Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Magreb Madness: We Will Pay More for Obama's Libyan Lies

This little blog has criticized the Obama misadministration's policies in Libya for a long time--well before the 9/11/2012 massacre of our diplomatic personnel. At the risk of having an "I told you so" tone, let me review a few items.

Starting in March 2011--eighteen months before the Benghazi Bungle--I ran several posts (available in the archives) which expressed doubt over and opposition to our involvement in the EU's war on Libya. Make no mistake: This was the EU's war. The Europeans became fed up with Qaddafi when he longer gave their oil companies preferential treatment. The same Europeans who vehemently opposed Reagan's action against Qaddafi when he posed a threat, now ardently demanded American action against Qaddafi when he no longer did--and when, in fact, he leaned toward the USA. At the time, I expressed my views to State colleagues working on Libya and North Africa. They dismissed me for my lack of "expertise."

Much more important, however, Obama and Clinton violated the Number One Diplomad Rule of Foreign Policy: Never pay attention to Europeans. Except at times the British, the rest of Europe hasn't a clue about how the world works.

I noted in one early post that,
Unlike Saddam, the Taliban, or Al Qaeda, crazy old Qaddafi posed no threat to the US homeland or to our interests abroad. One of the great achievements of the Bush administration was that it defanged Qaddafi-- dismantled his nuclear weapons program and turned him into a valuable source of information on Al Qaeda. That administration basically treated Qaddafi as though he were an aged sex offender, put him under house arrest and tagged him with an ankle monitor. Qaddafi, once the darling of the left, became just a cranky old man with an odd fashion sense selling his oil to whomever wanted it. <....> [W]e had an imperfect solution in an imperfect world. 
Then, Qaddafi got himself a rebellion. OK. People in Libya are unhappy. OK. He is a crazy gangster and responded like a gangster. OK. And our interests are what? Are they so pressing as to justify Obama's incredible abuse of Presidential power? <...> What is the mission? No Fly Zone, or blast Qaddafi into the arms of 72 virgins? What result will make any difference to American national interests? What are our interests in this?
Those questions never got answered, and we ended up as predicted,
The US, of course, will have to take over the whole operation when it becomes patently clear that neither the British nor the French have the capabilities needed. That, therefore, means the whole mess will be ours: the UN will back off; the Arab League will be nowhere to be seen; and the EU will be snickering behind our backs with not a word of thanks for having secured their oil supplies. And the Libyans? All of them, pro- and anti-Qaddafi, will be angry with us and our intervention.
We went to war where we had no major interests; against a regime that posed no danger to us; and with a policy that neither defined our objectives nor gave thought to what would happen if we "succeeded." All that Obama and Clinton could do was hark back to the 1980s, and cite Qaddafi's past misdeeds. Obama seemed channeling Ronald Reagan. It proved absurd and completely counterproductive to our interests of today. Our policy was driven by what I have called the liberal foreign policy mindset, to wit, "send America's youth off to war but only if there is no U.S. interest to be protected or furthered."

Our policy was also motivated by another trait of the liberal mind: See what you believe. The Obama cult believed that the magical powers of the Dear Leader from Chicago would transform the world into a peaceful Eden where Julia could tend her community garden free from the threat of unwanted pregnancies, medical expenses, or having to look for a real job. The Arabs and the entire Muslim world would abandon their 1400-year-old war against the rest of the world, and come join us around the camp fire. Ah, the Arab Spring . . . if just those pesky Jews living in Occupied Palestine would get over their paranoia everything would be great.

This delusional state of mind, combined with the pressing need to win an election, prevented our National Command Authority from reacting to the protracted and extremely violent assault on our Benghazi facility. This attack simply cannot be. I killed Osama! It has to be an aberration: Yes, that nasty culturally insensitive video produced in California! That was what threw everything off! After all, I killed Osama! A crowd upset by the video grew a bit unruly, and . . . tsk, tsk . . . these bumps in the road happen on the way to global Nirvana. It just can't be terrorism. Did I mention that I killed Osama?

I have yet to see evidence that the President, who had real time knowledge of events in Benghazi, gave the military anything approximating an "Execute Order." His statement on this makes no sense, nor does Panetta's. Until I see solid evidence to the contrary, I cannot and will not believe that the US military rejected or otherwise defied a Presidential "go." That is not the US military with which I dealt for thirty-four years. Wherever I was in the world, I knew that if it hit the fan, they would come get me, or make a damn fine effort to do so.

What Stevens was doing in Benghazi on 9/11 is inexplicable. Unless he had orders to go there on that day for some very special reason, he suffered a major lack of judgement which contributed to his death and that of three others at the hands of Islamist murderers. What was the purpose of the Benghazi facility? If it was a cover for other activities, why did the Ambassador draw attention to it? Was this part of a "gun walking" exercise from Libya to Syrian rebels via Turkey? If so, who knew about it? By that I mean how widespread was the knowledge within Libya and elsewhere that we were doing or intending to do that? It certainly seems to have been leaking into the press as part of the Obama misadministration's efforts to appear supportive of "freedom" in the Arab world. If we were "walking" guns to the Syrian rebels, might the attack not have been instigated by the Syrian regime or its Iranian allies? If this facility was engaged in highly sensitive work, why was it so poorly defended? The questions are endless; anybody reading this can come up with dozens more. The answers, however, well, those are not forthcoming.

The insanity of Obama's Libya policy gets further underlined when see that now our clueless Secretary of State has gone to Algeria to seek support for US-French action against the growing threat of Islamic terrorism in Africa, in particular in Mali. There used to be somebody who knew how to keep those crazies under control; his name was Qaddafi. Maybe Hillary should go talk to him . . . oh, yes, I forgot, "We came, we saw, he died!" It now seems likely that Americans will have to risk their lives in Mali, because Obama's delusions helped overthrow Qaddafi.

We will kill and die yet more for Obama's Arab Spring.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

With the Cubans in Switzerland (Part III)

Things were getting hot at the UNCHR, with emotions running high. The Cubans were openly threatening delegates; one friendly Central American Ambassador told us that the Cubans had said to him, "It would be very unfortunate if bad things began to happen in your country again." This referred to previous Cuban backing of terrorists in that nation. The Cubans also tried to feed us bad information hoping we would bite. They put out a story via friendly journalists that Cuban heavy weight boxer and national hero Teofilo Stevenson  had defected while on a visit to Europe. Valladares immediately smelled a rat. He noted that Stevenson was a fanatical Castro supporter; he suspected that the Cubans wanted us to make a big deal out of the defection, use it in a speech, and then--presto!--they would produce Stevenson to give an impassioned defense of Castro. Valladares proved right. A source spotted Stevenson at a European hotel in the company of Cuban officials. They wanted to keep him under wraps for the surprise. They got increasingly desperate as the days wore on and we said nothing about the "defection." One evening a Cuban delegate slid over to me at a Geneva supermarket, where I was in shock at the price of oranges, and said, "I suppose you will stoop so low as to use the Stevenson defection in your speeches." Valladares laughed when I told him what the Cuban had said.

The big day of the vote was rapidly coming upon us. We could not be sure about the procedural motion. One of my colleagues, a budding Karl Rove, was a wizard at keeping vote tallies, and who had been approached, and who had said what, and what the likelihood was of their vote. His conclusion was a gloomy, "We are one vote short on the procedural motion." We had to knock out one of the "yes" votes on the procedural motion or we had no chance of winning.

Then, an miracle. A very reliable friendly source provided us a report by a European government on the state of human rights in Cuba. The first line in the very detailed and dire report stated flat out, "The Reagan Administration is right about human rights in Cuba." This report had been meant only for the senior levels of that government, which, despite the conclusions of its own report, was voting for the procedural motion. Only a very small number of us knew about the report's existence. The issue became how to use it without compromising the source while knocking out that "yes" vote.

Valladares had the answer: the old Remington typewriter. We dragged my wife away from her shopping in France. I took the report and sliced it up, literally. With scissors and tape, I rearranged sentences and paragraphs; with a pen, I introduced typos and grammatical errors, and even added a sentence or two. My wife retyped the whole thing on that old typewriter. Valladares had the report sent to a friendly journalist in a country far from Switzerland. The journalist ran the story, noting the hypocrisy of the European country's position. Once that story came out, I went to another journalist from another country, and said "Have you seen this story from XX?" (Note: Remember this is before the internet.) He took it and ran it again. I then gave that new story to a local reporter who ran it in the local press citing the other two stories as the sources. That local story caught the eye, with our help, of a journalist from the country whose government had commissioned the report. He ran it in a major paper back home.

Pandemonium broke out within that European country's government. They launched a hunt to find the source of the leak but were having trouble finding it since the original story had come out in a paper very far removed from the action in Geneva. Suspicion, nevertheless, fell on the country's delegation. Those delegates were in a state of panic, especially since we and others kept asking them about the report, and how it was that they were not going to support us on the procedural motion.

The day of the vote came. We trooped in, and mirable visu, that European country's desk was empty. The delegation had been called back the night before to the capital because of the scandal over the report. The procedural motion would fail. The Soviet delegation was very good at numbers, too. They immediately realized that the motion would not pass, and that we would have a vote on our Cuban human rights text. They were simply not sure how that vote would go--neither were we, frankly. The Soviet delegate ran over to the Indian and asked her to delay introducing her procedural motion; he and a colleague then grabbed the Cubans and had a very animated and increasingly heated discussion with them. The Cubans were very unhappy. The Soviet came back and handed me a piece of paper. It was a short paragraph in English to be adopted by consensus--i.e., without debate or a vote--naming a rapporteur for Cuba. The Soviet said to me, "I have instructions from Moscow not to have a fight with the US over Cuba. Will you accept this and call off the vote on your text?" While the Soviet text did not have the condemnatory language, it gave us what counted: a process to produce a report on human rights in Cuba that would keep the issue on the agenda. I consulted with Valladares and the others. We all agreed that it would have been sweet to have the vote and win, but there was the risk that once some of the weaker Euros found out about the Soviet offer, if we turned it down, they might not back us on the vote. This way we were guaranteed a rapporteur. 

We took the deal.

Addendum: Before the rapporteur could go to Cuba, the Cuban authorities rounded up several political prisoners, force fed them to fatten them up, and shipped them to France and Spain. The rapporteur subsequently wrote a series of reports critical of Cuba. I had the honor of meeting one of those freed prisoners some years later.

With the Cubans in Switzerland (Part II)

With Valladares as the head of our team, we went for broke on Cuba. Unlike our previous failed effort, we spent months lobbying, pressing, cajoling, and making the case for a condemnation of Castro's human rights record. Thanks to Maureen, we got the President, the Vice President, his sons, and a number of senior Congressmen, Republican and Democrat, to weigh in. The Cuban exile community all over the world pressured local politicians and held demonstrations in front of key embassies. Through it all, I remained troubled that it should prove so difficult to have the UN's human rights body condemn one of the planet's most blatant human rights violators. Had we sought to condemn Pinochet, we would have needed zero lobbying.

We arrived next year in Geneva moderately optimistic that if our text came to a vote we would win or, at least, have a 50-50 chance of it. The key was "if it came to a vote." Many delegations at the UN will claim to support a text, but then support a procedural motion to defer action on that very text: Having your cake and eating it, too. When it came to our resolution on Cuba, we had managed to knock a few of the prior year's potential "no" votes into the "abstain" or "absent" column, but positions on the procedural motion remained fluid and vague. The Soviets and Cubans knew that, as well, and were fiercely determined not to let the text come to a vote.

The Valladares nomination had drawn tremendous press and public interest, and, if nothing else, turned Cuba's human rights record into a topic of discussion. The Cuban delegation had a visceral hatred for Valladares. Under tremendous pressure from Havana to ensure that he failed, the Cubans would do whatever possible to smear or rattle him, even bringing his former jailers and torturers to Geneva. We learned from a reliable source that the Cubans planned a "bash Valladares" session in one of the UNCHR meetings. We decided to foul that up. One of the rules in the UNCHR was no personal attacks. We knew that if they started one we could interrupt on a point of order; the Chairman would rule in our favor, and then give back the floor to the Cubans; they would insult Valladares again, another point of order, and so on. That would get tedious and could turn the mood against the delegation raising the points of order, and lead an exasperated Chairman to allow the offending delegation to finish its statement. We did not want that sort of a floor fight given how shaky our coalition might prove, and needed the Chairman, a very polite and elderly African diplomat, on our side. We, above all, wanted the Cubans to know that the game had changed; we would not play by the established rules while they played by their own.

One Saturday morning with a Cuban friend, now a prominent writer and commentator, I got into my father-in-law's Ford Fiesta, which I had driven from Spain. We went around Geneva visiting typewriter sales and repair shops looking for a badly functioning manual typewriter. Try finding something bad in Geneva. Shop owners showed us the latest IBM Selectrics, and were baffled that we wanted a manual that did not work well. Finally, in the back of a small shop, we found it: an old dusty Remington-Rand with a sticky "e" key. The owner thought us nuts, but sold it for a reasonable price.

That day and well into the night we had my wife on that Remington typing crazy screeds, all in capital letters, in French, Spanish, and broken English. These contained vicious attacks on Valladares, accusing him of the most vile acts you can imagine, and urging the reader to listen to the forthcoming Cuban address to the UNCHR for more details. Our little notes appeared as teases for that speech. We put them in envelopes addressed to heads of delegations (we skipped the Soviet bloc). The next day, we bought my wife a rail pass, and put her on a train that ran all over Switzerland. At each stop, she found a mailbox and dropped one envelope. She spent the day on that train. The very efficient Swiss postal service promptly delivered our little oeuvres.

The day of the Cuban speech, we went into the chamber noticing that several delegates had the sheets we had sent. Some had approached the Cuban delegates, who angrily denied having anything to do with the notes. As the meeting began, a European delegate took the floor and delivered a passionate condemnation of the note he had received, and proceeded to lecture the Cubans on their lack of civility and disregard for the rules. Another delegate followed. The Chairman said that he, too, had been bothered by the note, and asked the Cuban delegation if in fact the address they were going to make was a personal attack on the US delegate. The Cuban delegate, obviously confused, said that his address would clarify who, in fact, the head of the US delegation was and why he should not be at the UNCHR. The Chairman ruled the Cuban out of order and suspended his speech. The Cubans were furious. One of the Cubans kept staring at me and mouthing insults. Later in the cafeteria, a Cuban delegate, whom we had labelled "Maria La Loca" because of her fanatical devotion to Castro, came up to me and said, "We know it was you. You won't get away with this." I tried to adopt my most beatific "I don't know what you mean" smile while I sipped my coffee. My colleagues at the table could barely contain their laughter.

To be continued.

Note: I am also writing another post on Libya which I hope to have up tomorrow or the day after.


Monday, October 29, 2012

With the Cubans in Switzerland (Part I)

Taking a little Sandy break from examining the disasters of the Obama misadministration. I want to hark back to when we had a real President and a real Secretary of State, and tell a little story. Yes, the 1980s. I will have to elide some details, blur others, and skate around things that even after these many years probably remain classified. I will straighten it out in my book (sure). To those who read this, were also there, and spot my "errors," drop me a line; we can reminisce and engage in the "fog of bores."

I worked at the US Mission to the UN. Although recruited by Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick's people, thanks to the ponderous State assignment process, by the time I arrived, General Vernon Walters had replaced her. The kindly General liked my writing and conservative politics, and I became a frequent speech writer for him. I also got put on the US delegation to the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. Walters further recommended me to Maureen Reagan, the President's daughter and our Representative to the UN Commission on the Status of Women in Vienna, and I ended up working for her, too. I spent my time traveling among New York, Washington, Geneva, Vienna, and African locales as Maureen had a special affection for Africa--great stuff for an otherwise unemployable 30-something.

One day, a colleague and I were reviewing UN documents in my New York office; he suddenly looked up and asked, "Has the UN ever condemned Cuba on human rights?" We pored over the record; we found many condemnations of Chile, Argentina, Guatemala, El Salvador, Israel, Colombia, South Africa, "Western mercenaries," multinational corporations, and the US, but nothing on Cuba. We decided to urge the General to have us seek to get the UN to act on Cuba. He needed no urging.

We planned to draft a resolution pointing out the serious human rights situation in Cuba, get it passed at the UNCHR, have the UNCHR name a rapporteur (reporter) who would travel to Cuba and report back to the UNCHR and the UNGA. As they say, however, no plan survives first contact. We were babes in woods full of wolves. To start, Attorney General Ed Meese threw a wrench in our plans: He had a friend named as the new US representative to the UNCHR. This representative faced a number of business-related legal and ethical challenges that distracted him and hampered his effectiveness as a leader. In addition, he could not hide his disdain for the career Foreign Service; that became tiresome and destructive of morale. More serious, however, we underestimated the difficulty in gaining support for a condemnation of Cuba. Even our Western Group proved lukewarm, with some leftist European governments reluctant to "offend" Castro. At the UNCHR that year we got outmaneuvered by the Soviet bloc, India, and Mexico and two European countries. We learned a bitter lesson in Geneva. We saw our text blocked by an Indian procedural motion not to take up the subject of Cuba; two European "allies" voted for that motion justifying themselves with the lame excuse that, of course, they had concerns about Cuba, but did not think the "time right" for the subject.

We retired to New York to lick our wounds and make new plans. The Meese friend went away, and we needed a new head of delegation. During my time in Geneva, I had met a Cuban exile, and American citizen, by the name of Armando Valladares. He had spent 22 years in Castro's prisons and had written a stunning book about the experience, Against All Hope. He had a natural flair for politics and correctly called a variety of Cuban moves in Geneva. The Castro delegation hated him, and had him followed and harassed. One afternoon in New York, in a conversation with Maureen Reagan I mentioned Valladares, and said if he headed the US delegation the Castro thugs in Geneva would go crazy. I noted that the State bureaucracy had another candidate and it might prove tough to get Valladares. She laughed, "I know somebody." Right there she called her dad, put him on speaker, and in under five minutes it was done: Valladares.

In order to avoid an overly long post, I will continue this saga tomorrow.  It gets good.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Do Elections Have Consequences? Ask Brian Terry and Christopher Stevens

After a bit of a tussle with the Miami-Dade Election Department, my wife and I, temporarily in California for family reasons, got our absentee ballots yesterday. This morning we had them back in the mail: Romney, Mack, and Ros-Lehtinen each have two votes on the way. As I filled out my lengthy ballot--which had an impressive number of State constitution and city charter amendments--the old cliche about "elections have consequences" kept bouncing around in my brain.

Elections have consequences. We see in elections a version of the phenomenon labelled "the tyranny of small decisions" by the late economist Alfred Kahn. He described how "small decisions" by consumers, e.g., to buy a Ford, a Toyota, or a Nissan instead of a Chevrolet, cumulatively can produce huge, unforeseen, and even undesired consequences. Do buyers of Ford, Toyota, or Nissan want GM to go out of business? Do they want to put hundreds of thousands of workers and suppliers on the street? Not necessarily, but that can prove the end result of millions of "small decisions." Voting is similar but also a bit different. Unlike buying a consumer good, when we cast our vote, our "small decision," we seek to put the person who does not receive it "out of business." We vote for or against a person for a variety of reasons; we often end up voting for somebody we only like marginally better or dislike marginally less than the person for whom we did not vote. We might also vote in haste, in ignorance, or out of emotion. Regardless of motivation or enthusiasm, that action has consequences, even beyond what we intended, e.g., did voters really give Obama a mandate to nationalize our medical care system?

I remember in 2008 seeing smart, experienced, apparently rational, and "well-educated" (I hate that term!) persons in the State Department overcome with a cult-like desire to support Barack Obama for President. Pointing out that the man had no foreign policy experience, no managerial experience, almost no political experience, a radical anti-American past and upbringing, an obscure educational record, and a clear inability to operate without a teleprompter had no effect on their support for him. The honest Obama backers at State would admit that they would vote for Obama because they saw it as "good" for America to elect a black President. I noted to these friends that I had not voted for Gore in 2000 just because he had a Jewish running mate, and, in fact, I voted for two Christians, Bush and Cheney. As a firm believer in the American creed, I could not understand voting for or against somebody based on the candidate's religion or ethnicity. I got nowhere. The spell could not be broken. This line of "reasoning" by Obama supporters was not only foolish but disastrous for our country--and that is how the Obama Presidency has turned out: disastrous.

The 2008 election had consequences. We see those everyday in our faltering domestic economy; in the parlous state of our public finances; in the constant erosion of personal liberty by a relentless onslaught from the state; and in the rapid unraveling of our stature and influence overseas. I am sure that not all, most, or even many Obama voters wanted those things, but we got them anyhow. With their votes they produced a national nightmare for all of us.

Others more qualified can discuss the economic consequences of electing Obama. Let me just focus on what I see as two prominent features in Obama's scandal filled landscape: "Fast and Furious," and the "Benghazi Fiasco and Cover-up." Both resulted from an ideologically driven refusal to see the world as it is. The Obama misadministration insisted on the liberal ploy of seeing what they believe, instead of the other way round.

"Fast and Furious" was about "proving" that America's "lax" gun laws, and the Red State attitude toward guns fueled the drug violence in Mexico. Drug violence does not, in this view, exist because of the insatiable appetite for drugs by liberal Hollywood and Manhattan elites, by liberal college students, by the denizens of the decaying inner cores of Democrat controlled cities, or even from the insane drug laws the advocates of ever-more government foist on us. No, not all. For the liberal mindset, drug violence in Mexico results from the exercise of second amendment rights by law abiding American citizens. As I have written many times before, the evidence on the ground did not support the theory that "drugs flow north and guns flow south." The cartels did not buy their guns in the US. In typical liberal fashion, therefore, the Obama Justice Department, acting through the ATF, decided to "prove" it so by making it so. The ATF created gun smuggling networks, sold them guns, and then watched as these moved into Mexico and into the hands of some of the world's best organized and most ruthless criminals. The result? Mayhem. Hundreds of Mexican citizens, and at least two US Federal agents murdered plus unknown numbers of other crimes on both sides of the border.

The Benghazi scandal is more complex than "F&F," and we have not yet seen all its facets exposed. Simply put, however, the murder of Stevens and three other staff was the result of liberal delusions about the Muslim world. The madness began with the totally unnecessary war against Desert Queen Qaddafi. By the time of Obama's "leading from behind" war on Libya, Qaddafi no longer posed a threat to the USA. The unpleasant old buzzard was cooperating with us in a number of key areas: he had renounced the use of terror; had dismantled his WMD program; re-established diplomatic relations with us; allowed the return of US oil companies to Libya; and actively cooperated with us against Al Qaeda. Our involvement in pushing him out of office made no sense, especially since we had no idea what would replace him and what the consequences for the region would be of his removal. Now we know.

Our Benghazi facility was a half-baked operation. It was not a consulate. It was a "facility" with an ambiguous purpose, at least as far as the unclassified world is concerned. It had a stunning lack of even basic security despite the rapidly deteriorating situation in Libya, and in eastern Libya in particular. The security level for our facilities in Libya was driven by the political consideration of maintaining the liberal fiction that Obama's war in Libya had succeeded; that the "Arab Spring" was akin to our own Revolution; and that the region "loved" President Obama. When things fell apart on September 11, the number one concern was not to do anything that would damage that narrative. Blame the crisis on an obscure video; blame it on a press release by the Romney campaign; blame it on subordinates. Above all, do nothing that would appear to show that the Obama misadministration had misunderstood reality in Libya and throughout the Muslim word. The result? Mayhem.

Both scandals were generally ignored by the mainstream media, or, even worse, the media accepted what I call the "Whitewater Defense." This tactic was perfected by the Clintons as they weaseled their way out of a major corruption scandal in Arkansas. That scandal was actually a simple one of real estate developers bribing Governor Bill Clinton with Hillary Clinton serving as the cut-out. The Clintons, however, got their friends in the media to accept, in essence, that Whitewater was just too complicated, boring, technical, and convoluted to explain. The Obama misadministration now has done the same: It successfully has used the media either to bury the stories of both scandals or to argue that they are just "too complicated"; we should not "politicize" these issues; and we should "wait for all the facts to come in." Those facts will not come in--at least not before November 6. When all else fails, the misadministration also has shown a willingness to cover-up unpleasant facts: The use of executive privilege in the "F&F" case, and a confusing blizzard of lies, half-truths, and conflicting time lines in the Benghazi Massacre case.

With some honorable exceptions, few journalists have shown themselves willing to delve into the muck of either scandal and do the job one would expect from journalists. The media has sought to help Obama spike the football on the Bin Laden story and to help spike the stories behind "Fast and Furious" and Benghazi. Where the Obama misadministration has miscalculated, of course, as I have stated many times, is with the attitude of the career bureaucracy; those bureaucrats might have voted for Obama, but they will not throw themselves on the grenade for him or Hillary. That is the "X" factor in the scandal as we see from the steady drip-drip-drip of information emerging from the labyrinths of State, CIA, and the Pentagon.

Does anybody believe that we would have had a "F&F" or a Benghazi scandal under a McCain administration? Does anybody believe that had something occurred under a McCain administration of that magnitude, or even something considerably more mundane, that we would not have all the media outlets, 24/7, relentlessly probing, investigating and demanding answers? That calls for impeachment would not have gone out? That it would be without doubt a one-term proposition? That the President would be losing in the polls by 20 points?

Elections have consequences.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

"Don't Go Rescue Them"

I just listened to the radio interview with the father of Tyrone Woods, one of the ex-SEALs murdered in Benghazi. He says a lot things that hit home. Everyone should listen to that interview.

His description of the attitude and the private words of President Obama and Secretary Clinton at Andrews when the bodies of the four murdered Americans were brought home is very disturbing. He noted that Clinton vowed to him that the government would go after the man who produced the video! He also pointed out the insincerity of both Obama and Clinton when talking with the families of the dead. His description of Hillary matches 100% with the vacuous empty stare I have seen from her in meetings when she is making it clear that she has no interest being there.

Mr. Woods points out something that the media has not and which this blog has tried to: Somewhere, somebody told the military not to go rescue our personnel.

That "No" had to come from the Commander-in-Chief.

UPDATE: Some of the info I am getting from contacts behind the scenes makes the whole thing look even worse than what has come out so far in public. I can't go into it, but there was an ability and a willingness to respond. Someone very high up made a conscious decision not to respond. SecDef Panetta's excuses are pathetic, and not worthy of him.

UPDATE 2: I see that FOX is getting the same info I have been getting. FOX has been doing an outstanding job covering this. As I predicted in a prior post, folks at State and CIA are talking to FOX and will not take the fall for this disgusting misadministration.

Making Foreign Policy Optional?

I long have been fascinated by the refusal to exploit our own energy resources. Having lived many years in California, I was always puzzled by the fact that all the scientific studies I read said that the waters off the Pacific coast had huge oil reserves. In addition, with the global price rise in oil and the new technologies coming on line, reserves, including fields once considered tapped-out, were growing. Phony environmental concerns and political correctness, however, prevented us from drilling our own resources and developing nuclear power, forcing us, instead, to buy ever increasing amounts of energy from foreign sources, often highly unstable and hostile sources.

I wrote before that after getting our government budget under control, the single greatest step we can take is,
Eliminating or even reducing our dependence on foreign oil . . .. Achieving that would buck up the dollar, contribute to the general wealth of the United States, enrich our treasury, and free us of countless foreign policy concerns and headaches. Drill for oil in Texas, or fight for it in the Middle East. Our choice.
Can we greatly reduce or even eliminate our dependence on foreign sources of oil? Signs increasingly point to yes. In fact, they point to the very real possibility that the United States is on the road to becoming the world's top producer (h/t Instapundit) even with the current Obama misadministration's hostility to oil production,
The Energy Department forecasts that U.S. production of crude and other liquid hydrocarbons, which includes biofuels, will average 11.4 million barrels per day next year. That would be a record for the U.S. and just below Saudi Arabia's output of 11.6 million barrels. Citibank forecasts U.S. production could reach 13 million to 15 million barrels per day by 2020, helping to make North America "the new Middle East."
Governor Romney's plan to seek North American energy independence is very doable.

With that independence we might not have the luxury of not having to worry about foreign policy, but it would certainly increase our options and our ability to act internationally with more freedom.

Just another reason to vote against Obama . . . how many more do you need?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Benghazi Emails, and Some Speculation on What It All means [UPDATE]

FOX and others have obtained UNCLASSIFIED real-time email messages from Tripoli back to the DS OP Center that showed that the Embassy was aware of a terrorist attack on the facility in Benghazi. Those messages were shot around to a wide range of people in Washington in a number of agencies, including the White House. I am sure that in addition to these messages were many classified emails, cables, and phone calls, as well as real time video both from the facility and, apparently, from a UAV platform. Senior levels of the National Command Authority (NCA) knew what was happening in Benghazi.

This new confirmation that Washington had a very good idea of events in Benghazi, highlights the need to answer the questions that I posed in an earlier post. These are questions that I have not heard asked and certainly the Obama misadministration has not offered the information. Now, of course, I am not privy to classified or closed-door meetings that might be taking place, so it is always possible that the information is flowing freely--somehow, I doubt that, but you never know.

What is also becoming clearer, at least to me from conversations, and bits of this and that I am reading, is that we apparently had cooked up some sort of an arms transfer from Libyan groups to Syrian groups via Turkey. I can't prove it, but that seems a very likely scenario and would help explain the presence in Benghazi of Stevens, the "senior" Turkish diplomat, and the ex-SEALs working with a contractor to find and secure MANPADS. To whom exactly those weapons might be going, I have no idea, and do not know what if any relation or reaction the attackers had to any possible arms transfer deals being negotiated. The possible combinations are so numerous that it is not worth speculating; I won't.

If any of this is true, that could be a motive for the misadministration to try to lie about and divert attention from Benghazi developments. We might have on our hands a "Fast and Furious" scandal mated with an "Iran-Contra"scandal, and all on steroids.

The latest line that Ambassador Rice used talking points prepared by the CIA seems very odd--but then in a bureaucratic sense, the whole role of Ambassador Rice seems very odd. As I wrote long ago, Rice is not in the chain of command involving Libya or the Middle East; she is a political hack; she does not report to the Secretary. Why she went out to do the p.r. blitz, therefore, is a bureaucratic mystery . . . but, of course, not a political mystery. The White House undoubtedly considered Rice more loyal and, of course, more of an Obama groupie than Hillary Clinton, the person we would have expected to see on those talk shows. Rice and Clinton have a tense and distant relationship since Rice backed Obama in the Democrat primaries instead of Hillary Clinton, an act of betrayal that the Clintons, long Rice's political mentors, have neither forgotten nor forgiven. It would not be surprising that Secretary Clinton had put distance between herself and developments in Benghazi, before and after the attack. Whatever was happening in Benghazi before the attack might have been against her wishes. While the Ambassador in Libya nominally would have reported to her, he, in fact, was the President's personal representative; the White House could have given him instructions directly. Don't be shocked if something was up that Hillary did not want to "know" about.

I have never heard of the CIA preparing talking points for personnel at State or USUN. CIA might go over some points in the clearance process to ensure that nothing classified or grotesquely inaccurate is said, but they would not draft them. In the Rice case, the drafting would be done at State/IO, State/INR, State/NEA, or at USUN itself and then widely cleared around at State, the NSC, CIA, and other places. In an exceptional case, I suppose the points could have been drafted directly at the NSC, bypassing State entirely. If, however, CIA or NSC drafted them with no input from State, that would show a major breakdown in interagency cooperation on a scale I have never seen among foreign affairs agencies. All this is very easy to solve: Congress should ask to see Rice's briefing materials, including the actual UNCLASSIFIED talking points sheet. All those papers will contain the names and offices of the drafters, the clearers, and the authorizers.  It ain't rocket science.

UPDATE: There is an excellent Frank Gaffney piece in The Washington Times on Benghazi along the same lines laid out above. His report, however, is less speculative; I wish I had seen it before writing my own.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Campaign and the Debates: "Attacking Me is not an Agenda"

While I am a political junkie, and have followed American presidential elections intensely my whole life, I generally am not one of the pundits full of analyses of the strategies and tactics used. If campaign advisors had followed my recommended strategies for, say, Reagan, Carter would have won a second term. As do, however, many other pundit blowhards who make their living at this and make much more money than I do, I can ex post facto see how a particular campaign designed its strategy and where it went wrong and right. So here goes: I am launching myself into campaign punditry. If this offends you, please stop reading here.

Looking back over the past several months of presidential politicking, I have to doff my hat to the Romney campaign. It has been a masterful and rare display of successful guerrilla warfare against a larger, entrenched, better armed, and better funded and arrogant foe. The Romney campaign obviously studied the electoral battlefield and realized that their man would be the underdog by a considerable margin. Everywhere one looks, Obama seems to hold the advantage. He is the incumbent; that alone gives him a big advantage. The president can, almost at will, dominate the news cycle and set the agenda. Even more daunting, as Hillary Clinton discovered in her primary run, the national and the international media made and make no secret of their support for Obama. The media prove quick to label any opponent to Obama's policies as racist and retrograde. The mass media's coverage of the news aims to make Obama look as good as possible. Major scandals that would have sunk any other administration get either ignored, only lightly touched upon, or the official spin becomes the version pushed on the American people. Obama's embarrassing relationships with Wright, Ayres, and Rezko get buried. Obama gets a pass on "Fast and Furious," a literally murderous scandal of epic proportions.  Obama's throwing away of our hard-earned victory in Iraq draws no commented. The Benghazi disaster remains murky with few media outlets pressing on what happened. Billions of dollars in grants and tax breaks have gone to Obama cronies and their dodgy enterprises, e.g., the UAW, Solyndra, and Fiskar, with no visible reaction from the media. Few if any questions get asked about Obama's personal background: How did a mediocre student with a highly dysfunctional family and no money get into all those expensive "elite" schools? How did this youngster from Hawaii and Indonesia become the darling of the Chicago political machine? How did he become a multi-millionaire? We all can formulate many other questions ruled off limits by the media machine.

In sum, to run a campaign under these conditions had to be a daunting prospect. The Romney campaign faced a ruthless, well-funded Chicago-style operation that would do and say just about anything secure in its protective media bubble. The Romney team, however, also realized that Americans know that things are not right; that they do not see the current situation of our country as the new permanent normal. The campaign, however, also could see that reaching Americans with an alternate vision of the future would prove tough. Governor Romney's zinger at the Al Smith dinner about the media's role sums it up best, "My job is to lay out a positive vision for the future of the country, and [the media's] job is to make sure no one else finds out about it."

The high-risk solution? The debates.

I have never seen a campaign gamble so much and so successfully on their candidate's ability to sell himself and his policies directly to the people. The debates, even more so than the scripted party convention, more so than millions of dollars in ads, provided the big opportunity for Romney to break through Obama's media shield. He did it masterfully. While the professional chatterers babbled on about how debates are meaningless, and we would see nothing come out of them, and, besides, of course, Obama is so charming, so brilliant, and so articulate that he quickly would demolish the stiff boring Romney Robot, so . . . move along, nothing to see here, move along. Wrong. With a fencer's skill, Romney scored point after point on the blundering, increasingly angry Obama who kept wielding a battle axe to no effect. Romney got through directly to the voters. The polls, skewed as they are and part of the media effort to re-elect Obama, could not ignore the surge of support that flowed to the challenger.

While media pundits tried to score the individual debates and argued about who had won "on points," they missed what the debates were really about. They formed an integral part of the Romney campaign strategy and "narrative arc." The debates gave Romney the chance, which he took with gusto, to demolish for free tens-of-millions of dollars' worth of inaccurate negative advertising by the Obama campaign. He showed up Obama for the callow arrogant man that he is, and got in the message that we do not have to accept another four years like the past four: This can be fixed.

Romney's strategy was summed up last night in one brilliant line, "Attacking me is not an agenda." That's the point: Obama has no agenda for the next four years other than being President and doing what he has done for the past four disastrous years.

Let's not start celebrating too soon, but I think we are seeing the end of the Obama misadministration.

The Debate: Romney

Quick thoughts on the debate.

Initially I was concerned about Romney's "kinder, gentler" strategy but in the end I think it worked. Maybe Obama "won" the debate if it we score it as an abstract debate, but this is about gaining trust and earning votes. I don't think Obama won over undecided voters. If any votes moved, I suspect they moved in Romney's direction.

Romney looked presidential and wise. Obama ended up looking petty, mean, and substituting attack for agenda. Obama's snarky comments about the size of the navy seemed to please the MSNBC crowd, but will not play well with pro-navy voters in places such as Virginia and Florida. In addition, Obama looked like he was ridiculing Admirals and other military experts who have expressed concern about the size of the navy.

Romney did a very good job on Obama's apology tour, especially his noting that Obama had skipped Israel on his visit to the Middle East, and that Obama had accused the USA of "dictating" to countries. That will play well with Jewish voters many of whom, at least according to some polling I have seen, seem inclined (surprise!) to vote for Romney.

Maybe I am too combative, but I would have gone after Obama on Libya. In retrospect, however, Romney probably made the wise choice by not generating a "politicized petty debate" on the ins-and-outs of Benghazi. Obama would have used the opportunity to filibuster and lie on the story; Romney can go after him on the campaign trail.

I thought that the Governor did a very nice job of tying foreign policy to domestic policy and scored some big points on the need to strengthen the economy. Romney very cleverly understood that although this was to be a discussion about foreign policy, voters are more concerned about the economy. Romney did a very nice job on China trade and North American energy independence. He also showed that he has a very good knowledge of all the other issues "out there."

Romney kept himself close to Obama throughout much of the evening and Obama had difficulty distancing himself from Romney despite past efforts to depict Romney as a wild-eyed war monger.

The Obama body language was bad; his overly aggressive crouching stare made him look like some sort of giant bird of prey or a vulture ready to swoop down. Not good imaging.

By the end of the evening, Obama looked tired and frustrated. Obama looked like a boxer who has been flailing and dancing all evening and just wore himself out.

Obama needs a BIG October surprise to win. Absent that, Romney will be the next President.

Monday, October 22, 2012

On The Cuban Missile Crisis: A Simple Observation

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of JFK's TV address in which he announced to the nation the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba. His announcement came roughly in the middle of what liberal hagiographers of JFK have called the "Thirteen Days in October." We all know what happened and I won't waste your time going over it.

It was the closest that the world has come to nuclear war, and the JFK fan club is full of praise for their man's coolness under fire and his Gary Cooper-type "toughness" with the bombastic Khrushchev.

Yeah, yeah, sure . . .  if you want to believe the liberals go ahead.

The Cuban Missile Crisis was, in fact, the classic leftist screw up that risked global disaster, produced a fifty-year disaster for the Cuban people, and ended up being twisted into political gain for a not very competent President of the USA. There would have been no October 1962 "crisis" had it not been for JFK's betrayal of the Cuban freedom fighters in April 1961. Had JFK carried out the Eisenhower plan instead of allowing the freedom fighters to be killed and captured, Castro would have been gone, there would have been no Soviet presence in Cuba, no October Missile Crisis, and very likely no wars in Central America.

In other words, if JFK had kept his word all of this could have been avoided.

Back to reading the media's praise of the young JFK . . .

Sunday, October 21, 2012

George McGovern, R.I.P.

Senator McGovern has died.

The 1972 election was the first in which I could vote. Democrat Senator George McGovern was running against Republican President Richard Nixon.

I voted for Nixon--and not sorry for it, despite what happened later.

Senator McGovern struck me at the time as somewhat loopy: a throwback to an era of American isolation and innocence. He appeared as a cross of William Jennings Bryant and the two Robert La Follettes (father and son): lots of moralizing and advocacy for more and more government to do more and more "good" things. He was somebody whose "sell-by" date had long come and gone. Perhaps this is unfair to McGovern, the main reason for my vote against him was the people attracted to his cause. You are often judged by the company you keep. Anybody with a modicum of intelligence had doubts about how we were pursuing the war in Vietnam. I had doubts, and, frankly, was relieved to have drawn a high draft lottery number. Unlike, however, many of the people around McGovern, I did not see America as evil or the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong as good. While we were not fighting the war the right way, I wanted South Vietnam to survive as an independent, capitalist, and democratic country just as South Korea has done.

McGovern, of course, was a decorated WWII hero (DFC) who did one of the most dangerous things you could do: pilot a B-24 on thirty-five daylight bombing missions over Nazi-occupied Europe. Yet in 1972, he seemed to throw in with, or at least not distance himself from, the leftist, dirty, long-haired goons who hated the military and America, and wanted our enemies to win. His foreign policy prescriptions re the Soviet Union were dangerous. They were at best FDR-naive, and at worst Henry Wallace-ideological. His insistence on gutting the military in favor of massive social programs was downright destructive.

Many years ago when I served in New York at the US Mission to the UN, McGovern, working with the World Food Program (WFP), came by for a briefing on how the US saw events at the UN. He was very polite and friendly in that old fashioned sort of mid-West way that sadly is disappearing from our national politics. I told him of our efforts to have the UN condemn Castro's human rights record (more in a subsequent post). He listened attentively, but while very ready to criticize Guatemala, Chile, and El Salvador on human rights, he seemed uninterested in criticizing Castro's Cuba. I remember being frustrated and annoyed with him; unable to understand why he could not bring himself to criticize the horrid Castro regime. That confirmed for me that I had been right not voting for McGovern.

He subsequently went into private business and gained an understanding of how excessive government regulations stifled entrepreneurs, so he was open-minded enough to learn something. He like Goldwater, another Presidential candidate who lost in a landslide, had and continues to have a great impact on his party and on political discourse in the nation. Goldwater laid out the guidelines for what would become a more conservative/Tea Party GOP, and McGovern for what would become a more liberal/progressive Democrat party. Schumpeter's observation about the present being guided by the dead hand of the past seems very apt.

George McGovern, R.I.P.

Benghazi Reflections: Left to Die

A great deal has been written and said about the disaster in Benghazi. Even the mainstream media has begun gradually and reluctantly to realize that it is a big story when an American Ambassador--the President's personal representative--and his staff are murdered, and then to have the White House and the top political leadership of the foreign policy apparatus engage in weeks of lies and cover-up. This humble blogger, too, has posted steadily about the Massacre in the Magreb as a glance through the archives reveals.

Over the weekend, FOX News, one of the very few big media outlets that consistently and accurately has covered this scandal, ran an excellent special report on the murders. That report, by the way, did a very nice job of highlighting the courage and skill of the DS agents in that compound on that night. I have to admit it was tough to watch the FOX special all the way through; I kept getting up and storming out of the room. Having spent thirty-four years in the Foreign Service, most of it in the "hard countries," the whole thing just hit too close to home. The difference between when I served and now was simple: We didn't mind going into harm's way when Reagan or the two Bushes were in the White House. We knew that we had a National Command Authority (NCA) that had our backs. We had our doubts about Carter and Clinton, but I never experienced anything like what we have now. Those going into danger for our country, civilian and military, know that with this President, his laughing hyena side-kick, and his empty pant-suited foreign policy chief your six is definitely exposed.

We all have heard about the disastrous decision-making at State that left the Benghazi facility exposed. I am sure we will hear much more about the Keystone Cop-like atmosphere at State, CIA, and the NSC. The leaks are beginning and, as I have noted many times, the career people at State and CIA are not going quietly into the night: They will not take the rap for Ambassador Rice's lies, nor for those of the President and the Secretary.

That said, we come around to a few issues not being well covered, or even mentioned. There are some rather large elephants in the room, and some smaller ones, as well. Let's go elephant hunting in North Africa:

1) What the hell was Ambassador Stevens doing in Benghazi on 9/11? Opening an "American corner"? Really?

I very reluctantly mention this: It will appear insensitive, but one must, must question Ambassador Steven's judgement. His patriotism, dedication to duty, and personal bravery are not in doubt, but his judgement and bureaucratic courage and skills come into question. As we have seen, there was a chorus of requests by his staff, his predecessor, and him for additional security resources in Libya, and in particular in Benghazi. Unlike the White House, the Embassy had no illusions about the growth of Al Qaeda affiliates and the deteriorating security situation in the eastern part of Libya, most notably once the Muslim Brotherhood obtained a secure operating platform in Egypt. After Embassy requests for more security were denied or only partly honored, why did Stevens leave the facility in Benghazi open? What was so important about that facility that its operation under miserable security conditions made it a risk worth taking? Or is this just a horrid example of cognitive dissonance? If he knew, as apparently he did, that security in Benghazi was deplorable, why did he go there on 9/11, and announce the opening of an American Corner? Why bring additional attention to the place especially after the British and even the International Red Cross (IRC) had abandoned Benghazi, and after our facility there suffered two prior attacks? Could the President's personal representative not say no to the American Corner, no to traveling there on 9/11, no to the facility itself? As noted, I am sorry to raise these matters of judgement and common sense, but four Americans lost their lives, not just one.

2) What was the response of the NCA?

The attack began after 9 pm Libya time; it lasted at least six hours. The attack, therefore, took place from about, say, 3:30 pm to about 9:30 pm Washington DC time on a regular work day, a Tuesday, and on a day, September 11, during which the capital is particularly attentive to reports of terror activity. The DS reps have testified that they knew about the attack almost immediately, and, thanks to the very expensive and elaborate DS op center, followed the attack in "near real time." So what happened? What did Secretaries Clinton and Panetta, CIA Director Petraeus, DNI Clapper, NSA Donilon, AFRICOM, SOCOM, and President Obama do? Somebody sent a slow flying UAV that managed to get there in time to monitor at least part of the attack. There apparently was a hastily put together rescue effort launched by the Embassy in Tripoli which encountered stiff resistance. But what did the NCA do? There are reports that the Pentagon determined that it would take 24 hours to get a rescue team on the ground in Benghazi. So? Why wasn't it launched? Nobody apparently knew that the Ambassador already was dead. One thing I have learned from years in the "hard countries": Do not let the creeps think they can get away with something. They should always fear an immediate and devastating response. American warriors on the ground with blood in their eyes would have sent a powerful message to the jihadis. The British ran the raucous North West Frontier with a handful of Political Agents (PA) who bribed the tribes and made it clear that a PA could conjure up the British Army if things got out of hand. Is it true that the President did not summon his national security team? That he just noted the information and then went off to Vegas on a fund-raiser after giving a vacuous speech at the Rose Garden?  

3) Was the cover-up really motivated by the need to protect the misadministration's liberal delusions about their successes in the Middle East?

Is it really that simple and despicable? Do these Obama people really have no shame? Are they really that sociopathic? They are willing like some sort of Mafia-chieftan or vile totalitarian to allow the lives of their subordinates to be snuffed out as part of some great political chess game? I ask but fear I already know the responses.

Better stop here. It is not polite nowadays to target elephants.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Obama as President "Is Not Optimal"

The President's "not optimal" remark about the death in Libya of four Americans, who were working for him, is one of the strangest, stupidest, and most infuriating remarks I have heard in a long time. That he would make the comment on a silly TV comedy show, just adds more insult to the injury.

That the President would find these deaths inconvenient, I guess, must be his attempt to proclaim that he feels the pain and "inconvenience" of the victims' families. Yes, it is never "optimal" to have to plan and attend a funeral for family members brutally killed, especially while knowing that the man who, as he boasted in the debate, sent them "into harm's way," instead of trying to save them, went to bed, then to a fund raiser in Vegas, and then tried to blame the deaths on a silly video by a man in California. That's a leader for you . . .

Let's make sure that these murders prove to be "not optimal" for the political fortunes of this inept and foolish Commander-in-Chief. Along with "you didn't build that" and "bumps in the road," this latest comment of President Obama highlights why this man must be defeated, and defeated convincingly.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Castro and the Nazis: Makes Perfect Sense

As we come up on the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, we see newly declassified German intelligence documents reporting that Fidel Castro hired Nazi SS officers, tried to get former German paratroopers to help train his army, and sought to buy Belgian-made weapons from right-wing extremists. He apparently was so distressed with what he saw as USSR timidity in dealing with the US, that he wanted to develop his own sources of training and equipment. This goes along with information in Khrushchev's autobiography and elsewhere, that Castro was upset with the USSR for not pushing for nuclear war with the United States.


I have written before about Castro, and during my career at State had long dealings with Cuban "diplomats" all over the world. The regime and its representatives are thugs. No other word aptly captures their nature. The Western defenders of Castro are ignorant fools, dishonest leftist hacks, or so blinded by anti-Americanism that they'll defend anybody who "stands up" to Uncle Sam -- or all of the above. They, in other words, have the traits we increasingly see in our university graduates, Hollywood elites, and in much of the media.

Let me repeat some things I have said before: No contradiction exists between Castro being a Communist, and Castro dealing with post-WWII Nazis. The Castro brothers inherited a virulent strain of anti-Americanism and anti-capitalism common among certain educated elites in Latin America. A legacy of Spain and old-time Spanish Catholicism, it started as hatred and resentment for upstart Protestant England, and in Latin America morphed into hatred and resentment for upstart “Protestant” USA. 

The brothers got a double dose of the virus. Their father was a Spanish-born veteran of the War of 1898 who stayed on in Cuba. We can imagine family conversations when the topic turned to the USA. This household environment combined with that era's Spanish Jesuit schooling would have turned just about anybody anti-American. As I have noted before, Communism in Latin America is a natural complement to a pre-existing intellectual and emotional strain of anti-Americanism, anti-Protestantism, and anti-capitalism. Once the brothers assumed power, it is not at all surprising that they would throw in with the Soviets; Raul was in all likelihood a KGB informant since the early 1950s.

There seems no doubt that had Nazi Germany been around in the 1950s as the world's preeminent anti-capitalist, anti-democracy, and anti-USA power, Fidel, Raul, and the racist gangster Che (Note: read what he had to say about Mexicans) would have hitched their wagons to the Hitler train.

There is no real conflict between Communism and Nazism except, of course, of which one takes power. They are both phenomena of the left; both believe in the state over the individual; in state-control of the economy; and in crushing religion and other independent sources of power and potential rivalry to the state. They do not believe in rule of law, tolerance of diversity, and protection of dissent. The biggest difference is that the Communists were much more successful at bamboozling the "educated elites" and used much smoother words to try to disguise their evil natures. The Nazis were always too bombastic, "in your face," and made little effort to hide their true aims. All that stylistic and cosmetic nonsense aside, Fidel, Raul, Che, Kim-il Sung, Stalin, etc, would have been perfectly happy as Nazis and to espouse their anti-capitalist, anti-democracy, anti-religion, and anti-individual line. We should find nothing surprising in the Castros' efforts to reach out to Nazis for help in carrying on their mad war against the Cuban people and the United States.

There is no difference between El Jefe and Der Fuhrer.

An Aside: On Those Unemployed College Grads

At the risk of being insensitive and just not very nice, I want to take a little exception to all this concern about unemployed college grads and the seemingly boundless pandering to them. This popped into my mind, again, watching that college student ask his question at last night's presidential debate. He basically wanted a guarantee that he would have a job when he graduated in 2014.

I have written before about my VERY low opinion of higher education in the Western world. Let me be frank: Universities as a rule are giant frauds perpetrated on the public by well-paid university staff and their leftist political allies. In my view, the average graduate knows next to nothing, at least, next to nothing useful. He or she generally emerges from these hugely overpriced, vastly overfunded, and heavily subsidized institutions with a phony cynicism, a derisive attitude towards capitalism and patriotism, an insufferable arrogance, a numbing ignorance about the history and culture of the West, and--to top it off--a sense of entitlement. We all have been brainwashed--myself included--that our kids must have that university degree, and employers go along with the gag even when the job does not require one.

There are good schools, but they teach real stuff that is not considered sexy or cool. Right now, despite the horrible Obama economy, good students with degrees in accounting, mechanical engineering, computer sciences, mining, and chemical and petroleum engineering can get very good and high-paying jobs right off the bat. This is not scientific but I will say it anyhow: The students I have met in the US going into those sort of degree programs tend to be serious, family oriented, often immigrants or first generation Americans, and--surprise!--politically and socially conservative.

Back to that first questioner in the debate. According to the press, he is studying "exercise science." I am not sure but is that what we used to call physical education? How much is that costing his parents? Does he really have the right to demand that the President (translation: society) provide him a job? Did he think of checking the level of demand for that "skill"?

Students in universities worried about their futures might want to revisit what they are studying. If you want a degree in Modern African Art or Gender Studies because you love that topic, fine, but don't assume that the rest of us have an obligation to fund your life in the undoubtedly exciting world of Modern African Art or Gender Studies. Let your knowledge of Modern African Art or Gender Studies console and empower you as you swing that mop after hours at the Luby's, or as you lie in your parents' basement wondering how you will pay back $100,000 in student loans.

Don't come knocking on my door with your hand out. I've got my own kids to fund.



Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Debate: Romney

I think the Governor won on points. Obama did much better than the last time and took advantage of some dodgy time-keeping by Crowley. He, however, came off looking angry and irritated; not smooth at all.

Obama got boxed in on Libya. He and Crowley were wrong on the Rose Garden quote which only indirectly implied it was terror; he, of course, went on for days dodging that issue--and I wish Romney had stressed that. He also took responsibility for the Libya fiasco, which puts him at odds with Hillary Clinton. This will be an issue in coming days.

Obama cannot explain what he has done for the past four years and Romney's best moments were when he kept reminding the audience that Obama has been President for four years. Obama could not explain his failures on immigration and many other issues. Romney did not press hard enough on Fast and Furious--hope he does it at the next debate.

More in coming days

Update: Crowley in a convoluted statement has admitted that Romney was right about the Rose Garden speech

More on the Hillary Benghazi Gambit: Hitting Obama with the Bus

Just a quick post while I get ready to watch the debate.

The more I think about what Hillary Clinton said about Benghazi the more I have to admire the Mafia-like political skills of the Clintonians.

As I noted before, Secretary Clinton has managed to get headlines announcing that she accepts "responsibility" for what happened in Benghazi without, in fact, ever saying that she accepts "responsibility" for what happened in Benghazi. While visiting Peru, on the eve of the great debate, she drops the "bomb," a very smart bomb, at that, saying that she has responsibility for the security of State's 60,000 employees, and that the President and the Vice President would not be involved in the decisions taken by her subordinates on security. She, therefore, simultaneously said that she has the responsibility, not the President, and put the blame for any bad decisions on career security professionals. She never said what she did when learning of the attack--which went on for six hours--or whether she thought it worthwhile to call the President and request a rescue effort. Nobody, in fact, has mentioned the President as a major or even minor player in the course of this long and violent attack even when, as first acknowledged by Diplomatic Security's Charlene Lamb (here and here) and now by the Secretary, the State Department was following the attack in real time.

Her "accepting" of responsibility does not extend to resigning or to anything else tangible. It just consists of words. They, however, are words that put Obama in a bind. Does he let his Secretary of State take "responsibility," thereby tacitly admitting that he does not have responsibility for the nation's foreign affairs? Does he, instead, dispute her "accepting" responsibility and assume it for himself--thereby putting the lie to what Biden said in his debate performance about the White House not knowing anything or having any control over security decisions at State? If he assumes responsibility, he must assume responsibility for his misadministration's mishandling of the aftermath: State and CIA career officers have made clear that they never concluded that the Benghazi attack was the result of a video or a demonstration gone rogue as stated by Ambassador Rice, the President, and Hillary, herself.

In sum: If he lets Hillary "accept" responsibility he has diminished even further his claim to the Presidency and reminds everyone of Hillary's very effective 2008 anti-Obama ad about the call at 3 am. He appears a small man, hiding behind a courageous woman. If he accepts responsibility, he has a lot of explaining to do and even the docile media will not be able to let that go.

The one factor that might undermine Hillary Clinton's otherwise masterful "Chicago Gambit" move is the X-factor known as the State and CIA career bureaucracy. Those folks are increasingly uneasy as the politicians seek to blame them for the fiasco. Those bureaucracies are not under the control of either Obama or Clinton; they play their own games of chess on their own boards and with their own rules.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Secretary Clinton: "The buck stops with . . . my subordinates"

Ah! The shoe drops . . . Chicago style.

The day before the critical Romney-Obama debate, Hillary Clinton, our heretofore invisible Secretary of State, makes a carefully calibrated statement while in Peru that allows the mainstream media to proclaim that Clinton accepts "responsibility" for the Benghazi security fiasco without her actually saying that.

Forget the headlines, and note what she actually says,
I take responsibility . . .. I'm in charge of the State Department's 60,000-plus people all over the world, 275 posts. The president and the vice president wouldn't be knowledgeable about specific decisions that are made by security professionals. They're the ones who weigh all of the threats and the risks and the needs and make a considered decision. 
I take this very personally . . . So we're going to get to the bottom of it, and then we're going to do everything we can to work to prevent it from happening again, and then we're going to work to bring whoever did this to us to justice.
Note she "takes responsibility" but the "specific decisions" on security were made by "security professionals." Translation: If anybody screwed up, hey, it was those professionals, not me--otherwise, why would we need an investigation to "get to the bottom of it"? The career bureaucrats can hear the war drums, see and smell the war paint, and will be sharpening their knives. They know that the Secretary has just put a target on them.

It gets worse. The real issue is not whether another inch of concrete, or a few armed guards would have made the difference in Benghazi. Given the size and violence of the attack, I doubt that would have done much. The real issues are what was that facility and what was it doing that was so important given the security environment? Why was the Ambassador there on 9/11?

Even more important, note her "garbled" comments about key matters, to wit, the attack, the Obama misadministration's characterization of the attack, and the nature of its response to an attack that went on for some six hours. Nowhere does she say that she contacted the White House, the Libyan government, or that she proposed any particular action. Nowhere does she explain the difference between the statements put out by Rice, Obama, and herself, blaming the attack on a virtually unseen video, and the statements by State and CIA career officers that State never concluded that the attack was the result of an anti-video demonstration gone rogue.

This misadministration continues to play games. Don't fall for it.




Arlen Specter, R.I.P.

Former Senator Arlen Specter died yesterday after a long career in the US Senate and before that as a prosecutor in Pennsylvania, at times as a Democrat, and others as a Republican, and then again as a Democrat. I don't have a lot to say about him except that I always found him unscrupulous, untrustworthy, and just plain "creepy." I know that "creepy" is not a well-thought-out position, and is the sort of thing that really, really smart leftists from "elite" universities usually say about conservatives, but that's the way it is.

I met him once in Panama some years ago. He and his wife flew in on a week-end on board a military transport, a C-17, if I remember correctly. The plane was a support flight bringing some supplies to Panama and flying on to Colombia and Peru. It would pick up the Specters a couple of days later on the return flight. The USAF had installed a VIP "Executive Package" for the Senator and his wife. Specter was allegedly coming to town for a briefing on drug money laundering. At the time, among other things, I headed the State counter-drug program in Panama so got tapped to give the briefing, along with some folks from DEA and other agencies.

We met the Specters at the airport, and took them to a very swanky five-star hotel in downtown Panama City. He asked that we come back in an hour to brief him. We cooled our heels in the hotel bar, and then headed back up to the Specter suite.

Chaos! The Senator was in an uproar! He was yelling at some poor junior military officer. The Senator was demanding that the military liaison officer call the plane and make it come back. The officer was saying that would be very difficult as the plane was on a schedule. Specter would have none of that: He wanted that plane to return to Panama right away.

Specter than turned his fire on us. He insisted that the Embassy make the plane return. One of us asked, "Why?"

"My racquetball racquet and my wife's gold clubs got left on the plane!" He blurted out furiously. He blamed the military liaison officer for the error.

I called the Defense Attache's Office, and they confirmed that the plane was long gone, was on a schedule, and, besides, having it fly back to deliver golf clubs would cost a fortune. We had to tell a very angry Senator that the plane would not come back, and we would try to find some ladies clubs for his wife and a racquet for him to use. Which is what we did.

We went through the briefing with a clearly grumpy and distracted Senator. He seemed to have little interest in what we were saying; it became clear he was in town to play golf and racquetball.

By the way, it turned out that the bags had been left on the plane because Specter's wife had moved them during the flight. When the liaison officer went to get the bags off the flight, he took the Senator's golf bag but not his wife's as that was not where it had been when the plane had left the US.

The whole episode left me with a very negative view of Arlen Specter. You can tell a lot about a person by how he treats subordinates in a time of "crisis." You can also tell a lot about a public servant by how he treats taxpayer provided resources.

Anyhow, Arlen Specter, R.I.P.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Invisible Secretary of State

This might sound like a broken record (for those old enough to remember records) but the Libya fiasco just gets worse and worse. There are so many aspects to this disaster that it is hard to cover them all. The blogosphere, and even some corners of the MSM, are covering many, some of which this little blog anticipated from the start, and I don't want to repeat much of what others or I have written. Let me focus on one aspect that I am not seeing covered well: Hillary Clinton.

I have written before about the Secretary and her general vacuousness (here, for example) and don't want to go over all that again. Please scroll through the archives and you will find them replete with my views of the Secretary and the State Department's "Cult of the Secretary." I want to focus on something more narrow. Let's discuss two major foreign policy fiascoes that have occurred on her watch, Fast and Furious (F&F) and the Benghazi massacre, and ask one simple question: Have you noticed that when we have major crises, Hillary Clinton disappears?

F&F is the scandal that the mainstream media want to ignore at all costs. It also is one, frankly, which the Republicans have not done a good job of explaining to the American people. Again, I have written a great deal about F&F, so let's just summarize it as follows: the administration wanted to crack down on legal gun ownership in the US. To do that, and justify efforts at international gun control treaties, politically inclined bureaucrats in DOJ and ATF seized on the idea of proving the unproven liberal meme that "drugs flow north and guns flow south." They would organize a gun smuggling ring to supply weapons to the Mexican drug cartels to "prove" that the cartels arm themselves at US gun shows and stores. And that is what they did. They supplied thousands of weapons to some of the most vicious and well-organized criminals on the planet who subsequently used them to commit hundreds of murders, including those of women and children and of at least two US federal agents. Obama's DOJ, in essence, ran a covert war against the people and government of Mexico; hundreds of Mexicans were brutally killed thanks to the deliberate policy of President Obama's Attorney General and his ideological obsession with killing off the second amendment.

At State, we received marching orders to go forth and put out the line that guns in Mexico's drug violence came from the US. While visiting Mexico, President Obama stated,
“This war is being waged with guns purchased not here, but in the United States. More than 90 percent of the guns recovered in Mexico come from the United States, many from gun shops that line our shared border.”
That, of course, is a lie at odds with reality.

When the scandal finally broke, despite the efforts of the MSM/Democrats to bury it, I was amazed at how no questions came Hillary Clinton's way. The Congressional investigation, which the White House sought to stifle, has focused almost exclusively on DOJ and ATF. Nobody has asked Clinton if she knew of F&F. Nobody has asked for her reaction to the DOJ conducting an undeclared war on our neighbor. Nobody has asked if she raised this issue with Holder and the President. Nobody has asked what she said to the Mexicans. Nobody has asked what this meant for the administration's claims about US gun stores serving as armories for the cartels, and its efforts to destroy the trade in small arms. Nobody has asked, and she has not volunteered. She has made herself invisible on the topic and the press has helped her.

We have a repeat of this vanishing act in the Benghazi disaster. We have a US ambassador and three of his staff murdered by Islamic terrorists, and the Secretary is almost invisible. She delivered a silly eulogy in which she blamed the deaths on a 14-video, but that was about it. A few days ago she momentarily popped up to give a pap-laden speech which showed that she like the French Bourbons, in words ascribed to Talleyrand,"had learned nothing and forgotten nothing." Our Secretary of State said, 
"Last month's violence revealed strains of extremism that threaten these nations, as well as the broader region and the United States . . . On the other hand, we've seen actions that would have been hard to imagine just a few years ago: Democratically-elected leaders and free people in Arab countries standing up for a peaceful, pluralist future. . . . It is too soon to say how these transitions will play out, but what's not in doubt is that America has a big stake in the outcome."
She cannot give up the liberal delusion that she has helped spread democracy in the Middle East, and that the people there are "standing up for a peaceful, pluralist future." It seems that our dead are, in Obama's words, just little "bumps in the road" to this bright happy future. Future bumps will consist of women, gays, Christians, and Jews. But to make an omelet, well, you have to break a few eggs, right?

On Benghazi, why is the media not pressing her on what happened to people who worked directly for her? To people carrying out the foreign policy "designed" by her and the President? Just prior to Congressman Issa's October 11 hearing, senior State Department officials provided a "background" briefing to selected journalists. In this briefing, they laid out a time line and gave information that clearly showed that the misadministration's account of the Benghazi attack, including the statements by Ambassador Rice, were absurd lies wrong. That briefing also reveals, by the way, that the career service will not take lying down Obama/Biden's efforts to blame the disaster on them. There will be more to come on that score, I assure you.

Something else even more important comes through in the background briefing. Nowhere do we see mention of Hillary Clinton. Was she in the loop? Did anybody at any time inform the Secretary of an attack underway? Hard to believe they would not. If they did, what was her reaction? Did she contact anybody? The National Security Advisor? The President of the USA? The President of Libya? I have been in the ultra-high-tech Diplomatic Security Op Center in Virginia. It is a marvel of modern technology with some amazing capabilities. This center apparently was monitoring the six-hour attack in real time. The DS center ties in with similar centers at Main State, CIA, Pentagon, the White House, and elsewhere. What were they saying to each other? Nobody at the NSC, the Pentagon, or the White House contacted the President? If they did, what he do? Did he call Clinton or Panetta? Are the press reports that he went to bed accurate? If so, did the Secretary of State try to wake him and ask for a rescue effort to be launched? Did any instructions go forth to any of the combatant commands? No "actionable intelligence" existed to act upon even once the attack began? There are reports, after all, that somebody launched a slow-flying drone that managed to get there in time to cover at least some of the attack. Nothing else could have been launched?

In sum, what did Secretary Clinton know and when? What did she do while the attack was underway to try to save the people in her charge? Nobody asks for an explanation; she does not offer one.

It seems, my friends, that to accompany the empty chair in the White House we have an empty pantsuit at State.


Secretary Clinton's official portrait.

I would hope to see at the next debate that, on behalf of the American people, Governor Romney breaks out with some of the lyrics from the Great Philosopher Tina Turner,

Cause I don't have no use
For what you loosely call the truth . . .

You better be good to me
That's how it's gotta be now
Cause I don't have the time
For your over loaded lines
You better be good to me

And I really don't see 
why it's so hard to be good to me
And I don't understand what's your plan
that you can't be good to me
What I can't feel, I surely cannot see,
why can't you be good to me
And if it's not real I do not wish to see, 
why can't you be good to me.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Saturday Reminisce: Death in a Remote Place

Early Saturday morning. I am entertaining myself by running the DVR in my head. It latched on to a memory from many years ago from back in old Peshawar. As posted before, I served in Pakistan and split my time between the road, Islamabad, and, my favorite, working in the consulate in Peshawar, most of the time as the only American.

Let me set the scene. Peshawar had only three consulates: Afghanistan, Iran, and USA. As I have noted before, Peshawar in the early 1980s, was a wild and wonderful place full of all sorts of characters. For anybody involved in consular work at any of the Western embassies and consulates in Pakistan one of the biggest headaches, aside from Western women who married Pakistani men and then desperately wanted to flee (more on that in another post), were the "world travelers." These drifters were often relatively young, late 20s to early 40s, with a few dollars and no sense, who somehow had made their way to South Asia. They would arrive in the oddest ways, often by bus from Europe via Turkey to Iran and sometimes through war-torn Afghanistan and to Pakistan. Some "world travelers" would go on to India, Nepal, Sikkim, Bangladesh and who knows where else. A few would stay in Pakistan to take advantage of the low prices and the easy availability of heroin. The stuff was sold openly in the ungoverned tribal areas, and made its way into the bazaars of Peshawar.

Back to our story. I was in Peshawar, and dead asleep, having gotten in late after a long road trip. The phone rang. It must have been around 3 am. Never a good sign. Nobody calls at 3 am to say you have won the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes. In keeping with the odds, this call was not good news. On the other end of the line was the consulate's head Foreign Service National (FSN) who told me in a hoarse, sleep-slurred voice that the owner of a local "hotel" (don't remember the name) had reported that he had a young dead American man in one of his rooms. I said, OK, asked him to call our chief local security man, get a driver, and meet at my residence in 30 minutes.

A little before 4 am, the men arrived. The security man, a big, bluff former Pakistani Army officer, asked me in a low voice, "OK, to take her?" Mohammed pointed at a cabinet.

"Her" was my M-1 carbine which he thought was the coolest, neatest looking gun on the planet. He much preferred having "her" slung over his shoulder than merely packing his 9mm Beretta. I agreed. He gleefully pulled "her" out of the cabinet, slapped in one of my 15-round mags, racked a 110 grain soft point round, and slung "her" over his shoulder. He was happy.

We climbed into the armored Suburban. I kept my eyes closed for most of the twenty or so minute trip down the narrow and very dark roads of the bazaar. We arrived at the "hotel," a narrow door in a wall, under a weak bare lightbulb, in the heart of the bazaar. The owner was waiting for us. I remember being struck by how much he looked like the executed former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali-Bhutto. We walked into the small poorly lit "lobby" which consisted of a cluttered desk and a rickety staircase which led to the rooms.

I asked "Zulfikar" about the dead American. He said he was upstairs. I asked how he knew the man was dead.

"He hasn't come out in four, maybe five days. Some friend of his was just here knocking on the door. There was no answer. He owes me rent."

"OK, let's go see."

"Zulfikar" led the way, with my carbine-bearing security officer next, and I last. Our FSN stayed in the lobby to call the duty officer at the Embassy in Islamabad to let him know we were working a dead citizen case.

We got to the door and stood there. We looked stupidly at each other for several seconds.

"Open the door, please," I said to "Zulfikar."

"I haven't a key. He has the only one."

"OK. What do we do?"

"Consulate doesn't have a key?"

"No. Why would we?"

The hotel owner seemed genuinely disappointed. His child-like faith in the mighty United States apparently had been rudely shattered.

Mohammed took charge of the situation.

"Stand back!"

Before "Zulfikar" could object, Mohammed delivered a swift kick to the flimsy door. It flew open, the frame exploding in a shower of splinters. We walked in. I remember the smell in that windowless room. It was strong and putrid; I had trouble not gagging. "Zulfikar," bemoaning his door, flipped on the bulb that hung from the ceiling.

"Oh, God," I blurted out.

In the harsh light, we could see dirty clothes, drug paraphernalia strewn about, and a clump of what looked like heroin on a piece of newspaper on the floor. On a charpoy against the wall lay the body of a young white man, now becoming a bit darker. The body had begun to swell giving the dead man a vaguely Hulk-like look.

He wore a dark and now tight shirt with a left-front pocket. Jutting from the pocket was what looked like a passport. I wrapped my hand in a Kleenex, and eased over to the body. Trying not to breathe, I pulled the booklet out.

Relief!

"He's not ours!" I shouted. "We're out of here!"

"What about my door?" Zulfikar yelled after us as we thundered down the stairs.

"I'll call the XXXX embassy. I am sure they'll pay."

Once back in the residence, I called the duty officer at our Embassy in Islamabad. Told him the dead man wasn't ours; he should call the XXXX embassy, tell them they had a dead citizen, and a door to repair.

A stupid and useless death for a young man in a remote place: Probably not how he had foreseen the arc of his life.