Greater Krueger National Park

Greater Krueger National Park
An image from a recent trip to South Africa. Clcik on the image for more on this trip.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Benghazi and the Chain of Command

Former Assistant Secretary of Defense Bing West has raised an interesting point.  The President recently explained that as soon as he heard about what was happening in Benghazi, he ordered that everything possible be done to protect American lives there.  The military is a very structured organization.  Assuming that the President is telling the truth, which I doubt, there would be a paper trail of orders stretching from Washington D.C. to the field relaying his order.  Given that he was either in the Oval Office or the White House Situation Room when he issued such an order, there would not have been any delay whatsoever in getting it out to the operators that would be tasked to implement it.  I'd love to see that order, but I honestly do not believe that it exists.

Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta has explained that Washington did not have enough information soon enough to act.  We now have mountains of proof that this was simply not true.  We had several very highly trained, battle hardened operators on the ground in the middle of the firefight with all of the equipment that they needed to provide the tactical information necessary for a variety of different military assets to be immediately applied to the problem in Benghazi.  We also know that the military was straining at the leash for the order to go to the Ambassador's assistance.  In fact, the current speculation is that General Carter Ham, Commanding General of Africom was relieved of duty because he was too eager to help Ambassador Stevens and his colleagues.

Some of Obama's apologists are talking about "the fog of war" as though they know anything about it from personal experience.  I have not heard anyone who has actually been in combat try to explain what happened in Benghazi in terms of "the fog of war."  Panetta's dictum that one does not deploy military assets until one has adequate information is a bunch of crap.  In combat, one never has enough information.  The apologist worries about a possible ambush - so do the guys carrying out the mission.  It is what they do.  Their dictum is that "we do not leave our own behind."

It continues to look to me as though the President is positioning Panetta and a couple of generals to take the fall for Benghazi - after the election, of course.  Let's assume that Obama told Panetta to do everything possible to help Ambassador Stevens and Panetta decided that he did not have enough information to carry out the President's order.  Why didn't Obama replace his Secretary of Defense on the spot and instruct the military to get on with the relief of Benghazi?  In my mind Obama is spinning and he should not have turned in for a good night's sleep until all of the Americans in Benghazi were safe.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Barack Obama and the Nuclear Threat

There is no question in my mind but that it is the President of the United States of America that is responsible for the needless deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.  The rationale for this conclusion is laid out in a previous post.  I had long ago decided to vote for the Romney/Ryan ticket based on other criteria - primarily economic, but had I not made that decision earlier, I would make it now simply because of Benghazi.

During her 2008 try for the presidency, Hillary Clinton asked a good question:  Who do you want answering the telephone at 3 A.M?  There is no question, but that the situation in Benghazi was confused on 9/11/12, but that situation, tragic as it was, was child's play compared to what we will face in the future from those that want to destroy our country and all that it stands for.  

If President Barack Obama was so cowardly that he could not make the simple call necessary to save Stevens and the rest, what makes anyone think that he is going to make the right call when nukes are involved in the equation?

If President Barack Obama can not provide adequate security to Stevens and the rest, what makes you think that we are secure here in the United States?

If President Barack Obama did not read the intelligence reports on Benghazi what makes you think that he is reading any of them about anything?  If he did read them and he dismissed them, what makes you think that he has not dismissed others that are even more threatening?

If Barack Obama is so deluded that he honestly thinks that he can sweet talk his way into a harmonious relationship with the terrorists in Libya, why do you believe that his policy vis-a-vis Iran is working?

If Barack Obama can not clearly define our enemy as radical Islamic terrorism, how can we develop an adequate strategy to defeat that enemy?  Remember that it is not just Benghazi being tied to an obscure video.  The Fort Hood massacre was "work place violence" and the Little Rock attack on the Army Recruiters was a "drive by shooting."  Jihadists are attacking us abroad and here at home and we can't even admit it because it runs counter to the White House narrative about how effective our foreign policy is.

The nuclear threat is not an abstraction.  It is real and it threatens us today even more than we were threatened during the Cold War.  Iran is moving toward obtaining a nuclear capability and that is dangerous, but it is not the only potential source of danger.  Pakistan has a large nuclear inventory and is teetering on political instability.

We have a serious leadership problem that is not only needlessly destroying our economy but is also putting our country at risk of nuclear attack by terrorists in the not very distant future.

Barack Obama's callous disregard for Stevens, Smith, Doherty and Woods is dispicable, but what it shows us about his ability to deal with a genuine crisis is a clarion call warning of what is ahead if we do not vote him out of office.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Barack Obama & Benghazi

Like most of the rest of us, I am dependent on news reports for information about what happened in Benghazi on September 11, 2012.  Given that most of the press is uninterested in the story because it tends to reflect badly on the President, information is still grossly inadequate.  The Administration is stonewalling as best it can to get Benghazi behind them until after the election early next month.  As a result, the current investigation in the House of Representatives is proceeding very slowly.  President Obama has informed us that the election is not about what happened in Benghazi and we have to be very careful in our investigation so that we get it right.  Harry Reid has scheduled Senate hearings on the tragedy for the week after the elections.  Pretty much business as usual as these kinds of things go.

On the other hand, some details are leaking out and various bureaucrats are making statements designed to protect themselves from blame.  The President takes the position that he is going to investigate the event throughly, not rush to judgement, and get to the bottom of things.  Hillary Clinton has let it be known that she supported Ambassador Steven's request for more security prior to the attack.  David Petreaus has said, through his spokesperson, that the CIA did not deny any support to anybody during the attack.  Leon Panetta has told reporters that he and his senior military advisors did not know enough soon enough to provide any military assistance to the people trying to defend the consulate.  General Carter Ham, the commander of U.S. forces in Africa told a visiting congressman that no one tasked his command to support our people in Benghazi.

Various partial timelines are circulating about what happened in Benghazi and when it happened.  Reliably recreating a seven hour long combat timeline in a far off place is difficult at best, but this one is made more difficult because of the number of people who would like to skew it to reflect blame away from themselves.  At this point in time it would appear that something like the following took place.

  • The security situation in Libya, and specifically in Benghazi, was deteriorating in the months leading up to the 9/11/12 attack.

  • Some 230 different security incidents took place in Libya during the year preceding the attack and about 40% of those incidents were in Benghazi.

  • Al Qaeda was making a very concerted effort to establish control of the Libyan revolution and Al Qaeda flags openly flew over several government buildings in Benghazi.

  • The Consulate was attacked twice prior to the 9/11/12 attack.  One of those attacks blew a hole in the outer wall large enough for a truck to drive through.

  • On President Obama's direct order, a drone strike in Pakistan killed Aya Yahaya al-Libi.

  • Ayman al-Zawahiri issued a public statement that called for revenge for the Aya Yahaya al-Libi killing.

  • Ambassador Stevens wrote in his diary that his name was on an Al Qaeda hit list.  My guess is that he probably let that be known in Washington as well.  (It is important to note that the man that Obama killed in Pakistan was a notable terrorist leader from Libya.  Chris Stevens, as the personal representative of the President in Libya, was specifically targeted for assassination for this reason.)

  • The Libyan government informed Ambassador Stevens that it could not provide adequate protection to the Benghazi Consulate.

  • Ambassador Stevens and his security team repeatedly requested additional security.

  • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton supported the Ambassador's request for a security upgrade in writing.

  • Nothing was done to harden the consulate and no additional security personnel were provided despite the Secretary's written order.  (Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Programs, Charlene Lamb, testified under oath that the reason the security upgrades were not implemented was that the President's policy called for the reduction of security and the normalization of our relations with Libya.)

  • The Consulate facilities were not hardened and security personnel in country were reduced just prior to 9/11/12.

  • Ambassador Stevens was in Benghazi all day on 9/11/12 and there were no demonstrations.  I presume that this was reported to Tripoli and to Washington, particularly since the rest of the Arab World was witnessing very intense Anti-American demonstrations that day.

  • On the evening of 9/11/12, the Consulate compound was entered by a large group of armed men.  This was immediately reported to Tripoli by telephone, email, and probably cable as well.  The Consulate had live video coverage of the attack and I suspect that it was available in real time in Tripoli, in Stuttgart, and in all U.S. Government crisis centers in Washington.

  • U.S. military assets all through the region were on high alert and included a variety of capabilities that could provide timely assistance to the Consulate if tasked.

  • The Benghazi attack continued for seven hours.  The personnel in the Consulate repeatedly requested help.  An unmanned drone was put in place over the battle but no assistance of any kind was provided to the people on the ground.  The IR equipped drone provided real time video of the battle to all relevant USG crisis centers.

  • Four hours into the attack,  Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods identified the mortar crew that was about to kill them, lased it and requested a Specter gunship to take it out.  No gunship was provided.  (Please understand that had a Specter gunship even flown over the area, the terrorist mortar crew would have probably had enough sense to evacuate immediately.  Specter fires 105mm canon with pinpoint accuracy when the target is lit with a laser.)

  • Four Americans, Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty were killed.  We are told that Woods and Doherty died of mortar fire while defending the Consulate annex and Smith died of smoke asphyxiation.  We do not yet know how the Ambassador died.  Speculation includes torture.

  • During the attack Ansar al-Sharia claimed responsibility on Facebook.  Subsequently, a spokesman for that group stated that it had not been the work of the organization, even though they reported to Al Quaeda that their personnel had executed the attack.

  • Following the attack, the United States Government launched a massive effort to paint Benghazi as a demonstration against an obscure video that went awry.  My guess is that they did this for two reasons.  At home, they did not want to admit that Benghazi ran counter to the President's claim that we had Al Qaeda on the ropes.  Internationally, they were attempting to deflect the wrath of the Arab Street from our policies to the misdeeds of a single person who did not speak for the American government.
As we analyze all of the bureaucratic and political maneuvering around Benghazi, we must remember that the military assets that could have easily changed the outcome of this battle were available and close enough that they could have been there in time to save the lives of all four men.  We should also remember that these four deaths could have been avoided in two other ways.  We could have followed the example of Great Britain and the Red Cross and pulled our people out of Benghazi or we could have provided the Ambassador with the security upgrade that he was requesting.  Instead we left him in Benghazi, ignored all of the intelligence reports, degraded his already inadequate security, and refused to come to his aid while he was being killed.

So now we come to the part about who to blame and what to accuse them of doing.   President Obama told Mitt Romney in no uncertain terms that the security of our diplomats is his responsibility.  He has also told John Stewart that while the deaths of four Americans is not "optimal," the government is a very big operation and "there are always going to be bumps in the road."  He continually tells us that he wants to get to the bottom of Benghazi and make sure that nothing like this ever happens again.  I suggest that Barack Obama is dissembling.  Here is why:

Prior to the attack, the Secretary of State ordered that the security of the consulate in Benghazi be upgraded.  It was not done.  Ask yourself who in the USG can override the Secretary of State's orders.  The only authority that can do that is the President himself.  

Given the information currently available, it looks like Leon Panetta must be credited for not ordering the military to support the consulate during the attack even though his explanation that there was not enough time nor enough information to make that decision is patently not true.  Panetta has attempted to include two very senior military commanders in concurring with that judgement, but I find that implausible.  My very strong suspicion is that Panetta was following orders from the President even though the President has recently been quoted as saying that he ordered that everything possible be done to protect all American personnel in Benghazi.

We also have reports that on three different occasions CIA personnel in the Consulate annex asked for permission to sally out in an effort to help the Ambassador and his colleague in the consulate.  On each occasion they were told to "stand down."  David Petraeus, through his spokesperson, has stated unequivocally that on no occasion did the CIA issue such an order.  Please note that the Secretary of Defense can not direct CIA personnel to do anything.  Once again, there is only one authority that can override the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.  That authority resides in the President.

The conclusion that I come to is that the President of the United States is directly responsible for the needless death of four loyal Americans.  He discounted or did not bother to listen to the overwhelming intelligence that existed well prior to the attack in an effort to present a picture of normalization in Benghazi.  He put Americans in harm's way and then personally denied them the protection that could have saved their lives.  Benghazi was not the fault of anyone else, no matter how Obama tries to spin it, but if I were Leon Panetta and the generals under him, I would be looking for cover in the paper trail.  It currently looks to me as though they are being set up to take the fall.  My guess is that Hillary Clinton will come out without a scratch even though she willingly participated in the video cover up that followed the attack.  I suspect that David Petraeus is so disgusted with the bureaucratic morass in Washington that he very well might take the position being offered him as president of a prestigious university.

Charles Woods, the father of Tyrone Woods, lays the responsibility for the  murder of his son at the President's door.  I agree with Mr Woods and suggest that the other three deaths must be included as well.  Obama is a liar, of course, but that is pretty much par for the course for a politician these days.  The travesty of Benghazi is much worse than the cover up and the lying.  They are bad enough, but the real issue is the callous nature of the person who effectively ordered the death of four good, loyal and brave Americans.  Tell a spineless bureaucrat to deny all support to the Americans being murdered in Benghazi, get a good night's sleep, tell lies in the Rose Garden, and then jet off to a party in Las Vegas.  Barack Obama is despicable and not fit to pretend to lead this country.  I welcome in advance any and all attempts to justify what this miscreant has done.  Prove that I am wrong and I will apologize, but if you can not, please join me in voting him out of office before he kills any more of us with his blind lack  of concern for this country and the people who live in it.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Leon Panetta & Benghazi

This past Thursday, Leon Edward Panetta, the Secretary of Defense, briefed Pentagon reporters to the effect that the Benghazi attack was over before the U.S. had a chance to know what was really happening.  He is reported to have pontificated that the "basic principal is that you don't deploy forces into harm's way without knowing what's taking place."  He went on to say that "as a result of not having that kind of information, the commander who was on the ground in that area, General Ham, General Dempsey and I felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation."  

This is bureaucratic double speak, pure and simple. Leon Panetta, the Secretary of Defense was sitting comfortably in the White House while Chris Stevens and his three colleagues were being foully murdered and neither General Ham nor General Dempsey were anywhere close to being the "commander who was on the ground" in Benghazi.  General Carter Ham was probably in Stuttgart, Germany where he serves as the commander of U.S. Africa Command.  General Martin Dempsey was probably in the Pentagon where he serves as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

None of these three men are responsible for putting Chris Stevens in harms way in Benghazi.  That honor belongs solely to the President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama and to his Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton.  But, according to the Secretary of Defense, all three of these men agreed that they should not go to the aid of those being brutalized in Benghazi because they did not know enough about the tactical situation.  This implies that they should have been the people making that call.  Cabinet secretaries that are that deluded about how smart they are regarding tactical level warfare should immediately be removed from office.  If the two four stars actually agreed with Panetta, something that I am loath to believe, they should go right along with him.

I certainly do not know the U.S. chain of command that currently exists in North Africa, nor do I know anything about how our forces are deployed, but my guess is that there were a couple of field grade officers somewhere along the line that were the people that should have made the call as to how best to help our people in that god forsaken hell hole.  My very strong suspicion is that all they needed was the go order from above.  They were getting all of the tactical information that they needed directly from the guys attempting to stay alive and defend the consulate and it's personnel.  The truly terrible thing is that they could have rather easily saved those four men's lives.  The battle that Panetta tells us was over before the U.S. knew what was happening actually took seven long hours.  Seven hours.

Put yourself in the shoes of those two very brave former Seals, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty for just a moment.  They didn't have to jump to and try to save Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith.  They did it because it needed doing.  They were trained professionals and they knew what to do and how to do it.  Hours into the battle, they saw the terrorist mortar crew that was to kill them and they put a laser on it.  Had the people up the chain given them a Specter gunship as they requested they would have eliminated the mortar crew and they would be alive today.  My guess is that right up to the end Doherty and Woods expected help to arrive.  Were I to have been in their shoes I certainly would have.  It would never have occurred to me that the President of the United States would jet off to Las Vegas and leave it to a detached bureaucrat that didn't feel that he had enough information to make a decision.

There is a memorial to these two brave men in Benghazi.  It is the blood encrusted machine gun that they were firing while President Barack Hussein Obama was partying in Las Vegas and Leon Edward Panetta was dithering about not having enough information soon enough.  Bull shit.  Our warriors deserve better - much better.  I agree with Charles Woods, the father of Tyrone Woods, when he lays the charge of murder at the White House door.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Benghazi and our President

In the second presidential debate, President Obama stated very clearly that the responsibility for the safety of our American diplomats rests with him.  He was very forceful and highly indignant in his denunciation of Governor Romney's suggestion that he had not done his duty with regard to the safety of Ambassador Stevens and his three colleagues.  I've been around for a fair piece and I thought that I had seen some pretty brazen liars before, but Barack Hussein Obama takes the cake.

The reality of the Benghazi disaster is that the President of the United States set these people up and then let them get killed in a particularly horrible manner while he went to Las Vegas to attend a swell party.  There are more important issues in this election than Benghazi, starting with the economy, and I know that is what I should be focusing on, but I can't help myself.  Benghazi hits me in the gut and genuinely angers me.  Obama's comments that the killing of four Americans "is not optimal," describes the President's attitude perfectly.  Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were not real flesh and blood people, they were merely pawns in Obama's great game of international politics.

Recent reports indicate that the President, the Vice President and the Secretary of Defense sat comfortably in the Oval Office and discussed the Benghazi attack while the seven hour bloodbath was ongoing and before President Obama felt that he had to leave lest he might be late for his fundraising event in Las Vegas.  The Secretary of Defense, the Vice President and the President of the United States did not provide a relief force of any kind even though they were receiving real time reporting and may even have been watching video of the attack.  Meanwhile, four loyal Americans were being vilely murdered by terrorist thugs in a dirty hole in a far off country that many Americans don't really care about.

We are beginning to hear reports that include mention of "the fog of war."  Please understand what that phrase really means in this case.  It means that the three amateurs sitting in the security of the White House, surrounded by the Secret Service, were in a situation over their heads and did not know what to do when a well-armed enemy force attacked a poorly defended, inadequately hardened facility that contained classified information as well as the Ambassador of the United States of America and three other American souls. 

Forget the fact that the Ambassador was on an Al Quaeda hit list.  Forget too that the President had ignored all of the Ambassador's pleas for more security and had not hardened the defenses of the Consulate compound in spite of two previous attacks, one of which punched a hole in the outer wall large enough to drive a truck through.  Let's also ignore the fact that the British and the Red Cross decided to leave Benghazi because the security situation had deteriorated too far.  Let's even ignore the date and the intelligence reports that there would be an attack.

Let's just focus for the moment on that meeting in the Oval Office where the Secretary of Defense, the Vice President and the President of the United States did not care enough about Ambassador Stevens and his colleagues to order a relief force into Benghazi.  We now know that the military assets were sufficiently close to hand that they could have been there in time to save all four lives.  For me, this failure on Obama's part is worse than anything else he has ever done in his entire life.  In the grand scheme of things it may not be as important as his efforts to ruin our economy or dumb down our society, but on a human level it is vile and absolutely inexcusable.

In my mind, Barack Obama is directly responsible for the needless murder of Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Wood.  I repeat.  Directly responsible.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Allred, Trump and Ambassador Stevens

As we count down to election day, the salacious side of our political system is rising to the surface.  Gloria Allred is mining the courtroom for something that she can twist into political relevancy and the popular media outlets lick their chops in anticipation.  Donald Trump promises to unload a bombshell of his own at the last minute and everybody awaits the "October Surprise" with great expectation.  While I agree that everything is fair in love and war and politics, I bemoan the fact that much of the public sees this election as being akin to a sports event.  People comment on the latest news report as being "good for Romney" or "bad for Obama."  Rarely, if ever, do I hear any discussion of the issues involved.  While we lament the one-sided banality of the media, my suspicion is that they are giving us exactly what the majority of the public wants - oversimplified talking points that we can use the next time that politics comes up in our daily lives.  

My conclusion in all of this is that too many of us, the American people, are not fulfilling our responsibilities as citizens.  Too many of us are casting our votes without thinking about the issues sufficiently.  An excellent example of this is the current public discussion of Benghazi.  We hang on every statement coming out of the White House to determine how and why the President lied about who was behind the attack.  We are almost all convinced that he did not tell us the truth, but his supporters continue to claim that they don't know why.  His detractors (myself among them) are convinced that he was trying to avoid admitting that his Middle Eastern policy was an abject failure.  While the issue is definitely working against Obama in the public mind, it is not yet sufficiently focused on the real issue which is the role of the President in the deaths of four loyal Americans.  In this sense, David Axelrod is content to let the situation muddle along until after the election.  He can't do anything about the facts of the matter, but he can hope to minimize the political damage that they do to his candidate.

Axelrod's weapon of choice is distraction.  Gloria Allred has been tasked to create a distraction and Donald Trump will be useful as well.  Anything to change the subject from Obama's abysmal record domestically and internationally.  In the case of Benghazi, the reason that Axelrod is content to keep the public focused on what the President knew and when he knew it is that it avoids having to explain why the President did not provide adequate protection for the American Ambassador in one of the most dangerous posts in the world on the most dangerous day of the year.  The emerging picture of what happened in the White House on that horrific day is truly a national disgrace.  The President knew that the seven hour long attack was in progress and he did not immediately order any relief force to respond even though we had assets that were an hour's flying time away.  His current public assessment of Benghazi is that the death of four Americans is "not optimal."  When he talks about the economy, it is more of the same.  Again, in his own words, the current economic recovery is "not adequate."  I suggest that we should not settle for policies that are not optimal or adequate.  I don't want to be "led" by a person that thinks that this is acceptable.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Final Presidential Debate

The final Presidential Debate saw a petulant President make a lot of unsupported claims about his success in foreign relations.  His empty rhetoric reminded me of his string of broken promises in 2008 about what he was going to do to fix our faltering economy.  MItt Romney, on the other hand, came across as a bigger person that had a more traditional approach to our relations with the world around us.  Although we can not be certain how well Romney will do as President we, unfortunately, have an excellent idea of how poorly Barack Obama would perform if we were to give him another four years.

Obama claims that he has Al Quaida on the run, and the economy on the way to full recovery.  I see no evidence that either claim is true.  In fact, I believe that the reality is exactly the reverse.  Terrorism is very obviously on the rise throughout the world and 23 million folks are still out of a job in this country.  Those of us that still have a job have seen our annual income diminished by over $4,000 a family while the price of foods and services have risen dramatically.  Iran is four years closer to having a nuclear capability and Israel is poised to go to war.  Quanitative easing has significantly reduced the value of our savings and we have amassed a debt that will plague us for at least a decade - even if we begin to do something about it right now.  Abroad, Obama claims that we are more respected than ever, but I do not see any evidence of it.  Instead, I believe that we are viewed as a nation in decline, led by a man that makes the killing of Osama bin Laden his greatest foreign relations achievement.

The list goes on and on - both in foreign affairs and here at home.  The fact of the matter is that America can not afford another four years of Obama/Biden.  Romney/Ryan offer a fresh approach to the most important single problem that we face - our broken economy. Getting that right is central to our recovery both at home and abroad.  Romney's record in private business, the Olympics, and as Governor of Massachusetts proves that he is a pragmatist that can work with both sides of the aisle to get the job done.  We need jobs not food stamps.  We need Romney/Ryan not Obama/Biden.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Middle Eastern Policy

President Obama and Secretary Clinton obviously do not understand what is going on in the Middle East.  In all fairness, I don't believe many of the rest of us do either - myself included.  My guess, however, is that our current policy of disengagement and retreat in world affairs is at the heart of our problem in the Middle East and elsewhere around the world. 

The Arab Spring toppled existing dictatorial authority all across the region and political chaos followed.  That chaos continues today and radical elements are presently gaining influence and power in virtually all of the nation states in the region.  President Obama's policy of leading from behind is, by definition, not adequately assisting more moderate political elements in the region.  It is also demoralizing to other Western leaders that share our own concerns about the radicalization of the Muslim world, but do not feel that they are strong enough to fill the vacuum that we have left on the world stage.

It is difficult for Americans to fully understand the depth of despair that exists in much of this world.  What we consider to be poverty in this country is regarded to be luxury in most of North Africa.  Life for most people is extremely basic and violence is a part of daily existence in the family, in the village, and in the region.  Small groups band together for protection and shifting alliances between these groups are determined in large part by their ability to mobilize quasi-military power.  By definition, more moderate leaders attempt to minimize the use of violence and attempt to establish a rule of law and order where none has ever existed before - save Sharia.  Unfortunately, in the conditions on the ground today in the Middle East, the gun is more powerful than the concepts of western law.

It is understandable that many Americans throw up their hands and say let's get out of the way and let these people decide their own destiny.  A century or two ago that would have been a viable option, but I suggest that it is not today.  Unfortunately, there are elements throughout the region that are harkening back to the disagreements of ancient times to mobilize against us.  They have repeatedly declared in no uncertain terms that they want to wipe us off the face of the earth.  In the age of nuclear weapons we ignore them at our peril.  When one of these radical terrorist groups manage to get their hands on a nuclear weapon what will we do about it even before they actually use it?  After they use it, how do we retaliate and against whom?  How do we determine who "won" the exchange of obliteration?

President Obama is taking great credit for "ending the war in Iraq."  Unfortunately, he did not end it.  He just superficially disengaged from it.  The war waged by radical jihadists continues and it is not limited to any one geographic area.  That war stretches across the entire Muslim world and we are still in it whether we like it or not.  We can argue about who started it, but that argument will take us well back in history.  I suggest that we stop looking backward for someone to blame and figure out what we do about it now.  One last, very important point.  We are not at war with Islam.  We are at war with a relatively small group of radical Islamic terrorists.  Obama's attempt to ignore that fact just emboldens our enemies.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Why Rice rather than Clinton?

It is now crystal clear that the reason that President Obama was so intent on labeling Benghazi a demonstration against a video that went awry, rather than the preplanned attack that he knew it to be, was that the murder of Ambassador Stevens in Benghazi obviously raised serious questions about his contention that he had Al Quaida on the ropes.  When Obama looked around for someone to go out and tell his slanted version of Benghazi to the world, it would appear that his Secretary of State said "not me, I know better."  I do not understand the extent to which Hillary Clinton agreed with the President's Middle Eastern policy, but she is first and foremost a political survivor and she has her eyes on the presidency in 2016.  Obviously, she went along with the fairy tale as it applied to the other demonstrations against our diplomatic facilities across the Middle East, but Benghazi was different.  She had a building full of people who understood that she knew the truth of the matter.

When, and if, Congress gets around to questioning Secretary Clinton, I will be surprised if she is not able to prove with an ironclad paper trail that she had supported the Ambassador's request for more security.  I am certain that she will attempt to maneuver so that she does not have to do this, but if pressed hard enough she will do it to protect herself.  Assuming that I am correct, we have to ask ourselves who overruled her on this matter?  Obviously, there are not very many people in the United States Government that can do that.  The ultimate decision denying the Ambassador's security request had to be made by someone who was speaking on behalf of the President of the United States.  Probably the same person who instructed Ambassador Susan Rice to go out and tell the fictional version of Benghazi to five talk shows on Sunday.  Why Rice instead of Clinton?  Clinton would not do it and Rice has long been a loyal member of the Obama political apparatus.  Because her position as Ambassador to the United Nations gives her a seat on the President's cabinet, she was easily recruited.

If we look deeper into Benghazi we see more evidence of serious systemic problems in the Obama Administration.  The United States Government that my school teachers told me about is not the one that we have today.  In that theoretical government, the President looked to his Secretary of State to manage our relations with foreign countries.  That is no longer the way things are done, as Benghazi amply demonstrates.  Trying to manage "important" foreign affairs through the bureaucracy of the State Department has long been judged to be too cumbersome for the modern world, particularly since Nixon and Kissinger.  Modern communications makes it possible for the President to involve himself in anything that he wants, at any time that he so desires.  Benghazi is an excellent example of why that approach is not always a good idea.  it is really dastardly when an amateur gets into the Oval Office and thinks that he is smarter than the professionals in the intelligence services.  Four loyal Americans died foul deaths in a lousy place while complacent bureaucrats continue to strive to send "the right signal" to a bunch of fanatics that won't listen.  That is absolutely unacceptable.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Benghazi & the Debate

In last night's debate, Kerry Ladka asked President Obama why Ambassador Stevens did not have the security that he repeatedly requested.  President Obama "answered" this question with a rambling diatribe about how he was going to find out who did this and punish them.  He did not explain that it was his policy that was the reason that Ambassador Stevens did not get the protection that he needed.  In this exchange, Governor Romney was focused on why the President had dissembled so long about whether it was a terrorist attack or not and that question got buried when the president lied about the intent behind his Rose Garden speech and the moderator rushed to his aid to support his lie.   

Two interesting tidbits that occurred after the debate.  First, Candi Crowley reread the Rose Garden speech in which the President allegedly labeled Benghazi a terrorist attack.  She discovered that her intervention on the President's behalf had been grossly overstated and walked the cat back about half way.  Second, President Obama explained to Kerry Ladka that the reason that he had not labeled Benghazi a terrorist attack was that he needed to make sure that the intelligence he was acting on was real intelligence and not disinformation.  Please note that, in this second conversation with Kerry Ladka, the President admitted that he had not labeled Benghazi a terrorist attack.  More importantly, at no time did Barack Obama answer Mr. Ladka's question as to why Ambassador Stevens did not get the protection that he needed.

For those that are keeping score, please add one more confessed lie to the President's record.  Politicians lie all the time and just because Obama is doing it a bit more than usual is not the important thing here.  The important thing is that the President either knew or did not know that the Consulate's defenses were inadequate to withstand attack.  The president either knew or did not know that Ayman al-Zawahiri had called for revenge for Obama's killing of Aya Yahaya al-Libi.  The President either knew or did not know that the Ambassador was on an Al Quaida hit list.  The President either knew or did not know that the Red Cross and the British had left Benghazi because of the deteriorating security situation.  The President either knew or did not know that the Department of State had denied Ambassador Stevens the security that he very obviously needed because the President's policy was to "reduce our security presence and normalize relations" in Benghazi.

If the President did know all of the above (as I suspect), he is personally responsible for a series of judgements that led directly to the death of Ambassador Stevens and three other loyal Americans.  If he did not know these things, it is almost certainly because he was too busy jetting around to various social events to find time to attend his security briefings.  In that case, he is personally responsible for dereliction of duty that led directly to the death of Ambassador Stevens and three other loyal Americans.  Last night, Barack Obama did say one thing that I agree with.  The responsibility for the safety of our diplomats around the world rests with the President of the United States.  In the case of Benghazi, either way you cut it, he has not fulfilled his duty and he has not lived up to his responsibilities.  Either he did not care enough to stay informed or he knowingly set these four men up to suffer horrible deaths.

One last point here.  Some say that we should not discuss Benghazi until all the facts are known.  That is malarky.  Foreign Relations is not a forbidden subject just because we are having a presidential election.  Quite the contrary.  Benghazi and the President's role in it is something that needs to be fully understood by the electorate.  The events in Benghazi are terrible and what happened to our people is atrocious, but it is child's play in comparison to the threat that we face from radical Islamic Terrorists.  We are hiding our heads in the sand and we just plain have to wake up.  The fanatics are very close to getting their hands on a nuclear weapon and it is not just Israel that is in their sights.  You do not have to take my word for it.  You don't even have to ask the Jihadists.  Just open your eyes and ears.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Aya Yahaya al-Libi & Chris Stevens

Finally, some of us are beginning to question our policies in the Middle East in general and in Libya in particular.  That is a good thing, but let's not let this discussion move us away from what happened in Benghazi on 9/11/12 when four Americans were ruthlessly murdered by radical Islamic terrorists.  Secretary Clinton, while off in Peru on one of her many globe trotting trips, has apparently taken responsibility for this tragedy and some political pundits are saying that is enough because these four people were, "after all," Department of State personnel.  Contrary to what the Secretary of State is saying, the "buck does not stop at her desk" on this one.  One of the murdered Americans, Sean Smith, was probably an employee of the Department of State, but the two former seals were not and Ambassador Christopher Stevens was in a class all by himself as the "Personal Representative of the President of the United States of America." An American Ambassador is not "just" another State Department employee.  His mandate is signed by the President and it specifically sets him apart and above all other bureaucrats who might serve in the same country.

Even though many in this country do not see the Ambassador's symbolic significance, the terrorists that murdered our Ambassador and his four colleagues in Benghazi, Libya, do understand it.  Subsequent to the attack on our consulate, the terrorists actually explained it in their announcements to the Arab Street.  President Obama "eliminated" Aya Yahaya al-Libi with a drone strike, so they answered that with the "elimination" of Obama's personal representative in Libya.  The man that Obama killed was a prominent Terrorist leader from Libya, as his name (al-Libi) indicates.  The Abdul Rahman Brigade, that carried out the attack, was responding to Al Queda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri's call for revenge.  A call that was made publicly and was available to the entire world prior to 9/11/12.  Although President Obama might have skipped the intelligence briefing that mentioned that call, Ambassador Stevens certainly did not and it was probably one of the reasons that his diary mentioned that he knew that he was targeted for assassination.

As you think about who is at fault for Benghazi please review why Ambassador Stevens did not receive the security that he repeatedly requested.  It was because the Security personnel in the Department of State implemented the President's policy that required them to "normalize operations and reduce U.S. security presence."  This in the face of very clear intelligence that indicated that the security situation throughout the Middle East was deteriorating and, in Benghazi, was such that security should have been increased or our personnel should have been pulled out prior to 9/11/12.  Remember that it was the exact same terrorists that had on several occasions prior to 9/11/12 attacked the Benghazi consulate.  Those attacks were probably probes designed to gain a better picture of the consulate's security situation.

David Axelrod, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, and Barack Obama are doing everything that they can to stretch the "Benghazi investigation" out for a few more weeks so that they can get the presidential election out of the way before they hang two or three bureaucrats out to dry for neglecting to do their duty.  For these well-dressed, carefully-groomed, well-fed, fat cat politicos it is all about the political game.  That is despicable enough all by itself, but it is not all there is to it - by a long shot.  The President's foreign policy is very seriously endangering this country and that infuriates me, but it is still not all there is to it.  At root, these people who jet around the nation and the world, talking with other "important people" about "world affairs" give not a rat's ass about the four people who they permitted to die a rotten death in a far off sinkhole.  That is the definition of despicable.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The FBI & Benghazi

President Obama ordered the FBI to investigate the Benghazi attack.  The order was issued late and the agents were repeatedly delayed in getting to Benghazi.  The reasons for their delay are ridiculous, but the delay was purposeful.  It helped to stretch this thing out and that fits into Axelrod's campaign strategy.  He and the President want to do everything that they can to muddle through this debacle until after the election.  I have a very high regard for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but it has no business being in the lead in the Benghazi tragedy.  This is not a police matter, it is a subject that requires the immediate application of military power.  We are at war and we had better wake up to that fact before a lot more Americans get killed.

Apparently, the Consulate's video of the attack, along with some other intelligence that we obtained, permitted us to identify the attackers immediately after the attack.  They should have been targeted for military action as soon as they were identified and would have been if we were on our toes.  They were not, even though we know where they are.  As a result, they have undoubtably secured the information that they obtained during their attack.  That information probably included the names of folks who have been cooperating with us in Benghazi.  Everyone of those names along with the names of all of their family members are now on an Al Quiada hit list.  Their murders will not be front page news, but they will be awful none the less and they will be because the President of the United States of America wants to get reelected.  That is a very bad thing and every single American should think about it.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Obama, Biden, Clinton & Benghazi

Secretary Clinton has recently said that we can not "guarantee perfect security" for our diplomats overseas.  She is, of course, correct, but what we gave Ambassador Smith in Libya was grossly inadequate and it begs the question as to whether we should have had any American presence at all in Benghazi on 9/11/12.  I don't know what the Ambassador was doing in Benghazi, but I have to assume that both he and the Secretary of State believed that it was important enough to put his life at risk.  In retrospect, they were both wrong.  If that was all there was to it, it would be a most unfortunate event and we would go on to deal with the repercussions as best we could, but it is not all there is to it.

Secretary Clinton is correct that security for diplomatic personnel is a difficult proposition at best and providing security for our personnel in Libya would be challenging under any circumstances, but much, much more could have been done very easily and clearly should have been done.  We are rightly focused on the President's policy that blocked the security teams that the Ambassador repeatedly requested, but we should go much further with our critique.  I understand from recent information released by the State Department that the consulate's facilities and safe room were inadequately hardened and obviously poorly equipped.  Ambassador Smith and his colleague were either forced out of the safe room because they had no way to breath or the room was penetrated by the attackers.  Why was there no ready reaction force instantly available on the anniversary of 9/11?  Benghazi is a coastal city.  A Marine Expeditionary Force (MEU) embarked just off shore could have been there in minutes of the start of the attack and we would not have four dead Americans.  Instead, we would have had a bunch of dead terrorists and that would be a very good thing.

So now the bureaucratic dance has commenced.  What price is Mrs. Clinton going to be asked to pay for all of this?  Which bureaucrat will share the honor of being fired for implementing the President's Middle Eastern Policy?  While President Obama stalls to get through the election and the politicians debate the fine points of these bureaucratic niceties, please do not forget the rotten way in which these four Americans died.  It was horrific and it was needless.  We go about our day-to-day lives with nary a thought about the very nasty details because we do not want to think about it.  The men that killed Ambassador Stevens knew that he was openly gay and they remembered what had happened to Gaddafi prior to his horrible torture death.  These deaths are not something that we should just put behind us as we go about our very pleasant daily lives.  These men were serving us and they were not adequately protected by our President.  That is not just a blemish on our government it is a dishonor to our country.

If the American people fall for the line that the Vice President put out in the debate about not knowing and we reelect this bunch to another four years we are in for even more horrific trouble in the months (not years) ahead.  If these people could not figure out that this was a terrorist attack why should we believe that they understand where Iran is in the process of building a nuclear weapon?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Vice President Biden and Benghazi

Like fifty-seven million other people, I watched the recent debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Paul Ryan.  I would like to eventually discuss several aspects of that remarkable event, but this morning, I will limit my comments to just one subject - Libya.

During the debate, Vice President Biden said very forcefully that nobody told him that Ambassador Smith had, on several occasions, requested increased security, nor had he or the President been told that the attack on our consulate in Benghazi was a terrorist attack.  If we take the vice president at his word, we are forced to conclude that he and the president are no longer interested in what is going on in Libya, now that they have, in their opinion, defeated Al Quaida, and allegedly established Libya as a viable independent country.  I find that to be a plausible explanation given everything else that they have done recently, but I do not believe it.  In order for this to be true, they would have had to have told the intelligence community not to bother them with what was going on in Libya.

I find it impossible to conceive that the morning security briefings that both men receive every day did not include mention of the growing strength of Al Quaida in the region and the deteriorating security situation in Libya.  Let's assume, however, that Mr. Biden is telling the truth about not being informed prior to the events of 9/11/12.  As you digest reports about this situation please understand that the consulate was equipped with a fairly sophisticated television system and that the video of the attack from the consulate cameras was probably not only available to the embassy in Tripoli instantly, but may also have been streamed back to the United States in real time.  Certainly everyone had real time voice reports of what was going on in Benghazi.  Also, please understand that the basement of the White House is a fully equipped "situation room" with the best communications that money can buy.  Those communications systems permit security personnel that are on duty 24 hours a day to instantly contact the president and the vice president anywhere in the world at anytime of the day or night.

The officers that staff these positions in the White House are the cream of the crop in their respective services.  They are intelligent, experienced, dedicated and disciplined and they represent a full cross section of our military, civilian and intelligence services.  They have very specific and very detailed instructions as to what information they pass on to whom and when they pass it on.  If they did not immediately inform the president and the vice president of the attack, it was because the events in Benghazi did not fit into the guidelines that were put into place by the president and the vice president.  Let's assume, that they did not wake anybody up "just" because a consulate was being overrun by armed terrorists, do you honestly think that the following morning, the intelligence briefing did not include the fact that there had been no demonstration and that there had been a well coordinated attack by men armed with sophisticated weaponry to include mortars and RPGs?  I will bet money that both the president and the vice president watched the video of the attack - either at the time it was going on or shortly after it was over with four Americans needlessly dead.

These two men can say whatever they want, but I no longer trust them to tell the American people the truth about much of anything.  They are ultimately responsible for the very nasty death of four good American citizens who were loyally serving their country in an extremely dangerous place at the request of the President of the United States.  The first thing that a commander-in-chief must do is protect his people.  Barack Obama and Joe Biden did not do that and they should be held accountable.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Benghazi continued

As several senior State Department officials have pointed out recently, diplomats are, by the very nature of their job, vulnerable to attack, no matter how much security they are provided.  In the terror trade, they are called soft targets.  In the ongoing Congressional hearings on the Benghazi terror attack, that point was made to excuse the failure to provide Ambassador Stevens with the security upgrades that he had repeatedly requested.  There was a lot of talk about the way in which senior security experts analyze and assess all requests for security at all of our diplomatic posts around the world.  The picture presented is one of "competence and careful consideration" of "all of the factors" going into the "total security situation" by "a team of highly experienced security experts" that have "all of the resources of the entire Untied States Government" to call upon.  That picture is bovine excrement.

This fairytale holds that the people drinking coffee in their comfortable, high tech office in Washington D.C., are smarter than the little guy out on the perimeter of civilization who is actually talking to the folks that live in his very dangerous neighborhood.  Granted, some officers put in that situation are intelligent enough to get scared and some of them very well might cry wolf before it is really necessary.  Ambassador Stevens does not appear to me to have been that kind of person.  He had been in Libya quite a while and had been through the turmoil involved in overthrowing Gaddafi.  A news reporter might say that he was "seasoned."  I suspect that he was scared and he had a lot of guts.  He was obviously effective enough in doing his job that he made it onto an Al Quaida hit list, and he was obviously brave enough not to request early reassignment.  I would not say that he was needlessly crying wolf when he repeatedly asked for more security, particularly given the fact that the host government was telling him that he was going to be attacked and needed to improve his security.

There is a proper role for Washington in deciding on diplomatic post security issues.  A role that the little guy in the field can not decide on his own.  He has input, of course, but the ultimate decision is solely in Washington D.C.  That role is to decide when the security situation at a given post has deteriorated to the point that it is necessary to pull our people out of harm's way.  It is a tough decision because it has layers and layers of "important consequences."  Pull out too early and you might "send the wrong signal."  National governments never want to "send the wrong signal" because it has domestic repercussions as well as international consequences.  In the case of Libya it would highlight the failure of Barack Obama's foreign policy to the American people a few months before the presidential election.  On the international scene it would add fodder to the growing awareness in the world that an America "led" by this president is a paper tiger, ripe for attack.

Even though we still do not have all of the details, we, the American people, must understand what happened in Benghazi to four of our own and why it happened.  Leaving them in that hell hole after virtually every other foreign country had pulled out, set them up.  Not providing them with the security that they requested, killed them.  The reason that they were permitted to be killed was to protect a President's misguided wishful thinking.  That is just plain wrong - no matter how you parse it.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Benghazi continued

According to the State Department's current account of the Benghazi attack, Ambassador Stevens arrived at the consulate on September 10 and spent the night there.  On September 11, he remained inside the consulate compound along with nine security personnel, four of whom were local militia that were provided by the Libyan Government.  There were no demonstrations during the entire day.  That evening at about 9:40 pm, however, the front gate of the consulate compound was breached by a  large group of armed men.  The consulate security team was clearly overmatched, but immediately notified the Embassy in Tripoli and turned to defending the consulate as best they could.  Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith, a computer specialist, were secured in a safe room inside one of the consulate buildings.  The attacking party was unable to gain access to the safe room, so they poured diesel fuel on the floor and set the building on fire.  The State Department account implies that both Smith and Ambassador Stevens died in the fire, but there are rumors that this may not be true.

Meanwhile, half a world away in the capital of the United States of America, the good life was going on as usual.  The morning after the attack, the White House began explaining to the country that the event in Benghazi was not a pre-planned terrorist attack, but rather a disorderly demonstration over a video that defamed Islam.  Ambassador Susan Rice appeared on several television shows and repeated the official line, even though the White House unquestionably knew at the time that it was a terrorist attack unrelated to the video.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was still talking about the video three days later when the four bodies were returned to the United States.  I am not privy to their thinking, but my guess is that the men and women who had developed the policy that denied the security improvements that Ambassador Stevens repeatedly requested were reluctant to admit that they were morally complicit in the four deaths.  These bureaucrats were probably also worried lest the events in Libya would call into question the President's claim that he was well on the way to defeating Al Quaida and had gained a great deal of good will in the Arab Street by presenting a more friendly face to radical Islam.  Doubts like that in the public mind might adversely impact his re-election.

Eventually, the White House was forced to give up their efforts to hush up the tragedy in Benghazi and admitted that it was an attack that targeted Ambassador Stevens.  They clearly did not, however, want to label it a "terrorist" attack.  They did everything that they could in their subsequent statements to avoid saying anything that might unduly irritate any radical Islamic leaders and refused to countenance any thought that they were on the wrong path in dealing with radical Islam. At the end of September, President Obama spoke at the United Nations.  In that speech, he said:  "If we are serious about upholding these ideals, it will not be enough to put more guards in front of an embassy or to put out statements of regret and wait for the outrage to pass.  If we are serious about these ideals, we must speak honestly about the deeper causes of the crisis, because we face a choice between the forces that would drive us apart and the hopes that we hold in common."   

Barack Obama obviously remains convinced that he can talk to the terrorists that have repeatedly sworn to destroy us and the President apparently sees little value in providing adequate security to our diplomats.  Sitting in his very comfortable, high tech, Oval Office, surrounded by the Secret Service, he believes that he knows the local security situation in Libya better than the local government or our people on the ground even though he only rarely attended his security briefings before Benghazi.  As events moved toward their tragic end in Libya, Barack Obama was off partying in fancy places with adoring lickspittles and wealthy political supporters. Ambassador Stevens and three other very loyal Americans were to die very difficult deaths in the disgusting stink of a far off place because our know-it-all government would not give them the security that they repeatedly requested.  No matter which specific bureaucrat denied the security upgrade, Barack Obama is our commander-in-chief.  He has put Americans in harm's way and he has not lived up to the basic responsibility of a commander to protect his people.  I remain respectful of the office, but the individual currently occupying it is seriously delinquent in his duties.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Dead Man's Diary

CNN is still being criticized by the Administration for reading Ambassador Chris Stevens diary.  I leave it to the ethicists and lawyers to decide the rights and wrongs of reading a dead man's diary without permission.  They could very well decide that CNN should not have done it, but they did and they told the world what was in it.  While the rights and wrongs of CNN's alleged transgression are being decided, I suggest that we think long and hard about what the Ambassador's was writing in his diary during the days leading up to the anniversary of 9/11.

I didn't know the Ambassador, but presume that he was a gutsy guy to take on the Libyan assignment as the personal representative of the President of the United States, the man who still brags about killing Osama bin Laden.  It obviously did not fit the stereotypical image of what diplomacy is all about.  Probably not many fancy balls or gourmet dinners on the docket.  Instead, a very dirty war with lots of individuals of questionable character on your daily schedule of meetings.  This assignment was not a walk in the park nor was it an episode on Survivor.  It was a full emersion in the hell of war.  If you have been there you will understand what that means.  If you have not, please know that it is much worse than anything you can imagine on every level that you can conceive.  War is crude, vile, dirty and shit-your-pants frightening.

Ambassador Stevens wrote in his diary that he had three concerns:  the never ending security threats, the rise in Islamic extremism, and his being included on an Al Quaida hit list.  In his reporting to Washington, Ambassador Stevens explained that there had been 230 different security incidents during the previous ten months and requested additional security personnel and hardening of his facilities.  The Libyan government informed the Ambassador that they expected an attack on his facilities and that they would be unable to turn it aside.  They recommended that he strengthen his security position prior to 9/11.  Ambassador Stevens passed this along to Washington and repeated his plea for more security.

In Washington, men and women read the Ambassador's reports in air-conditioned offices.  They probably discussed them over coffee and thought long and hard about the implications of what he was saying in the context of the "big picture."  The United States government had a policy in place and "the team" in Libya had to understand the role that they had to play.  The policy required that the Ambassador "normalize operations and reduce security resources."  In that kind of a situation there is usually a lot of telephone calls back and forth between the post and various offices in Washington, including the White House.  I was not there, but my guess is that the folks sitting in their air-conditioned offices told the guy we had hung out in middle of the "situation" that they "understood" his "concerns" and wished that they could do more, but that "in the last analysis," the situation might not be as bad as it looked in the field.

In times like these, telephones ring all over Washington.  Some folks probably sided with the Ambassador and argued that we should improve his security.  Others probably argued against "over reacting."  Many folks worked long hours during the crisis and most of them went home at night, kissed their loved ones, had a beer, ate dinner, and got a good night's sleep.  After sending the kids off to school the next morning, they drove through orderly traffic, parked their car in the parking lot, showed their security badge, rode the elevator up to their office, and got busy reading memos and answering telephone calls.  Ambassador Stevens got in his car and drove to Benghazi.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Benghazi and the Election

Up until now, my postings about international relations have attempted to mute the anger that I feel about what this Administration is doing abroad.  This month, I am beginning to read reports that the federal government not only turned down Ambassador Steven's request to maintain his security detachment in Libya, but actually forced him to reduce it just prior to the anniversary of 9/11.  I am also reading reports that say that the Libyan government advised the Administration to increase our security in the face of intelligence that indicated that we would be attacked on 9/11.  If all of this were to turn out to be true, this Administration would have American blood on its hands.  I urge someone in authority to step forward and tell us what really happened in Libya.  Right now, it is beginning to look like we needlessly sacrificed four of our own for a failed political policy.

Big Bird and Politics

I like Big Bird, but I am ashamed of his recent involvement in politics.  He has always stood tall for kids, but recently he has been championing political policies that are dangerous to children.  That is very shortsighted of him, but I presume that he has been led astray by the people around him.  

The issue is, of course, whether we still need a government subsidy for public broadcasting.  I listen to PBS and have donated money to keep it on the air even though it has a very pronounced tilt to the left and I definitely lean to the right.  PBS airs some excellent programs and they raise important issues that I do not hear raised elsewhere.  They are valuable enough that I would encourage others to support them, but I do not support providing them with government subsidies.

We must get serious about reducing government spending and every penny counts.  The fact that the PBS budget is small is irrelevant.  Mitt Romney is right.  It is not worth borrowing money from China to help keep it on the air.  That just creates more debt that our children will have to pay back before they can use their money for even more important things down the road.

I'm sure that Big Bird had not thought of how he was hurting the very children that he wants so badly to help.  I am also sure that his future is secure even if PBS ceases to feed at the public trough.  Both he and PBS are popular enough that they will do just fine after their liberation from the government dole.  

We must remember that just because something is worth doing does not automatically mean that the government must be the one to do it.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Jobs and the Economy

There is currently a lot of discussion of the recent jobs report.  It is indeed good news that 114,000 folks found jobs last month even though too much of it was just low-paying part-time work.  I may not buy the conspiracy theories that claim that the Bureau of Labor Statistics cooked the numbers to help President Obama's reelection campaign, but let's not get euphoric here.  The rate at which jobs are being added to the economy is still very far below what is needed and the rate at which the economy is improving, if it is improving at all, is very far from adequate.  7.8% is a terrible number and why the President is bragging about it is a commentary on just how desperate he is.

As we all know, the jobs report is not a true picture of the economy.  It only measures the success of those folks who are still looking for work.  It does not account for the millions of people who have given up looking for work.  If it did, the unemployment rate would be much higher - some say close to eleven percent.  All of the economic indicators, including the 7.8% unemployment rate, continue to depict a stagnating economy.  Our average take home pay is down and prices are up.  The number of Americans in poverty is higher, the number of folks on Food Stamps is up, and the number of folks being forced to game the system is growing by leaps and bounds.

Meanwhile, the federal government continues to spend money as if we had it.  The Federal Reserve prints money with abandon and still we have to borrow 40 cents of every dollar that we spend. Fraud, waste and duplication in government is rampant.  We no longer have a federal budget, nor are we governed by laws when those laws are inconvenient for the President.  Our lives are increasingly governed by unelected czars and their regulations, not by the laws of the land as determined by congress.  The change that this president has implemented is not a positive thing.  In fact, it is very dangerous.

PS:  Gasoline in the town where I live is $5.05 per gallon this morning.