15 Years, And An Eternity

Today is the 15th anniversary of 9/11.  On this quiet Sunday, many Americans will recall the horror of that awful day, the nightmarish quality of the footage of crashing planes and burning, collapsing buildings, and the heroism of those who responded to the worst attack against the United States since Pearl Harbor.

dsc03553Fifteen years is not a long time, but it’s long enough to begin to assess the historical significance of 9/11 — and it is becoming clear that our world was dramatically changed, and probably permanently, on that fateful day.  In the years since, terrorist attacks on America and the rest of western world have, unfortunately, become commonplace.  An enormous security apparatus has been created to try to protect us from future assaults, and in our zeal to achieve such protection we’ve authorized incursions into our personal liberties that would not have seemed plausible during the carefree ’90s.  We’re routinely scanned, videotaped, patted down, and probed these days.  And the threat of terrorism and security issues also have created new perspectives on formerly run of the mill political issues — like immigration.

When 9/11 happened, it was a terrible shock, but we did not know what the future would bring.  There was resolution, of course, but also a sense of hope — hope that Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda could be defeated, and hope that the world could return to what it was.  Now we have 15 years of history under our belts, and it seems that such hopes will not be realized.  Even as the fight against terrorism has killed bin Laden and decimated al Qaeda, new groups like ISIS, fueled by a hateful perversion of the Islamic faith, have sprung up and become committed to destroying western culture and imposing violent, intolerant, medieval policies in its place.  With each new shooting, bombing, and attack in San Bernardino, or Paris, or Brussels, all committed by people radicalized by their indoctrination into dark ideologies, it becomes increasingly apparent that this is not a fight that can be conclusively declared to be won, but instead a long, constant struggle against loathsome groups, cells, and individuals that just want to inflict harm and are perfectly comfortable with killing innocents to achieve their twisted goals.  America and its western allies simply need to continue that desperate fight against the forces of evil.

Fifteen years later, we are dealing with a sobering reality.  Fifteen years is not a long time, but the world of 9/10 seems like an eternity ago.

The Afghan Ingrate

Boy, that Hamid Karzai is a real peach, isn’t he?  The United States frees his country from the grip of the repressive Taliban, restores democracy to Afghanistan, and supports Karzai during long years where he doesn’t seem to be interested in much of anything except trying to line his own pockets and dodge responsibility for everything that happened in the country he was supposed to be governing, and he can’t leave office without taking a few parting shots at the U.S. of A.

After 13 years as president, the jug-eared Karzai and his trademark cap are finally leaving office with the same class, intense gratitude, and willingness to accept full responsibility that have characterized his years in power.  In his farewell speech, he blamed the United States for the ongoing war with the Taliban and said “that the Americans did not want peace because they had their own agenda and objectives.” 

We didn’t spend the blood of our soldiers and billions of dollars to prop up a tinpot like Hamid Karzai, we took out the Taliban to try to rid the world of safe haven for Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda, and other terrorist groups.  We tried to rebuild Afghanistan after the depredations of the Taliban and create a democracy in hopes of preventing terrorism from taking root again.  That’s why we ended up with Hamid, the corrupt hack — and now it’s galling to have to listen to the criticism of “leaders” like Karzai, who never would have been in a position of any influence but for the United States.

Hamid Karzai is a good example of the old adage that if you lie down with a dog, you get up with fleas.

Sy Hersh Speaks Out

Seymour Hersh won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the My Lai massacre in the Vietnam War.  Ever since, he’s been the scourge of presidents and press officers, not afraid to speak his mind about America, journalists, and politicians.  He’s an equal opportunity gadfly who launches withering criticism at Republican and Democrat alike.

Recently Hersh put reporters and the Obama Administration in his gun sights.  According to a report in the Guardian newspaper, Hersh ripped American journalists, chiding them for their timidity, their refusal to challenge the story lines put out by the Obama Administration, and their willingness to temper their reporting to support the President.  He said that the Obama Administration story about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden is “one big lie, not one word of it is true,” and argued that journalists aren’t investigating the shifting depictions of the event as they should.  He called reporters “pathetic” and “more than obsequious” for their unwillingness to challenge the President, and he claims the Obama Administration “lies systematically.”  He singled out the New York Times and said the newspaper spends “so much more time carrying water for Obama than I ever thought they would.”

Hersh — like me — is a big believer in real journalism and reporters who ferret out the truth and let the chips fall where they may.  He thinks, however, that the existing managers of newspapers and network news bureaus will never return to the days of “shoe leather” reporting, where reporters find sources and stories rather than waiting in briefing rooms for press officers to give them handouts.  Hersh recommends firing 90 percent of newspaper editors and promoting new editors who can’t be controlled, closing network news bureaus, and starting over.

It’s interesting to hear a journalistic icon like Seymour Hersh speak out about the state of American reporting.  Newspapers are worried about why their circulation is falling, falling, falling.  Maybe if they stopped “carrying water” for politicians and started really reporting on what is actually happening, readers would return.

Getting Geronimo

The New Yorker has an exceptionally good piece on the mission to get Osama Bin Laden — codenamed “Geronimo” by the planners of the raid.

The piece is long, but well worth the read — chock full of interesting details on the intelligence and training that led up to the mission, a blow-by-blow account of the mission itself, and discussion of post-mission activities like the burial of Bin Laden’s body at sea.  I love this kind of reporting, where the journalist revisits an important event, interviews and reviews multiple sources and then painstakingly and comprehensively pieces together what happened.  The prose is clear and crisp, and the riveting story almost tells itself.

If you read the article, you can’t help but be impressed by the human and canine members of Seal Team 6 and the professionalism and careful decision-making of the various participants in the process, from President Obama on down.  I’m glad these people are on our side.

Osama’s Porn Stash

Could Osama bin Laden have been a secret porn freak — in addition to being one of the world’s most notorious terrorists?

Reuters is reporting that the U.S. Navy Seal raid on bin Laden’s compound not only produced a dead Osama, it also uncovered a cache of pornography.  The article quotes officials as saying that the stash consisted of “modern, electronically recorded video” and “is fairly extensive.”  The officials said they do not know whether bin Laden himself acquired or watched the porn, which may have been delivered by couriers.  There also was no information about what kind of pornography was involved — which could be instructive.  Was it Playboy-type T&A stuff or at the more violent, hard-core end of the pornography spectrum?

Interestingly, the American officials are quoted as saying that, in our investigations of other Islamic militants, it is not uncommon to find pornography.  What does that tell you about our terrorist foes?

Osama’s “Rights”

The BBC is reporting that some of the sons of Osama bin Laden have given a statement to the New York Times protesting that their father was not captured alive and put on trial.  They say that a trial was needed so that “truth is revealed to the people of the world.”

Sorry, boys, but you’re not going to find any sympathy for that position from this quarter.  Osama bin Laden himself was a mass killer who showed no regard for international law or the rights of the innocent victims of 9/11 who were killed in cold blood for no reason — or the rights of any of the other victims of the many terrorist acts that al Qaeda planned, bankrolled, or executed over the years at bin Laden’s direction.  Nor do I think old mumble-mouth was much known for “truth.”  For his many confessed crimes, Osama bin Laden deserved to die.  I’m not among those who are squeamish about the circumstances of his death or the way in which his remains were disposed of.

There’s not only a silly double standard at play here.  I suspect that many of those who argue that the United States should have engaged in heroic measures to take bin Laden alive and should have put him on trial are simply sorry that bin Laden, ever the egoist who enjoyed watching himself pontificate, did not get a final chance to occupy the world’s stage in a protracted trial that would become a circus and a forum for his violent, anti-western philosophies.  I’m glad that he didn’t get that opportunity, and that he left this world without so much as a whimper.  It was a fitting end for a bad, bad man.

Taking a Different Direction

I too agree with President Obama and Bob for that matter regarding the president’s decision not to release the photos of Osama bin Laden. The president made a number of very good speeches early in his presidency that have led me to continue to be supportive of him and his efforts.

This speech was given by the president at the National Archives back on May 21, 2009 a few months after his oath of office. I am not as articulate in my writing skills as Bob is, so I thought it best to let the president speak for himself.

If you scroll to 32:18 in the president’s speech below he discusses his campaign pledge of government transparency and his decision making approach when that transparency conflicts with our national security.

“Nothing would be gained by the release of these photos that matters more than the lives of our men and women serving in harms way”. I could not agree more !