Is It Really All About A Movie?

The party line from the Obama Administration is that the chaos in the Middle East is all about a cheap, crappy YouTube video.  On Friday White House spokesperson Jay Carney said, “this is not a case of protests directed at the United States writ large or at U.S. policy, this is in response to a video that is offensive to Muslims.”

Is the rioting and embassy-storming really just the product of Muslim rage at an incendiary video?  Mounting evidence suggests that the Administration story line is just wishful thinking.  The carefully coordinated, well-armed attack on the poorly defended U.S. consulate in Benghazi doesn’t seem like the spontaneous response of Libyans to a video, but rather a pre-planned terrorist act.  A writer for the Jerusalem Post argues — persuasively, in my view — that much larger forces than offensive videos are at play and that American foreign policy seems to be based on imaginative fictions rather than reality.

The Obama Administration needs to take a careful look at what really happened in Benghazi and Cairo and what is really motivating the people who brought heavy weapons to the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and seemed to good intelligence about where the American Ambassador was staying and where he would be moved.  Now is not a time for phony spin or false bravado.  Foreign policy isn’t a game; the lives of American diplomats, their families, and their staff demand a clear-eyed, careful appraisal of reality.  Perhaps it’s time to stop hunting for video makers and start looking for an effective way to deal with a so-called “Arab spring” that appears to have morphed into anti-American totalitarianism.

Not Very Good Right Now

The Ohio State Buckeyes won today because Cal has a pathetic excuse for a field goal kicker.  Period.  Let’s not kid ourselves.  It’s nice to put a W in the record books, but Ohio State almost lost — perhaps they should have lost — to a team that just isn’t very good.

Don’t be swayed by the big plays; for much of the game the Buckeyes  looked clueless on offense.  Cal outgained the Buckeyes and easily won the time of possession battle.  The offensive line isn’t very good right now, and the team seems to be incapable of moving the ball consistently on the ground through a traditional running game.  The defense gave up a huge number of big plays and let a previously unknown, unused tailback make them look slow and stupid.  The D experienced repeated failures at the most fundamental level — tackling. And the team as a whole played an undisciplined game, full of stupid penalties and cheap, embarrassingly chippy behavior.  In short, the game was not a pretty sight for a Buckeyes fan.

Next week Ohio State plays UAB, and then it’s into the Big Ten schedule, starting with an away game at Michigan State.  The Big Ten looks like it isn’t very good this year, but I’m guessing that teams like Michigan State, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Michigan are better than a Cal team that lost at home to Nevada earlier this year.  If the Buckeyes hope to be competitive, they’d better get focused and get better — pronto.


Time To Find Your Independents

Today is Independents’ Day on Gay Street in Columbus — when a slew of quirky, independent organizations, artists, and random people get together in the heart of downtown for some fun and frivolity.

Bright sunshine and perfect temperatures.  Clothing, jewelry, and crafts tents.  Beer.  Local bands and multiple performance stages.  Great food stands from local restaurants.  Locally written comics.  More beer.  A theater featuring movies and local comedians.  Ohio wine and the products of local distilleries.  Beer stands in the alley.  Food trucks.  Used record albums.  Beer.  Kids’ games, face-painting, and chalk art.  Lots of music in the air.  Hey, did I mention beer?

My favorite new venture is the “Dance if you Dare” area in the alley behind Gay Street.  Loud techno music was pulsing and a big cleared parking lot for dancing.  When I walked by, however, there weren’t any dancers — and I didn’t dare.

The Independents’ Day celebration goes on all day.  Stop by if you get a chance — it’s a fun event.

Many Questions To Be Answered, Publicly And Quickly

The more we learn about the deadly attacks on our diplomatic installations in Cairo, Egypt and Benghazi, Libya, the more questions arise.  Those questions need to be answered — and quickly.

Was the attack in Benghazi really just a spur-of-the-moment response to an obscure, homemade movie posted on the internet, or was it a planned, coordinated attack by a trained group of well-armed men?  Why was the security at the Benghazi consulate so inadequate — on 9/11, of all days?  Were U.S. security forces really equipped with guns with no bullets?  Did the U.S. receive any intelligence that warned us that an attack might be forthcoming?  Why didn’t the State Department respond to the attacks on the U.S. embassy in Cairo by immediately increasing protection at our other diplomatic outposts in the Middle East?  Was there an intelligence leak that allowed the attackers in Benghazi to determine where the ambassador was?  How did the U.S. somehow lose track of where Ambassador Chris Stevens was during the attacks?  How much sensitive information was lost when the Benghazi consulate was overrun?

The Justice Department and FBI are investigating and the State Department now is declining to answer questions about what happened in Benghazi because it considers the situation “a crime scene.”  The State Department won’t talk, it says, until the Justice Department investigation is concluded.  In my view, that’s not acceptable.  The Benghazi incident wasn’t a domestic criminal act, it was a foreign affairs fiasco that resulted in the first murder of a U.S. ambassador in more than 30 years.  The decisions that produced the death of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans need to be examined publicly, not hidden behind the guise of a “criminal investigation.”  The Senate Homeland Security Committee apparently has called for hearings, and the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Senate Foreign Relations Committee should do likewise.  Those hearings should move forward quickly, so that we can determine how to prevent these kinds of incidents from happening again.

What happened in Benghazi and Cairo, and more recently at other U.S. diplomatic missions elsewhere in the world, is not a political issue — it is a crucial, threshold matter of national sovereignty and national security that shouldn’t be swept under the rug or deferred because we are in the midst of a presidential campaign.  We need to promptly determine where we fell short and decide what the United States must do to be able to adequately protect its embassies and diplomats on foreign soil.