11/17/12

Printed Words Preserve History

By: T F Stern
T F Stern’s Rantings

When I was growing up; mind you, I’ve never quite gotten there; but when I was packaged in a youthful frame, I enjoyed turning pages in my folk’s Compton’s Encyclopedias. These books are old; more accurately, these books are beyond ancient. I only mention the encyclopedia set because my mother said she’d looked up something in them the other day; yes, she still has this wonderful set of history books. Since she doesn’t use the Internet, they’re the closest thing to a Boolean search available to her.

Books keep the history of the world neatly bundled between the covers in a bound set of printed pages. Unlike the digital age we now live in where all you have to do is Google a key word and follow the links; investigating a subject took a little more effort. The old Comptons marked a place in time; no moment to moment updates and certainly no interactive opportunities.

Most of the photographs were in black and white; but then again, so were most of the television sets in my youth. (I apologize for having breathed out loudly enough to where you may have heard the years passing.)

To give you an idea of how old my parent’s Compton’s are, the Pan American Clipper was listed as a modern marvel which opened the world to air travelers. I recall seeing a picture of this magnificent machine landing in New York’s harbor.

Since we’re trying to emulate Europe in every way now, perhaps I should add a “u” to harbor and ease the way for our transition toward that end, “harbour;” but I’ll get to how folks are re-writing history a little later.

Pat O’brian starred in the movie, China Clipper, “based on the true story of Pan American Airlines. China Clipper was released in (1936), only a year after the first transpacific flight in history.” It’s the story of the American can-do spirit with real men pushing themselves to the limit in order to bring about fulfillment of their capitalistic dreams; but in today’s version of, “You didn’t build it,” this story could never have been made.

The problem with relying on digital storage of information is how easily it can be corrupted. Should we trust history to the digital age?

Take the Benghazi mess which many folks in the Obama administration would just as soon sweep under the rug. The public was told the attack was in response to a YouTube video which spawned a protest, escalated into mob violence and the death of four Americans to include Ambassador Stevens.

United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice stood in front of the world and read the official message, supposedly a statement based upon information supplied by CIA Director David Petraeus and approved by the White House; basically saying, “We don’t really know what happened and are looking into it,” which as we have learned, isn’t exactly the truth.

Since that statement, we’ve found the White House had a live video feed of the attack, an attack which lasted several hours, and they knew all along it was a terrorist attack which had nothing to do with an Islamic protest over an obscure video. The entire mess apparently was associated with some black bag gun running operation being carried out at a CIA safe house; never let the facts get in the way of a news story.

We’ve also learned how short the public’s memory is when it comes to major news items. Give the major news outlets credit; they’ve covered for Obama very well. Disinformation is the name of the game rather than news reporting. At each turn of the calendar, a different spin has created the illusion that this administration is searching for the truth when in fact they are doing their level best to make sure the truth is never found.

If the truth is ever brought to light regarding what actually happened during the Benghazi massacre, Obama could very likely be impeached and many in his administration could face prison time for their roll in the coverup; but I’m getting ahead of myself.

This week in a closed door appearance before Congress, David Petraeus, former CIA Director opened the door to further speculation according to an AP story.

“Petraeus testified that the CIA draft written in response to the raid referred to militant groups Ansar al-Shariah and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), but those names were replaced with the word “extremist” in the final draft, according to a congressional staffer. The staffer said Petraeus testified that he allowed other agencies to alter the talking points as they saw fit without asking for final review, to get them out quickly.”

So who changed the information? The authorization to change something this important would be limited to very few and most likely it would have come from a member of the White House staff, perhaps Obama himself.

Speculating who changed key words on an official statement is about all we can do. I’m waiting for a weak link to surface; someone who doesn’t want to go to prison without clearing his/her conscience. History has shown it could take quite a long time for that weak link to offer up the real guilty parties and that might be forty years down the road as a death bed confession.

Then again there’s always the convenient death by induced heart attack or automobile accident to get rid of dangerous political witnesses. If you know the truth, watch your back. When dealing with treacherous regimes, nothing is off the table and the Obama administration was built with Chicago gangster methods since day one.

How will history be kept for future generations? Will it be recorded in black and white as printed words on paper, an encyclopedia with pages to turn or as flexible cyber documents reduced to Ones and Zeroes which can be easily altered to match the desires of those in power?

This article has been cross-posted to The Moral Liberal, a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government & The American Constitution.”

11/17/12

From Israel: It’s Not Over Yet

Arlene from Israel

It appears that our leadership is serious this time around, and that at this point we’re doing OK. This is a major operation we’re in the midst of in Gaza.

I shared its goals, as spelled out by Defense Minister Barak, last week, and share them again now as Foreign Minister Lieberman has put it:

[] to restore the calm in Israel’s south
[] reinstate Israel’s deterrence
[] destroy the stockpiles of long-range missiles belonging to Gaza terror groups

And I emphasize once again that the last one on the list is of critical importance and makes it imperative that we keep going. Not enough to have calm if they would be able to hit again in a week or a month.

Elaborating, Lieberman said: “The only way we can achieve peace and security is to create real deterrence via a crushing response that will make sure they don’t try to test us again.”

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It is not certain yet whether there will be a ground operation, but the fact that 75,000 reserve troops have been called up and tanks have been brought near the border with Gaza makes it a reasonable likelihood.

Lieberman says that if we do go in, we won’t pull out until the job is done.

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Since the beginning of the operation Wednesday night, roughly 750 rockets have been launched from Gaza into Israel — almost 500 have struck and 250 have been intercepted by Iron Dome.

There were 150 rockets launched against Israel over Shabbat. Ten people — including four soldiers — were lightly injured and four homes were hit.

Last night the siren went off in Jerusalem, but the rocket that was apparently aimed at our Golden City ended up landing in Gush Etzion.

This morning another rocket was headed towards Tel Aviv but was intercepted by an Iron Dome unit that had just been installed there.

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I am having trouble locating the approximate number of strikes the Air Force has done in Gaza since Wednesday night — I’ve seen numbers ranging from 500 to 900.

Overnight, the IDF targeted approximately 150 medium-range rocket launching sites as well as ammunition storage facilities across the Gaza Strip.

During the day today, the Air Force targeted multiple sites as well as key personnel. Long range rocket and missile storage sites have been hit in substantial number, along with tunnels and launching sites.

This morning, reports the IDF (www.idf.il), “the senior member of Hamas’ Air Defense Unit, Mohammed Kaleb, was targeted… In addition, a major Hamas base in the southern Gaza Strip was targeted.

“A short while ago…a senior Hamas operative in charge of the terror organization’s smuggling operations, and who was actively involved in its armament build-up was targeted in the southern Gaza Strip.”

Also hit was the Hamas headquarters, which included the offices of Ismail Haniyeh, political head of Hamas. The building was leveled but he was not there — almost certainly he is underground. As well, the home of Ahmed Randor – chief of Hamas’ northern command — was hit; the fact that secondary explosions followed indicates that he was storing weaponry or related explosives.

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What we can now anticipate is a steady stream of international figures who will come here to Israel to push for a ceasefire. This is nervous-making. The international community should stay out of it and let us do what we need to do.

Hamas leaders have reportedly rejected several international proposals brought to them for a cease fire: they are continuing to demonstrate a belligerency that means we must keep going. I picked up from one reliable source information about Hamas demands for acceptance of a ceasefire that included the end of the Israeli blockade of Gaza in the Mediterranean. If this is true, it is a joke: We should take out their weapons and then let them bring in new ones by sea, right?

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It is important to point out, as figures are released on the number of Israeli civilians vs. the number civilians in Gaza who have been killed, why there will always be an imbalance, with more dead in Gaza:

We protect our civilians. We sound sirens to give them warnings. We provide shelters for them to run to. We give advice on how to be safe and close schools in areas at risk. In certain areas — notably Sderot — we have reinforced homes and other buildings.

Hamas does none of this to protect their civilians. Instead, Hamas deliberately sets up situations that make their civilians more vulnerable. For Hamas, the fact of dead civilians is a weapon to use against Israel — they care not a bit for the lives of these people.

These basic facts should never be forgotten.

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As might have been expected, I have received a huge number of communications about the current situation, and would like to address a couple of matters here:

First, I do hope that it is clear that I do not have Netanyahu’s ear. Thus, telling me what Israel “should” do or “must” do is pointless.

And then, in particular, is it pointless to say that Israel should “get rid of all of them now,” “wipe them out as they would wipe Israel out,” etc.

In terms of “taking them out,” there are, first, several practical, logistical factors to address:

It must be understood that we are not talking about a standing army that can simply be bombed from overhead or confronted in direct battle. Those days are gone.

Though Hamas’s military wing has over time shaped up to be more professional, more like an army, it is essentially composed of guerilla forces. That is, there is no way to identify who is in that “army” — they don’t wear uniforms and congregate in organized fashion. They are often underground, or hiding in civilian homes or even in schools and hospitals. The only way to “get them all” would be to send in our boys to do a house by house, building by building search — a horrendous prospect that would still be less than totally effective.

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For those who suggest we just wipe everyone out, including civilians, I protest most vociferously that Israel never will operate this way — but quite the contrary. There is no nation on earth more concerned with protecting civilians when fighting.

This does not make us “naive,” as has been suggested to me. It means that we are honoring our own moral standard and the international law of the Geneva Conventions on War. The fact that our enemy cares about neither morality nor law does not mean we have to stoop to becoming what they are. We can hold our heads high because of what we are, and work to defend ourselves while applying those standards.

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Is there an inequity built into our battle with groups such as Hamas (just as American soldiers struggle with inequities when confronting such terrorists as the Taliban)? There is. For they fight “dirty.” But we guard ourselves the best we can.

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As to taking back all of Gaza, which has been suggested by a small handful of readers — this transcends what is practical right now for a host of reasons, including the difficulties I’ve already described above. A sure way to step into an extensive quagmire, would be to attempt to “take” a Gaza that is riddled with terrorist groups.

Better, make them afraid of us, and eliminate the most dangerous weapons they have to use against us, and work to prevent them from re-arming.

On that note, there have been thoughts (which I mention here purely speculatively) with regard not to taking Gaza in totality, but the Philadelphi Corridor, which is the small strip of land that runs along the border between Gaza and the Sinai. Controlling that once again would enable us to take out the smuggling tunnels that run beneath that area and are used for bringing in weapons.

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Lastly, on this subject, I remind everyone that we are still confronting the issue of Iran — even though it seems to have fallen off the radar screen at the moment.

On the one hand, better to eliminate the ability of terror groups in Gaza to hit us hard with rockets in case the decision is subsequently made to take on Iran. The assumption has long been that Iran, if attacked, would give orders for these groups to launch attack on us, to weaken and distract us.

On the other hand, since we still may have to confront that greater enemy, it would be very unwise to embroil ourselves in that quagmire, so that our resources would be depleted and our focus drawn elsewhere for an extended period. What we do now has to be relatively quick.

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One reader, Susie R., sent me an insightful comment that I want to share here. I had said that the world doesn’t care if Jews die. She says that the world never cares who dies. And indeed, in Africa, in Syria, in many places there are large numbers of people dying, and the world remains oblivious.

What the world cares about, she says, is who does the killing: “If Jews do the killing (self-defense, pro-active) or even engage in self-protection in which no one necessarily dies (security fences, checkpoints), the world goes nuts.”

I thank her for this point.

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Lastly, but of special significance, I make a request for prayers on behalf of Israel during this time. From your heart.

One reader, Menachem K., a Jewish educator, believes Psalm 20 is especially good: “I know that the Lord will give victory to his anointed…They call on chariots, they call on horses, but we call on the name of the Lord our God. They collapse and lie fallen, but we rally and gather strength. O Lord, grant victory!”

11/17/12

Is Petraeus Scandal an Obama Scandal?

By: Roger Aronoff
Accuracy in Media

The news media are continuing to try to protect the Obama administration from a rapidly growing scandal. A November 13th article in The Washington Post by Scott Wilson argued that Obama “has been untouched by the unfolding investigation involving former CIA director David Petraeus,” a view that belongs on the opinion page under the heading, “wishful thinking,” not on the news pages.

The stunning news from November 9th that CIA Director David Petraeus had resigned over an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, a former Army intelligence officer and a former lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, has become the source of numerous theories and psychological questioning of what makes powerful people tick. But it is actually proving to be a second shot at what should have been treated as a major Obama administration scandal prior to the November 6th election, the situation surrounding the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya on September 11 this year, as I argued in a column last week.

Why, in light of two previous attacks this year on our consulate in Benghazi, did we keep it open, and not provide the added security that Ambassador Chris Stevens pleaded for? Why, knowing that he was on an al-Qaeda hit list, was our consulate not better protected, especially in light of a secret August 16th cable he sent to Hillary Clinton’s office at the State Department pointing out that there were “approximately ten Islamist militias and AQ training camps within Benghazi?” Why did the administration for weeks try to argue that this was the result of a spontaneous demonstration that got out of hand, which was, as Susan Rice called it, a copy-cat demonstration of the one earlier in the day in Egypt, supposedly over a little seen anti-Muslim video trailer made in the U.S.?

The bar for what is considered a scandal was cited in an Atlantic Wire article last year, as being when the word “scandal” is on the front page of The Washington Post. In the case of Obama, according to this definition, even Operation Fast & Furious and Solyndra didn’t qualify as scandals.

The Post’s Scott Wilson wrote that the Petraeus “scandal hinges on a personal relationship beyond the White House and has not implicated the president or his closest advisers.” That is where Wilson, the Post and most of the media have missed the big picture.

The Post reported on the front page on November 13th that Petraeus had planned to continue in his job as CIA director if his affair with Broadwell did not go public, and he was apparently led to believe it would not go public.

Charles Krauthammer, a columnist for the Post, in his role as a Fox News analyst, saw that information as being very revealing: “It meant that he understood that the FBI obviously knew what was going on…and that he understood that his job, his reputation, his legacy, his whole celebrated life was in the hands of the administration, and he expected they would protect him by keeping it quiet.”

Krauthammer continued: “And that brings us to the ultimate issue, and that is his testimony on September 13. That’s the thing that connects the two scandals, and that’s the only thing that makes the sex scandal relevant. Otherwise it would be an exercise in sensationalism and voyeurism and nothing else. The reason it’s important is here’s a man who knows the administration holds his fate in its hands, and he gives testimony completely at variance with what the Secretary of Defense had said the day before, at variance with what he’d heard from his station chief in Tripoli, and with everything that we had heard. Was he influenced by the fact that he knew his fate was held by people within the administration at that time?”

Now that the Petraeus adultery scandal has emerged, it is bringing all these issues to the forefront, with an emboldened Republican Party that doesn’t believe the President when he says he knew nothing about the Petraeus affair until the day after the election. It’s not just Republicans, as many in the media are just as incredulous. Ron Kessler, for example, a former reporter for The Washington Post, now with Newsmax, wrote the day following Petraeus’s resignation, “FBI agents on the case expected that Petraeus would be asked to resign immediately rather than risk the possibility that he could be blackmailed to give intelligence secrets to foreign intelligence agencies or criminals. In addition, his pursuit of the woman could have distracted him as the CIA was giving Congress reports on the attack on the Benghazi consulate on Sept. 11.”

Kessler has written several books on the FBI, the CIA and the Secret Service, and is known to have excellent sources inside the FBI. He added that “FBI agents on the case were aware that such a decision had been made to hold off on forcing him out until after the election and were outraged.”

It is just not believable that Attorney General Eric Holder knew about the affair and the investigation in late summer, and the FBI knew about it at least since May, yet the President was kept in the dark that his CIA director was under investigation. If that is what happened, then heads should roll for incompetence, and leaving the head of the CIA in a vulnerable position while the President of the United States was unaware.

Holder finally offered an explanation publicly on November 15th. He said the Justice Department does “not share outside the Justice Department, outside the FBI, the facts of ongoing investigations.” He said he “made the determination as we were going through that there was not a threat to national security.” As the Post reported, “Because of that conclusion there was no reason to advise officials outside the department before the investigation was complete.”

Apparently he felt it was finally complete enough to go to the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper Jr. on late afternoon of Election Day. Clapper then told the President the following day. But then how is it that it was only this week, on November 12th, that the FBI went to Ms. Broadwell’s home to search her computer for classified materials? It is those sorts of questions that make it implausible that an investigation to figure out if this posed a national security threat would not have been brought to the attention of the President.

Today, Petraeus went before the House and Senate Intelligence committees to clarify how the message of what the administration knew and when they knew it became so tangled. The issue was attempting to square what he was said to have told Congress back on September 13th with what is now known to be the case. Back then, it was reported that Petraeus said the attack on the consulate resulted from a demonstration, akin to a “flashmob,” sparked by the anti-Islam video, and not a planned terrorist act.

Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said that Petraeus claimed that he had said early on that the attack on the consulate was a result of terrorism. But King seemed puzzled, saying that he remembered Petraeus playing down the role of an al-Qaeda affiliate during his September 13th testimony.

According to Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV) of the House Intelligence Committee, who attended Petraeus’s September 13 appearance and today’s, the initial talking points that the CIA released went through an editing process before being given to UN Ambassador Susan Rice, who addressed the media on the Sunday following the attack. Heck said they didn’t know for sure who edited the talking points, but President Obama said at his press conference on Wednesday that Rice “made an appearance at the request of the White House in which she gave her best understanding of the intelligence that had been provided to her. If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me. And I’m happy to have that discussion with them. But for them to go after the U.N. ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received, and to besmirch her reputation is outrageous.”

In other words, President Obama was taking the credit for whatever “presentation” Rice made during her talk show appearances. Rep. Heck told Fox News, “The initial talking points, which were put together in an unclassified format at the request of the House Intelligence Committee initially did state that al-Qaeda affiliated groups were involved, however, we understand that by the time it went through its editing process after it left Langley (CIA), that reference was taken out.” He added that Petraeus made clear and emphasized this morning that “the initial intelligence reporting which stated that the incident grew out of a spontaneous demonstration or protest was proven to be false. There was no protest outside the gates prior to the attack starting. And that became apparent after the interviews of individuals that were at the compound as well as after being able to view the surveillance videotape of the embassy outpost.”

Was Petraeus changing his story and no longer parroting the White House’s line? That remained unclear, but it certainly appears that he changed his tune. Another oddity was the timing of an announcement by the CIA on Thursday, the day before Petraeus would be talking to the committees for the first time since his resignation, that the CIA inspector general would be conducting an investigation into his conduct. Another warning to toe the party line?

On that same day, Andrea Mitchell raised the question of Petraeus’s responsibility in an interview with Democratic Senator Kent Conrad. “What is David Petraeus’s responsibility for this?” asked Mitchell. “There is some suggestion that General Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, was already concerned that the CIA was putting out its defense without checking with other agencies for the way Benghazi was handled. And also that the White House is not happy with the CIA for giving talking points to Susan Rice that got her into this political difficulty on the Sunday morning talk shows. Do you think the agency should bear some responsibility or is this scapegoating after the fact?” Even Sen. Conrad was amused by Mitchell’s spin.

It remains to be seen how this plays out. Republicans are calling for a Watergate-type select committee, meaning that instead of Armed Services, Intelligence and Homeland Security each holding separate hearings, there would be one committee with members from each of those committees represented. Also, the lead would come from the House, rather than the Senate, which would leave the Republicans in charge to determine the witnesses and schedule, rather than having Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid once again running interference for the Obama White House.

This is not what President Obama had in mind for his second term in office.

Roger Aronoff is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and can be contacted at roger.aronoff@aim.org.