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5/16/2011
Stalemate in Libya

My latest at FrontPage.com is up and it concerns the continuing stalemate in Libya despite recent rebel successes.

The taking of Misrata may have relieved the population of constant artillery and tank bombardment but it did not change the strategic situation; the rebels aren’t strong enough to militarily defeat Gaddafi and the dictator dare not mount the kind of offensive that could defeat the rebels lest NATO planes smash his forces.

A sample:

As the war in Libya enters its third month, forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi have finally been pushed out of the rebel-held city of Misrata after a siege lasting for most of the conflict. But the fact that a reversal might take place at any time highlights an emerging truth about the NATO-led action: the only decisive blow that could be struck by the UN forces to end the conflict is the killing of Gaddafi.

Meanwhile, members of the Obama administration will meet with the leadership of the Libyan National Transitional Council in Washington on Friday to underscore American support for the rebels. At the UN, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has called for a ceasefire to address the massive humanitarian crisis caused by the war, especially in the city of Misrata. And despite claims from NATO that they are only hitting “military targets” in Tripoli, another air strike smashed an underground bunker in Gaddafi’s compound just hours after he made an appearance on Libyan television.

The dictator had not been seen in two weeks – since the reported death of his son after a Tomahawk cruise missile struck his living quarters in Tripoli on April 30. This led to speculation, both official and unofficial, that Gaddafi may have been badly injured or killed in the same action.

But Gaddafi appeared in a news clip on Thursday taken at a downtown Tripoli hotel meeting with tribal leaders. While there was no sound from the clip, the camera panned in on a desk clock that read “Wednesday, May 11.” NATO refuses to say whether the air strikes a few hours later were the result of Gaddafi’s appearance. “NATO is not targeting individuals,” Brigadier General Claudio Gabellini was quoted as saying.

While there are reports of unrest in the Gaddafi stronghold of Tripoli, the dictator’s forces appear to have a firm grip on the population and there is little chance that a revolt that might overthrow Gaddafi could erupt in the capitol.

A negotiated solution that leaves Gaddafi in power is becoming more likely as time goes on. About the only thing that would dramatically alter the situation would be the death of Gaddafi - something NATO swears they are not trying to accomplish despite several well placed strikes inside his fortified compound.

One can always hope that the dictator will end up in the wrong place at the wrong time…

By: Rick Moran at 11:51 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

5/11/2011
Thoughts of Draw Down in Post-Osama Afghanistan

My latest is up at FrontPage.com and I examine the impact of OBL’s death on the coming debate over our withdrawal from Afghanistan.

As sample:

When the president announced the 30,000 increase in troops for Afghanistan in December of 2009, it was with the understanding that the number of soldiers to be withdrawn beginning with the July, 2011 target date would depend on both the military success on the ground as well as the progress made by Afghan police and army units in their training. To date, the military is pleased with their counterterrorism strategy that has seen substantial progress in the south, especially in Kandahar province where the Taliban is strongest.

But the success in training the Afghan army and police has been uneven at best. For example, in February, we withdrew units from the Pech Valley in northeastern Afghanistan, turning over security to Afghan forces. Within weeks, the Taliban was back, setting up bases and taking over towns and villages that once had been cleared of them. In some villages, the newly trained police and army simply melted away. While there have been local successes with the new Afghan units, the military believes the training will go on for a decade or more before the Afghans will be able to take complete responsibility for their own security.

But there are some in the administration who believe that bin Laden’s death will change the psychology of the war and lead to a more measured draw down of troops. Outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates calls bin Laden’s death a “gamechanger” and believes that besides delivering a blow to al-Qaeda, the terrorist’s death may make it easier for the Taliban to agree to a negotiated a settlement with President Harmid Karzai’s government. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also sounded optimistic about the salutary effect in Afghanistan as a result of the al-Qaeda leader’s death. “We must take this opportunity to renew our resolve and redouble our efforts,” she said.

Others, like Senator Lindsey Graham, believe now is not the time to pull back, but rather, to increase our efforts. Graham believes the killing of bin Laden has given the US effort in Afghanistan “momentum” and that what “we ought to do is pour it on now.”

But voices in Congress calling for a quick pullout from Afghanistan see bin Laden’s death in a different light. A leading Republican war critic in the House, Representative Jason Chaffetz, wrote that “it was not the 100,000 troops that took out bin Laden.” He believes we can still be effective fighting terrorism even if we bring most of the troops home.

If we wait on the Afghans to take responsibility for their own security, we will be there for a decade. That’s why it appears that we are going to go ahead and remove most of our combat troops by 2014 as Obama promised and give special forces the responsibility of standing up the Afghan army.

Will it work? It has a chance if, at the same time, some of the Taliban can be brought into Karzai’s government. But unless we make things very unpleasant for the Taliban - both in Afghanistan and their sanctuaries in Pakistan - it is more likely that they will just await the right opportunity to mount the kind of final offensive they launched in the early 90’s to take control of the country. We’ve told them when we are leaving , which makes their job that much easier.

If I were Karzai, I’d make sure my life insurance was paid up.

By: Rick Moran at 1:10 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

5/10/2011
THE RICK MORAN SHOW: LET’S MAKE A DEAL

PLEASE NOTE: THE SHOW WILL STREAM ONE HOUR EARLIER THAN USUAL BEGINNING AT 6:00 PM CENTRAL TIME.

You won’t want to miss tonight’s Rick Moran Show, one of the most popular conservative political talk shows on Blog Talk Radio.

Tonight, I welcome Jazz Shaw of Hot Air, Jeff Dunetz of Yid with a Lid, and Monica Showalter of IDB. We’ll discuss the debt ceiling vote as well as the legacy of Osama bin Laden.

The show will air from 7:00 - 8:00 PM Central time. You can access the live stream here. A podcast will be available for streaming or download shortly after the end of the broadcast.

Click on the stream below and join in on what one wag called a “Wayne’s World for adults.”

Also, if you’d like to call in and put your two cents in, you can dial (718) 664-9764.

Listen to The Rick Moran Show on internet talk radio

By: Rick Moran at 4:27 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

5/8/2011
THE DIFFERENCE IN MEANING BETWEEN ‘REGULATION’ AND ‘CONTROL’
CATEGORY: Politics

Oh my. My last post on definitions and meaning seems to have struck a discordant note with the barbarians of the right who, not surprisingly, proved my point deliciously with their responses.

Doug Ross complains that I am the “Ayatollah of diction (?)” for the right and that, au contraire, I just don’t understand what “socialism” is.

Ross:

The path the modern, MoveOn-controlled Democrat Party is on today was presciently described by Stuart Chase in 1942. He wrote that the agenda of the Fabian Socialists — who had launched a counter-revolution against America’s founding — was to create an authoritarian and completely centralized government apparatus. The tenets of the Fabian Socialists were codified as follows:

• Strong, centralized government
• Government-controlled banking, credit and securities exchange (like Dodd-Frank, etc.)
• Government control over employment (like the “Employee Free Choice Act” and NLRB efforts to increase unionization of the workplace)
• Unemployment insurance, old age pensions (like 99-week unemployment benefits, Social Security, easy access to welfare)
• Universal medical care, food and housing programs (like Obamacare, food stamps, HUD)
• Access to unlimited government borrowing (like massive deficits)
• A managed monetary system (like an opaque Federal Reserve)
• Government control over foreign trade (like China tariffs)
• Government control over natural energy sources, transportation and agricultural production (like drilling moratoriums, the EPA’s regime of “Cap-and-Trade”)
• Government regulation of labor (like the Wagner Act, monopolistic power of trade unions, et. al.)
• and Heavy progressive taxation (like our current tax code, the most “progressive” of all Western countries).

Rick, the policies of the modern Democrat Party are absolutely synonymous with Marxism. And that’s not just my opinion, that’s the take of historians and Constitutional attorneys like David Limbaugh and Mark Levin.

First - and I don’t want to harp on trivialities - but for God’s sake if you are going to write about American politics could you please get the name of the political party right? It is not, nor has it ever been the “Democrat” party. It is the Democratic party and has been so since 1800. It does not matter that the epithet has been in general usage. Spreading ignorance is not an excuse for getting the name of one of the major political parties wrong.

To business: What alternate reality is inhabited by Ross and others on the right? In what universe does the government “control” banking, credit, and the stock markets? In which mythical realm does government “control” employment? Or foreign trade? And in what solar system do labor unions equate with “government” and regulating industries is a sign that we are living in Marxist society? Or socialist, for that matter since Ross appears to use the two terms interchangeably.

I suppose the sticking point between us is the word “control.” I asked the teller at the Streator National Bank yesterday which branch of the government the bank president reported to and which government manager hired her when she got her job 6 months ago. Her blank stare in response is all you need to know about the idea that the banks are “controlled” by the government.

Banks are heavily regulated - not nearly enough for some, too much for others. The recent FinReg bill passed by Congress is a horrible piece of legislation - overregulating smaller financial companies while cozying up with the big banks with the kind of crony capitalism the Obama administration has become famous for.

But does any of it give “control” to the government of banks, financial companies, and especially the stock and commodity markets? Citigroup doles out fabulous bonuses to some of its managers and Ross’s regulators don’t lift a finger to stop them. The government can’t tell any bank to whom they must or can loan money, nor can the government control stuff like initial offerings, venture capital, or even how hedge funds invest their money.

This is a strange way to control the financial industry, eh? Fact: Regulation is not control. Perhaps to the minds of Ross and his fellow Huns, there is no difference between the terms. Perhaps Ross and his fellows would prefer the kind of capitalism where Bernie Madoff could have made himself king. The problem, in some cases, is under regulation as proved by the dufuses on Wall Street who were too lazy to hop a plane to Atlantic City to gamble and decided to do it with trillions in mortgage securities.

The kind of government “control” that Ross is bitching about doesn’t depend on one party, nor one president. Conservatives as diverse as Kirk and Oakeshott have recognized that in order to maintain a well ordered society, government regulation of business is necessary. Yes there is too much regulation - only added to by the Democrats. But an increase in regulation does not mean that government “controls” anything.

Definitions are important. Meaning is important. If it makes me the Ayatollah of diction (?) to point out that you can’t willy nilly make up your own definitions of words to satisfy a political objective, then I suppose you better give me a Koran and put a funny-looking hat on my head.

A few other observations…with inappropriate digressions and stray thoughts included.

Is giving easy access to “welfare” - food stamps, housing assistance, etc. a sign that we live in a socialist country? Again, I really, really, want to visit this planet on which Ross and his cohorts live. No poverty on Terra Ross and if you happen to hit a stretch of bad luck, well, tough. Go to your local church and get help there. Or knock on a rich guy’s door and beg for crumbs. Or ask one of your equally poor relations if you and your kids can bunk with them.

Of course, there are conservative principles that can be applied to the management of social welfare programs - that should have been applied since their beginnings - that would have prevented a permanent underclass, a culture of dependency, and even vastly reduced waste and abuse. But to finger welfare as a harbinger or poster boy for socialism? Why, then, blame Democrats exclusively? Why not point out the “coup d’etat’ that took over the GOP too? Those programs have run and been augmented by both parties and by all presidents since the 1960’s.

And Fabian society or not, the idea that a modern industrialized society should get rid of old age pensions in the form of Social Security and Medicare is daffy. Of course they are set up to bankrupt us eventually - especially Medicare - but reforming them so that old people literally aren’t shivering in the streets or eating dog food is what is needed, not repeal.That is, unless you want a law that makes it mandatory that mom and dad move in with you when they reach the age of 65.  If that were proposed, I daresay that agitation for repeal of Social Security and Medicare would taper off substantially.

Somebody has got to take care of them. If not you, then who?  There are a thousand ideas on how to reform these programs for seniors but few that advocate deep sixing them altogether.

Does having these government programs mean we are a socialist country? Earth to the Visigoths: the calendar has flipped a few pages since you last looked. We don’t live in an 18th century pastoral, coastal society of 7 million people anymore as much as you would wish to go back to the pre-constitutional days of the Articles of Confederation. We live in a 21st century urban, industrial republic with 30 million people who cannot go out and gather berries, hunt their own meat, build their own log cabin, or turn their rye into whiskey and float it down the river to market. The liberals (and George Bush) call social welfare programs “compassionate” government. They are wrong. It is common sense government to care for those who, for whatever reason or excuse, can’t do for themselves. That there is waste, fraud, and abuse goes without saying. That the programs are vital to the survival of millions is equally indisputable.

Does government tell Shell or any other oil company where to drill, how much to spend on developing fields, who should run the company? No, not now and not anytime soon. “Cap and Trade” is an insidious piece of legislation that couldn’t even reach the floor of either chamber when the Democrats had a supermajority, so it is hardly a threat to anybody or anything. The Obama administration is taking the term “control” to the outer limits with its ban on offshore drilling and CO2 regs by the EPA. But will the companies themselves be run by Washington? Of course not. They will be heavily regulated, not controlled.

The difference is meaning. The difference is intent and usage as far as Ross is concerned. I don’t care what some neo-socialist thought in 1942 about how to “socialize” America. It is irrelevant when talking about “control” of businesses and industries.

There is a difference between the Democratic party and socialists. There is a chasm-like difference between the Democratic party and Marxism. “Socialism” and “Marxism” are not interchangeable terms despite Ross’s attempt to make it so. There is a difference between “regulating” and “control.”

And there is a difference between manufacturing definitions and using the correct lexicon to criticize your opponents.

By: Rick Moran at 11:09 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

5/6/2011
A SHORT, PITHY NOTE ON MARXISTS AND DEMOCRATS
CATEGORY: Politics

I have given up my one man quest to protect the English language from right wing Visigoths who insist in raping, pillaging, and burning their way through the dictionary - corrupting definitions and creating havoc with meaning while doing their utmost to make intelligent discourse impossible.

Why bother? Definitions of “socialism” and “Communism” have been bent, spindled, and mutilated until they are not words anymore at all, but rather daggers with which they plunge their hate and unbalanced, unreasoned antagonisms into the breast of their political opponents. Apparently, many on the right have no more reverence for the conventions of language than many on the left who are guilty of similar transgressions against our shared lexicon. In this way, the connecting tissue is excessive ideology where all convention is eschewed and made to serve as slave to the passions of the political moment.

Case in point: Today’s blow up over the flag at Ground Zero being pulled up before President Obama spoke. Or something. Doug Ross, among others, rushed into the fray after a tweet from ABC News White House correspondent Jake Tapper that read; “One minute to air and they decided to take the flag down from the live shot!” President Obama didn’t want the American flag to spoil his moment in the sun, and equating the waving flag with “spiking the football” - or at least that’s what Ross and other bloggers firmly believed.

It turns out that the photo - and Tapper’s comment - were from an hour after Obama had his photo-op at Ground Zero. Before then, an excitable and indignant Ross wrote:

This administration and, by extension, the Democrat Party are now so thoroughly divorced from the history, traditions and morals of America that we might as well admit the Marxist left has executed a successful coup d’état on this Republic.

The mindlessness, the out of control idiocy represented in that one comment says volumes about many on the right, who toss around words like “Marxist” and concepts like “coup d’etat” as casually as if they were discussing the weather. The actual, literal meaning of Marxism is irrelevant as is what the concept of coup d’etat represents. What matters, according to the fire breathers, is that they are weapons in the unending battle against the forces of evil and no convention is too sacred to toss aside in search of victory in this war.

If challenged, they fall back on definition by example, i.e. “Well, dey took over dem car companies, right? Marxists, I say!” It is doubtful that Ross, or any of the bloggers who linked and aped his manifestly absurd blog post would know a true Marxist if they came up and bit him. Democrats are Democrats. Marxists are Marxists. The Democrats are a political party. Marxism is a political philosophy. They resemble each other like an apple resembles an 800 pound gorilla. To use them in the same sentence, much less aver that Marxists have taken over the Democratic party (yes, the Democratic party, not the “Democrat party”), is an insult to the common language that is our birthright as Americans.

Never mind that Ross et al made a stupid mistake about the flag. Liberals do that all the time and never apologize or even recognize it. What concerns me and should concern anyone with any reverence for the English language, is that jamokes like Ross - and there are thousands of them on the right who use these ill-chosen descriptives every day - are either too ignorant to know what the real definitions of “socialist,” “communist,” and “Marxist” are, or don’t care about the violence they do to language by using them.

I guess referring to Obama and the Democrats as “liberals” just doesn’t cut it anymore.

By: Rick Moran at 3:31 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (2)

TIME FOR AN INDEPENDENT COMMITTEE TO INVESTIGATE BIN LADEN DEATH

This post originally appears on The Moderate Voice

It is incomprehensible how the White House has screwed the pooch in the aftermath of their most spectacular success; the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Incomprehensible because one would have to believe that they discussed the potential fallout from the attack, as well as how they might exploit any political advantage that came their way.

It’s a good bet they talked about what to do in the event of catastrophe - failure to capture OBL, firefights with Pakistani troops, even a helicopter or two shot down by Pakistani air defenses.

It stands to reason that they should have examined issues that have come up in the wake of the raid for which it is painfully obvious the White House was shockingly unprepared to explain. The basic outline of what happened on the ground in Osama’s compound has changed three times by my count. The number of unfriendlies has risen and fallen depending on who is telling the story. Which son died has been changed twice. Which wife was used as a human shield - or not - or maybe yes - or maybe kinda, sorta - has now collapsed into total disbelievability.

They can’t get straight how bin Laden died. They can’t get straight the problem with the helicopter. They can’t agree on whether there was live fire coming from one person, or several, or none.

Agreed, this was a top secret mission, apparently using helicopters that no one has seen before, involving the nation’s most effective, most deadly, and most secret counterterror outfit, and based on intelligence using a combination of gee-whiz technology and brute human brain power. If they are deliberately trying to protect any of that by being obtuse, then they should get a pass.

The administration’s only believable spokesman is soon to be former CIA chief Leon Panetta. Ironically, the reason he’s got credibility is because it is Panetta who has been contradicting much of the administration version of events - not on deep background but in all his quotable glory. Panetta is telling tales out of school, even going so far as to advocate releasing the bin Laden death pictures over what appears to be the objections of a majority within the administration.

Why is Panetta off the reservation ? A purely speculative reason is that Panetta believes his spooks are getting short shrift from an administration constantly spinning the events to give reflected glory to their chief. The fact is, the SEALs wouldn’t have been needed without some incredible work by our spy agencies. Panetta might think that their story is being pushed into the background in favor of the “boom-boom” narrative of courageous (they were) SEALs busting in the door and with ruthless efficiency, working their way to the third floor to take down Osama.

The 4 years prior to those moments is pretty boring stuff comparatively speaking. The agonizingly slow process of tracking Osama’s courier across the entire expanse of Pakistan and then spending another year focusing on where he was living might not make quite the Hollywood movie as a SEAL assault would, but is an astonishing achievement in its own right. We haven’t heard much about that effort and Panetta could be a little pissed at that.

Regardless, the question arises; do we really need to know what happened during the assault? There is going to be a lot of information on how they carried out the mission that is classified - as well it should be. But if the White House spokes people can get up in front of reporters and give a falsified or confused blow by blow account of what they say happened in Abbottobad, then the American people have a right to know the truth. And given the absolute dearth of credibility of the administration on this subject, someone has to step up and tell the story in a credible way.

That pretty much leaves it up to an independent commission or at least, a formal, bi-partisan select committee of congress. I don’t think it matters as long as national security is protected and as much of the story that can be told is released - not to squelch any cockamamie conspiracy theories but to present to the American people a plausible account of how this vitally important moment in history occurred.

The administration believed that the American people were owed this account, else they would have kept their mouths shut. If they were trying to show Obama in the most positive light and shaped the story to fit a preconceived narrative - in other words, telling little white lies to buttress the image of their boss - the American people have a right to know this. If confusion and incompetence led to the competing, false, and changing story of what happened, we need to know that too. But most of all, we deserve to know the facts because, like other seminal moments in history, Americans need to catalog and store this event in our national memory.

And the least the government can do is make sure that Osama’s death goes into our national storybook detailing the truth and nothing but the truth.

By: Rick Moran at 9:14 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

5/4/2011
THE SEAMLESS MESHING OF POLITICS AND CELEBRITY

Here’s a piece I wrote before Osama bin Laden was killed and published at FrontPage.com yesterday. It riffs off the White House Correspondent’s dinner on Saturday night, examining the connection between the media, Hollywood, and celebrity.

A sample:

We can trace the marriage of politics and celebrity to the rise of Hollywood as a national medium in the 1920s. But it was the presidency of John F. Kennedy that witnessed the first real effort to bind the two together and make politicians themselves indistinguishable from movie stars.

In their book The Kennedy’s: An American Drama, Peter Collier and David Horowitz relate some telling anecdotes about JFK’s numerous trips to Hollywood prior to his first run for Congress in 1946. The purpose of these trips was largely to bed starlets. But, according to Chuck Spaulding, a childhood friend of JFK, the future president became fascinated with what he termed “charisma.” What was it? How did one go about getting it? After having dinner with Gary Cooper, Kennedy was struck by the sheer ordinariness of the actor and wondered why women swooned and men wanted to meet such a near non-entity.

Kennedy wanted what they had. As his father Joe had pointed out to him, since the Depression and New Deal had obliterated the “old social hierarchies,” Hollywood had the ability to “manufacture status overnight” and create a “new aristocracy.” The family would, as Joe famously put it, sell Jack “like a box of soap flakes.” He wasn’t kidding. With his vast wealth and intimate contacts in the national media, JFK was appearing on the cover of every news magazine in feature articles that touted his “vigor” and “charisma.” Jack had precious little of either, being a sickly young man (probably afflicted with Addison’s disease), and a terrible case of stage fright. But the PR build up was intense — and it worked. By 1956, despite a paltry record in Congress, Kennedy was being taken seriously for the number 2 spot on the Democratic ticket.

The first television presidency was a triumph of hype and image creation. Kennedy actually accomplished very little in 3 years but he is still ranked by the public as one of the top 10 presidents of all time.

It was in 1968 that the Democratic party fully embraced celebrity. The party took advantage of a new generation of actors who, free of the rigidity of the studio system that was terrified of political activism and the potential for bad publicity, spoke out against the war, racism, poverty and the rest of the liberal “social justice” issues for which they are so closely associated with today. The candidacy of Eugene McCarthy galvanized the liberal Hollywood community and led to McCarthy’s surprising showing in New Hampshire that convinced Lyndon Johnson not to run for another term.

The Republicans got on board the celebrity bandwagon too, but it wasn’t until 1980 and the campaign of Ronald Reagan that endorsements from Hollywood became important for fundraising to the party. Most of the GOP celebrities were older, established Hollywood types who became famous under the studio system and whose patriotism and conservatism blended naturally with the Republican party. Once the Democrats abandoned many of the values that were shared with ordinary Americans, they, like Reagan himself, left the Democratic party for the friendlier confines of the GOP. Today, the GOP has its share of celebrity endorsers, most notably in the country music industry and among sports figures.

ABC News had 2 reporters covering the “red carpet” entrance to the Hilton and if you closed your eyes and listened, you’d would have been hard pressed to distinguish between celebrity and politician in their answers to questions. That is the perilous junction we find ourselves today, with the media slavishly serving both Hollywood and Washington.

It’s hard to imagine a worse situation given the immense problems we face today.

By: Rick Moran at 9:51 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

5/3/2011
THE RICK MORAN SHOW: THE DEATH OF OSAMA BIN LADEN

You won’t want to miss tonight’s Rick Moran Show, one of the most popular conservative political talk shows on Blog Talk Radio.

Tonight, I welcome Jazz Shaw of Hot Air, Richard Baehr of the American Thinker, and Fausta Wertz of Fausta’s blog. We’ll discuss the political, international, cultural, and personal aspects of the death of Osama bin Laden.

The show will air from 7:00 - 8:00 PM Central time. You can access the live stream here. A podcast will be available for streaming or download shortly after the end of the broadcast.

Click on the stream below and join in on what one wag called a “Wayne’s World for adults.”

Also, if you’d like to call in and put your two cents in, you can dial (718) 664-9764.

Listen to The Rick Moran Show on internet talk radio

By: Rick Moran at 5:20 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

How We Got Him

My latest is up at FrontPage.com where I examine in detail how our intelligence and military professionals carried out what should be considered one of the most daring raids since World War II.

A sample:

The story of how Osama bin Laden was killed begins in the secret prisons abroad and the Guantanamo Bay detention center where some detainees told interrogators of several couriers used by al-Qaeda to avoid electronic surveillance. One such courier piqued the interest of the CIA: a protege of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and a trusted assistant of al-Qaeda number 3 Abu Faraj al-Libbi (captured in 2005). Other detainees mentioned that bin Laden himself trusted this particular courier. However, all the CIA had on the target was his al-Qaeda nickname.

KSM, who had, by this time, been cooperating with his jailers, was confronted with the name of the courier and denied knowing him. The denial spurred the analysts to action and they began a worldwide search for the full name of the courier. Later that year, the CIA learned his full name, it is thought, through interrogations at one or more of the secret prisons the CIA maintained at the time.

It took two more years to focus on where the courier actually lived in Pakistan. No details have emerged as to how this part of the investigation was carried out, but it would imply both human assets and technical surveillance was involved.

Then, in 2009, intelligence began to zero in on where the courier and his brother operated. The fact that the courier was taking extraordinary precautions, strictly adhering to operational security, gave analysts hope that they were indeed on the right track.

The break came in August 2010, when the courier was spotted on an Islamabad street. It should be noted that there was nothing “lucky” about this break. The lead was the product of long hours of painstaking examination of the tiniest slivers of intelligence, agonizing over whether the nuggets of information were valuable, making intelligent judgments about where the information might fit into the overall picture they were developing, and finally being rewarded with a breakthrough.

Luck had nothing to do with it.

I don’t think Clinton would have given the go ahead on this mission. It’s 50-50 whether George Bush would have done it either. There was only a “60-80%” probability that bin Laden was even in the house. President Obama deserves all the accolades he’s getting for the success of this mission. It was ballsy, but a good gamble in retrospect. No doubt, the 15 years of chasing this fanatical murderer was a prod for Obama’s brave decision.

Perhaps it should be noted what he was risking. There was the risk to our men - presidents can tell themselves all they want that they will be steadfast when ordering men into high risk situations but it couldn’t have been easy given the probability of American casualties and perhaps even civilian deaths as well.

Then there was the high stakes involved in our relationship with Pakistan. If a regiment of Pakistan soldiers had showed up, were the SEALs authorized to start shooting? A collapse in US-Pakistan relations engendered by a failure of the mission and possible civilian casualties would have left our forces in Afghanistan high and dry.

Certainly failure would have been an embarrassing personal defeat leading to even more unflattering comparisons with Jimmy Carter. And then there was the prestige of the US to consider in ordering the attack.

I have no doubt Obama weighed all of these factors before giving the “go” code. The fact that he went ahead shows a willingness to protect America and American interests - something many conservatives, including myself, have criticized him in the past for not doing.

Is he taking too much credit for the success? Of course he is. And so would a Republican president. Recall Reagan’s “You can run, but you can’t hide” crack after bombing Libya. As long as he didn’t criticize Bush for not getting OBL - and he hasn’t yet - I find it perfectly appropriate that his aides are spinning events like crazy to shine the brightest possible light on the president. Those pious folks who wish to banish politics from such moments, are deluded. Anything a president does becomes political sooner or later. If the mission had ended in failure, the right would have pounced like a hungry Leopard. Since it was a success, Obama gets to bask in the reflected glory of the magnificent job performed by our military and intelligence professionals.

That’s life. That’s politics.

By: Rick Moran at 8:09 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

5/2/2011
A ‘MOMENTOUS ACHIEVEMENT’

I labored into the early morning on this FrontPage.com article, detailing what we knew at the time about Osama bin Laden’s death.

A sample:

At a time of economic despair and uncertainty, a time of doubting our abilities to overcome obstacles and questioning our national greatness, the death of Osama bin Laden temporarily, at least, has lifted nation’s spirits and reminded us who we are and of what we are capable.

But it is important to remember that bin Laden’s death is more a symbolic statement - a clear marker on the long road to victory over Islamic extremism. He was a symbol of Islamic hatred toward the United States and the march of modernity that is being so fiercely resisted by the remnants of al-Qaeda, their franchises around the world, the Taliban, and other Islamic terrorist groups from Hamas, to Hezballah, to the Muslim Brotherhood. It is a blow to their self-esteem and their belief in the ultimate victory of their cause. That he should be shot down in a brilliant operation carried out by the American military only pours salt in their wounds.

Of course, with every victory in this war comes the realization that the enemy will seek to retaliate as quickly and as brutally as they can. The State Department has issued a travel warning, telling Americans abroad that there is an “enhanced potential for anti-American violence” in many areas where al-Qaeda garnered sympathy.

President Obama called former President Bush and gave him the good news. Bush issued a statementcalling the event a “momentous achievement” that “marks a victory for America, for people who seek peace around the world, and for all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001.”

More of this story will no doubt come out in the days and weeks ahead. But the epochal news that Osama bin Laden is dead will be a defining moment in the War on Terror and an event that serves to remind us that we can accomplish any goal as long as we put our minds to it.

I would liken the psychological boost that bin Laden’s death has given the country to that which occurred in 1980 with the victory of our Olympic hockey team over the Soviet Union and subsequent capture of the Gold Medal. The surge of patriotic emotion that flowed to the surface as a result of that event is mirrored in the happy faces crowding close to the White House and gathering at Ground Zero. Pride, relief, happiness - it’s as if a great weight has been lifted from the American psyche at just the moment when we needed such a boost.

President Obama should get an immediate, if transitory boost from the news. That’s fine with me. I’d congratulate the devil himself if Osama had been killed on his watch.  For in the end, it is once again more important to realize what unites us, rather than what divides us.

By: Rick Moran at 8:09 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)