Tuesday, August 17, 2004

CNN.com - Bush announces major troop realignment - Aug 16%2C 2004

CNN.com - Bush announces major troop realignment - Aug 16%2C 2004

I am of two minds (in case anyone wanted to know) about this troop announcement. Having served in the military in Europe during the time the Soviet Union was imploding, I can see the need to bring the troops home and leave but a token force in their place. Europe boarders are largely porous now and Russia presents little threat. It will take time to bring them home because Army and Air Force personnel were allowed to bring tier families with. It will take time to outfit U.S. bases to accommodate that many soldiers and airman and their families, not to mention the support infrastructure that must be bolstered.

As far as Korea is concerned; bad move. The country is on the verge of sometime and it isn’t good; pulling out U.S. troops at a time when the North Koreans have signaled by spotlight that they are developing nuclear weapons is just foolish. We have already started moving troops back from the DMZ (demilitarized zone), but the North has a million men under arms, and at least that many artillery pieces. Invading the South would be a small detail; just firing a few rounds over the DMZ would be enough to upset the world economy. After all South Korea has the world’s fifth largest economy and is a center for steel, automobiles, electronics, textiles, and shipbuilding. And strategically its position vis-à-vis Japan cannot be discounted or ignored; you know Japan, the country with the world’s third largest economy.

It is rumored the North Korea is soon to be in possession of six old Russian missile submarines (my guess is Delta class SSBN’s), and according to Jane’s Defense Weekly is working on an SLBM with a range of some 1000 nautical miles. If left unchecked a nuclear capable North Korea would destabilize the entire Pacific Ocean basin, from the Bearing Sea to Australia, from the Asian landmass to California.

Funny how is was imperative for use to invade Iraq because Saddam MAY have had WMD, but the other two countries that constitute the so-called Axis of Evil, that have confirmed that they have nuclear weapons programs underway, we leave well enough alone. And instead of putting more troops into South Korea as a deterrent and incentive to negotiate, we pull them out. Make sense to anyone?

Monday, August 16, 2004

As Americans, It is Up to All of Us to be Well Informed and Thoughtful

Richard Clarke closes his much (wrongly) maligned book Against All Enemies; Inside America’s War on Terror with the following paragraph: “[a]s Americans, it is up to all of us to be well informed and thoughtful, to help out country make the right decisions in this time of testing. We all need to recommit ourselves to that ancient pledge ‘to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States of American, Against All Enemies…”

I remember when Clarke, a career Civil Servant who has served under four Presidents released this book. The Republican pundits and Bush Administration officials alike, lined up in lockstep spreading all sorts of malicious trash about the man in an effort to undermine his creditability and question his motivations. Nowhere were theses attacks on Clarke more vicious then on Fox News. To a certain extent the attacks worked, insofar as not enough Americans have read this book, and took to heart its message. And we all need to read this book; that is if we truly care about our national safety.

In Against All Enemies; Inside America’s War on Terror Clarke says that he is telling a personal story, one that led him first to the Sate Department where he held a number of high ranking positions, the then to the White House where he worked the counterterrorism problem for some ten year, under three different Presidents, becoming the first Director of Counterterrorism under Clinton. If anyone knows how Usama bin Laden and his ever growing gang of murders think, it is him, and those who served with and under him. As far as I can tell he has no agenda other than the truth and the safeguarding of America.

What I learned by reading Against All Enemies; Inside America’s War on Terror is the startling, and often troubling history of our governments struggle against fundamentalist Islam, a struggle that begin with the ineffectual responses by President Reagan. I was in the military at the time the Marines barracks was bombed and could never understand why we didn’t respond to the bombing in like kind, despite the massive lose of life (what is little known is that the Marines were told not to chamber rounds in their rifels and had no clips in their guns when they were attacked). Now I understand our response, or lack thereof, and the disastrous consequences that have ensued.

Book Excerpt:

Wolfowitz fidgeted and scowled…”Well, I just don’t want understand why we are beginning by talking about this one man bin Laden.”

“We are talking about a network of terrorist organizations call al Qaeda, that happens to be led by bin Laden, and we are talking about that network because it and it alone poses an immediate and serious threat to the United States, I answered…

Wolfowitz turned to me. “You give bin Laden too much credit. He could not do all these things like the 1993 attack on New York, not without a state sponsor. Just because FBI and CIA failed to find the linkage doesn’t mean they don’t exist.” I could hardly believe it, but Wolfowitz was actually spouting the totally discredited Laurie Mylroie theory hat Iraq was behind the 1993 truck bomb at the World Trade Center, a theory that has been investigated for years and found to be totally untrue.

End Book Excerpt

Clarke lays it all out in easy to verify facts that paint a picture of neglect from Reagan to Bush Jr. Many Republicans have decried his treatment of Clinton in the book, stating that he let Clinton off the hook. Never mind that what Clinton did during his tenure is a matter of fact. But Clarke does not let Clinton off the hook, he is critical of the former President for not leaning on the CIA and FBI enough, and for allowing the Monica Lewinski scandal to diminish his political capital.

Critics had tented to focus on his treatment of Bush Jr., and true Clarke has few kind things to say about him, but Bush flubbing of the War against Terror are well documented. What Clarke does is give us a behind the scenes look at what Bush’s ill conceived decision to invade Iraq have done to U.S. security, and the over all War on Terror, and why after three years of fighting in Afghanistan we are not safer as a nation.

Then too Clarke writes volumes about the failures in the FBI, CIA, State Department, Justice Department etc. to take the terrorist threat seriously enough to end the incessant infighting long enough to form a united front and do something about it. And this was never more pervasive then under the current Bush Administration, where, yes, terrorism was not on the front burner until the tragedy of 9/11.

It is clear after reading the book, that our (Americans in general) ignorance of the fundamentalism Islamic movement might well be our undoing. They do have an agenda, and it is not just to kill Americans, it is world domination as absurd as that may sound. But in Against All Enemies; Inside America’s War on Terror, Clarke makes a convincing case that this is Usama’s and his followers intent, their long sought after goal, and a study of Islam and it spread at the fall of the Roman Empire will bear him out.

We are at a crucial nexus in our nation’s history. Vexing problems beset out society from within and without and this general election is perhaps the most important in our Republic’s history. I do not hide my distain for the sitting President and his Administration. I believe they have endangered this country with arrogance, inept leadership, and a plentitude of unwise decisions most of which have left the United States in a position of being scorned, ridiculed, disrespected and feared. We owe it to ourselves, or children, and each other to go into this election armed with knowledge and understanding; in short to be informed and informed well.

By writing Against All Enemies; Inside America’s War on Terror Richard Clarke has attempted to do just that, inform the American public. I implore you not to dismiss this book out of hand out of loyalty to Party; read it with an objective eye, and open mind. The future of the Republic depends on an informed electorate, be informed!

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Outfoxed: What Liberal Media?

Where to begin? Ordinarily I would not undertake to review a documentary within the virtual walls of this forum, but Outfoxed; Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism, a film which takes an objective look at Fox News, is a one well worth heralding because its message affects us all as Americans, especially in the run-up to the crucial elections in November.

I do not regularly watch Fox News, because of three overriding reasons; 1). their slant on the news is decidedly biased towards the right; 2). the O’Reilly Factor with Bill O’Reilly, and; 3). Hannity & Colmes with Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes. I consider both O’Reilly and Hannity liars and bullies in the worst tradition of elementary School playground childhood interaction, and the rest of the major Fox News on-air personalities are not far behind.

It is an open secret that Fox News is neither “fair” or “balanced.” How can it be when Hannity opens his show with a countdown to how many days it will be until Bush is reelected, and O’Reilly regularly and habitually bullies his guest, and yells at them the shut-up, and when they don’t, has their microphones cut? I am left wondering: is this the Jerry Springer Show or a place where the issues are debated fairly and without an agenda by the host(s)? The later is true of course, O’Reilly, Hannity, Brit Hume (whom I used to respect), Geraldo Rivera (who I have never thought mush of ), and the entire Fox News organization have an agenda, and that is to be the 24-hour mouthpiece of the Republican Party and its ever increasing lean to the right of center. It is almost as if the term fair and balanced is used to mock those gullible enough to watch the news channel.

The documentary Outfoxed examines Fox News from a number of different angles, starting with its owner, openly right leaning, naturalized American citizen Rupert Murdoch owner of international News Corporation. But the documentary is not content to examine Fox News from the outside; it delves into the meat of the network, interviewing a number of former Fox News producers, and news reporters/local news anchormen, in order to get their perspective. And it dissects the methods Fox News uses to get their slanted message out to the public at large. But what I found most enlightening is how deeply entrenched Fox News is the Republican Party ethos to the exclusion of any other view point. As Outfoxed shows in glaring detail, Fox News is, once again, nothing more then the 24 hour mouth piece of the Republican Party, the same Party that regular reminds the American people that the “liberal” press is lying to us! How ironic.

The documentary points out that what Fox News is doing is worse than the old Soviet propaganda machine, because at least one knew what the Soviet government was up to: it was suppressing all other view points except its own in a bid to control the populace. What Fox News and the Republican Party are doing is far more insidious and underhanded because it clothes it right wing propaganda in the American flag and calls it news. News that heralds itself as “fair and balanced” however is anything but, even to the most causal observer who cares to pay attention to the world around them.

The most disturbing part of the documentary is when Outfoxed delves into the coverage of election night, 2000 in which Fox News network was the first to call the election in Bush’s favor despite the fact that Florida was still in contention. Fox’s declaration forced the other news organizations to follow suit in very short order, and the documentary points out that this and not the contentious court case to follow, or the war of words, nor the endless debate over counting ballots, was the main reason Bush became President. Why you might ask? Because the declaration set up an expectation, an air of finality that swayed public opinion in Bush’s direction; it is an argument that is hard to refute.

Outfoxed also goes the great lengths to paint Hannity and O’Reilly (especially O’Reilly) with a brush of reality that colors their shows with the bright colors of truth. They are, in the final analysis not journalist at all; they do not seek the truth, nor do they wish to entertain an opinion contrary to their own. They have a Right Wing Republican Party agenda and will do anything, including twisting the truth and outright lie to prove their points. Much like Rush Limbaugh, and the rest of the Conservative political pendants who have little or no real journalism experience, they are in the end, arrogant, loudmouthed bullies and talking heads; mouth pieces of the Republican Party. O’Reilly is especially grating to the sensibilities. Other may find him entertaining, I find him obnoxious and insufferable.

The sort of behaviors exhibited by Fox News on-air personalities would not tolerated nor considered creditable on ABC, CBS, CNN, PBS, or CNN, so why do the American people tolerate it here?

For those would cannot do without their nightly dose of Fox News and claim to love their country, Outfoxed is a documentary well worth their time to watch. And for those of us who think that truly “fair and balanced” news reporting is essential to the proper functioning of our American Republic, Outfoxed is an education in what can happen when the People and the government agency charged with the stewardship of the airwave—the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)—stop paying attention and allow cancers like Fox News to infest the very heart of our democratic process. I, for one, do not like being subtly manipulated by those with interests other then the welfare of the American people and nation in mind. Do you?