Stone Age.”  And the bombers under his command did their best to achieve this.

From 1964 to 1975, 7 million tons of bombs were dropped on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia–more than twice the amount of bombs dropped on Europe and Asia in World War II.

Yet the result proved exactly the same as it had in World War II: The bombing enraged the North Vietnamese and steeled their resolve to fight on to the end.

The belief that victory could be achieved primarily–if not entirely–through air power had another unforeseen result during the Vietnam war.  It gradually sucked the United States ever deeper into the conflict.

To bomb North Vietnam, the United States needed air force bases in South Vietnam.  This required that those bombers and fighters be protected.

So a force to provide round-the-clock security had to be maintained.  But there weren’t enough guards to defend themselves against a major attack by North Vietnamese forces.

So more American troops were needed–to guard the guards.

North Vietnam continued to press greater numbers of its soldiers into attacks on American bases.  This forced America to provide greater numbers of its own soldiers to defend against such attacks.

Eventually, the United States had more than 500,000 ground troops fighting in Vietnam–with no end in sight to the conflict.

Now, with forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) launching a blitzkreig throughout Iraq, President Barack Obama seems to have caught the “Victory Through Airpower” disease.

ISIS has thrown the American-trained Iraqi Army into a panic, with soldiers dropping their rifles and running for their lives.

This has led Republicans to accuse the President of being about to “lose” Iraq.

As a result, since September, 2014, he has ordered massive bombing of ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria.

Yet that has not altered the balance of power in Iraq.

As political columnist Mark Shields observed on the May 22 edition of the PBS Newshour, this has only led to greater Republican demands for “boots on the ground”:

“Now, there are 60 nations in this coalition. I haven’t seen people lining up to join this fight. I mean, in a proxy war, you are dependent upon your proxies. And the Iraqis turn out to be not particularly engaged, divided, not unified, not committed the same way….

“Get tough, get tough, swagger. [Senator] Lindsey Graham wants to put in [10,000 troops]….

“George Pataki said, put in as many as you need, and kill everybody you can and get out. Now, getting out, I think, was the question and it remains the dilemma to this moment.

“And…anybody who walks around with a flag pin in his lapel now who is running for president or running for Congress and says let’s go in and let’s kick some tail and let’s take some numbers and bomb some people, that takes no courage at all, because it’s not their blood they’re talking about, and it’s not their children’s blood.”

Once again, the United States has bought into the lie of “victory through air power.” And, as a result, the nation stands poised to once again sacrifice billions of dollars and thousands of lives in a worthless cause.

THE LIE–AND TRAP–OF “VICTORY THROUGH AIR POWER”

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on February 13, 2015 at 12:00 am

Victory Through Air Power is a 1943 Walt Disney animated Technocolor feature film released during World War II.  It’s based on the book–of the same title–by Alexander P. de Seversky.

Its thesis is summed up in its title: That by using bombers and fighter aircraft, the United States can attain swift, stunning victory over its Axis enemies: Germany, Italy and Japan.

Although it’s not explicitly stated, the overall impression given is that, through the use of air power, America can defeat its enemies without deploying millions of ground troops.

The movie has long since been forgotten except by film buffs, but its message has not.  Especially by the highest officials within the U.S. Air Force.

The Air Force regularly boasted of the tonage of bombs its planes dropped over Nazi Germany, but it failed to attain its primary goal: Break the will of the Germans to resist.

On the contrary: Just as the German bombings of England had solidified the will of the British people to resist, so, too, did Allied bombing increase the determination of the Germans to fight on.

Nor did the failure of air power end there.

On June 6, 1944–D-Day–the Allies launched their invasion of Nazi-occupied France.

It opened shortly after midnight, with an airborne assault of 24,000 American, British, Canadian and Free French troops.  This was followed at 6:30 a.m. by an amphibious landing of Allied infantry and armored divisions on the French coast.

The operation was the largest amphibious invasion in history.  More than 160,000 troops landed–73,000 Americans, 61,715 British and 21,400 Canadians.

Allied air power bombed and strafed German troops out in the open.  But it couldn’t dislodge soldiers barricaded in steel-and-concrete-reinforced bunkers or pillboxes.  Those had to be dislodged, one group at a time, by Allied  soldiers armed with rifles, dynamite and flamethrowers.

American soldier using flamethrower

This situation proved true throughout the rest of the war.

Then, starting in 1964, the theory of “Victory Through Air Power” once again proved a dud–in Vietnam.

Air Force General Curtis E. LeMay said, “We should bomb Vietnam back into the Stone Age.”  And the bombers under his command did their best to achieve this.

From 1964 to 1975, 7 million tons of bombs were dropped on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia–more than twice the amount of bombs dropped on Europe and Asia in World War II.

Yet the result proved exactly the same as it had in World War II: The bombing enraged the North Vietnamese and steeled their resolve to fight on to the end.

American bomber dropping its cargo over North Vietnam

The belief that victory could be achieved primarily–if not entirely–through air power had another unforeseen result during the Vietnam war.  It gradually sucked the United States ever deeper into the conflict.

To bomb North Vietnam, the United States needed air force bases in South Vietnam.  This required that those bombers and fighters be protected.

So a force to provide round-the-clock security had to be maintained.  But there weren’t enough guards to defend themselves against a major attack by North Vietnamese forces.

So more American troops were needed–to guard the guards.

North Vietnam continued to press greater numbers of its soldiers into attacks on American bases.  This forced America to provide greater numbers of its own soldiers to defend against such attacks.

Eventually, the United States had more than 500,000 ground troops fighting in Vietnam–with no end in sight to the conflict.

Then, in 2014, with forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) launching a blitzkreig throughout Iraq, President Barack Obama caught the “Victory Through Airpower” disease.

ISIS had thrown the American-trained Iraqi Army into a panic, with soldiers dropping their rifles and running for their lives.

This led Republicans to accuse the President of being about to “lose” Iraq.

As a result, he shipped at least 300 American “advisors” to Iraq, to  provide support and security for U.S. personnel and the American Embassy in Baghdad.

And he authorized American Predator drones to traverse Iraq, keeping tabs on the advancing ISIS forces.

Then, in September, 2014, Obama ordered airstrikes against ISIS in Syria.

Yet that didn’t alter the balance of power in Iraq.  Nor had it worked for America in the 1991 and 2003 wars against Iraq.

Both wars opened with massive barrages of American missiles and bombs.  The 1991 war saw the first use of the vaunted “stealth bomber,” which could avoid detection by enemy radar.

The 2003 war opened with an even greater bombardment intended to “shock and awe” the Iraqis into surrendering.  They didn’t. 

Baghdad under “shock and awe” bombardment

Nor did air power prove effective on the Iraqi insurgency that erupted after American forces occupied Baghdad and much of the rest of the country.

That war had to be fought by U.S. Army regulars and Special Operations soldiers–especially Navy SEALS.  It was a dirty and private effort, marked by nightly kidnappings of suspected Iraqi insurgents.

Finally, on February 11, 2015, Obama called on Congress to formally authorize the use of ground  forces against ISIS.  This would include supporting and training Iraqi forces and Syrian insurgents on the ground

Obama stressed that his request for authorization does not call for deploying American ground troops in Syria or Iraq.

The rerun of the Vietnam/Iraq experience will begin showing in the months ahead.

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