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A Time for Reflection – More Than a Decade of War

I know that we’ve intermittently talked about this before, but now seems to be a perfect time to discuss our wars with Iraq (our troops are coming home, finally) and Afghanistan. Make no mistake, we were definitely attacked on September 11, 2001. A group of 19 terrorists with the aid of Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda and the Taliban took down the World Trade Center, tore a huge hole in the Pentagon and crashed an airliner into a rural portion of Pennsylvania. We now know that these acts of terrorism set in motion a cascade of events which have cost the American people well over $1.5 trillion. 6200 American soldiers have died. Tens of thousands of American soldiers have been wounded. What did we get in return?

When you invest blood and sweat into a project, you should at least hope to get something out of it. Stability in the Middle East? A thriving economy in Afghanistan? At the time of the Iraq invasion, many Americans believed that we were invading Iraq in order to secure their oil. Do we have secure oil agreements in place? Did we, at least, improve our relationships with other governments in the Middle East?

Some of these questions don’t really have answers. Others of these questions do have answers and the answers, unfortunately, are depressing. We spent a lot of time and effort and nearly destroyed our military in the process. We have simply the death of Osama bin Laden and several of his lieutenants to show for our efforts. Questions like whether we madr terrorism worse still linger. Now is the time for us to figure out what we did wrong. We should also assess what we did right. We need to make sure that we do not repeat the same mistakes which led to the disastrous decisions to invade both of those countries. I would submit that we could have infiltrated Afghanistan with a couple hundred to a couple of thousand troops with appropriate air support and eliminated Osama bin Laden and most of Al Qaeda within a matter of weeks or months. I don’t know. What I do know is that spending $1.5 trillion and losing over 6000 troops, breaking our military and getting almost nothing in return is unacceptable.

By |2011-12-16T19:13:00-04:00December 16th, 2011|Afghanistan, Bin Laden, Iraq, Terrorism|Comments Off on A Time for Reflection – More Than a Decade of War

9/11 – My Beginning

I’ve spent most of today reading and reflecting on my education over the last decade. I don’t remember the first time I heard the word Al Qaeda. I don’t remember the first time I ever heard the name Osama bin Laden. I do remember where I was on September 11, 2001. I had been up most of the night taking care of trauma patients and I was sleeping in the morning. The phone rang and it was my mother-in-law. She is and was the Sentinel. She was always scanning the news. She called to tell us to turn on the TV. She said something terrible happened in New York. I thought she was crazy and misunderstood what she had seen. I handed the phone to my wife as I grabbed the remote control and turned on the television.

I’m sure over the next several days that there’s going to be lots of blogs and television shows which are going to reflect on what has happened in the last 10 years. The New York Times is already started the series on 9/11. I just want to revisit some of the information and data that we’ve learned over the last 10 years. I’m not going to spend much time talking about the Patriot Act and how it has been abused over the last decade. I’m not going to talk about civil liberties and how Republicans have taken advantage of 9/11. I’m sure that these topics will be adequately covered by many others in the blogosphere.

In my opinion, the key to understanding the failure of 9/11 lies in the arrest and interrogation of Ramzi Yousef. Ramzi Yousef was the mastermind behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Once he was captured, authorities began to see into the mind of a Muslim extremist. Ramzi Yousef was associated with Osama bin Laden. The uncle of Ramzi Yousef was Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. After escaping the country in 1993, Ramzi Yousef attempted an assassination of Benazir Bhutto in the summer of 1993. He then attempted to bomb an Israeli embassy in Bangkok, Thailand. These attempts failed. Yousef, a Sunni Muslim, bombed a Shiite holy site in Iran in June of 1994. He then made his way to Malaysia, where he began to plot the Bojinka plan (also known as the Manila plot). He and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed planned to blow up 12 US airliners as they flew over the Pacific Ocean. As they were preparing their 12 bombs, a fire broke out in Yousef’s apartment. One thing led to another and authorities got a treasure’s trove of information from his apartment.

At the very least, authorities have an opportunity to see what one man was capable of doing around the world. The mistake that was made was that everyone assumed that this was just one man and not a movement. Only a few in the intelligence community understood that he was one of many. It wasn’t until 1998, the embassy bombings, that many in the United States began to take notice that this was a serious threat. For some, it took until 2000, the USS Cole bombing before they believed that Al Qaeda would stop at nothing.

Ramzi Yoursef is currently in a maximum-security prison in Colorado.

How did you first become aware of Al Qaeda or Bin Laden or the fact that we were a serious target? Where were you 10 years ago?

More tomorrow on 9/11 and Al Qaeda.

By |2011-09-04T21:02:13-04:00September 4th, 2011|9-11, Al Qaeda, Bin Laden, National Intelligence|Comments Off on 9/11 – My Beginning

More on Torture – McCain from the floor of the Senate

As I mentioned almost two weeks ago, we needed to wait until more of the facts were available before coming to a definitive conclusion concerning the role of “enhanced interrogation techniques” in the eventual killing of Osama bin Laden. On one hand, you have Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Cheney and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey stating that the trail to bin Laden started with the waterboarding of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. On the other hand, you have a recent Washington Post op-ed by former POW Senator John McCain, in which states, “I asked CIA Director Leon Panetta for the facts, and he told me the following: The trail to bin Laden did not begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times. The first mention of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti — the nickname of the al-Qaeda courier who ultimately led us to bin Laden — as well as a description of him as an important member of al-Qaeda, came from a detainee held in another country, who we believe was not tortured. None of the three detainees who were waterboarded provided Abu Ahmed’s real name, his whereabouts or an accurate description of his role in al-Qaeda.”

Both sides of this torture debate are probably wrong. Intelligence and torture are not parts of an all-or-nothing proposal. There are multiple shades of gray. Was everything that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed spewed out under torture wrong? I doubt it. I think that he probably did give us some valuable information. On the other hand, could we have possibly gathered information from Khalid Shaikh Mohammed through other methods? Probably. Our interrogators seem to be very skilled at garnering information over a period of time.

Our moral compass seems to have been broken for some time. We’ve adopted a “win at any cost” type of mentality. It is as if we were prominently playing some sort of reality game. Whether it is reelecting Senator David Vitter or Representative William “cash in my freezer” Jefferson because he is a senior politician and will bring more money to the state, it is simply wrong. Why the good people of Arizona are putting up with the craziness of Senator John Ensign who has proven himself to be unfit to represent anyone is beyond me. In the name of laissez-faire capitalism and open markets, we allowed the American people to get ripped off for over $13 trillion in which Wall Street banks got rich and the rest of us got to see our housing nest eggs depreciate in value.

Torture is wrong.
Wherever you want to draw that line in the sand (on one side there’s torture and the other side there is no torture), I want to be far away from that dividing line. Now, conservatives always come up with the 24-hour scenario (based on the Kiefer Sutherland series 24 hours). What if you detain a terrorist who you “know” has information about an impending terrorist attack? Getting that information will save hundreds, if not thousands, of American lives. What you do? In my opinion, you get special permission from Congress to use your enhanced interrogation techniques on this specific terrorist at this specific point in time. I’m hoping that we can find our moral compass before it is too late.

By |2011-05-13T12:45:37-04:00May 13th, 2011|Bin Laden, Party Politics, Torture|Comments Off on More on Torture – McCain from the floor of the Senate
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