Sunday, November 25, 2007

OBL and the 2008 election

OBL and Al Qaeda have a vested interest in the candidates and the eventual winner of the 2008 campaign for President of the United States. The question is: who would they want to win, and what actions are they planning even now to influence the outcome of that election?

Osama tried to influence the 2004 election, and may even have succeeded. He released a video tape four days before the election, and several pundits asserted that this video helped Bush win. After the election, FOX News reported that John Kerry blamed the Osama tape for his loss.

OBL is many things to many people but all would agree that he is very intelligent and shrewd. His release of a tape four days before the 2004 election in which President Bush was attacked for his response to the 9/11 attacks was designed to achieve an emotional reaction in the American electorate. The timing was critical because little opportunity was given for any rational discussion of OBL's statements before the voting was conducted.

The fact that the tape criticized Bush was taken at first by some pundits to mean that OBL was promoting Kerry. On reflection, and after the election, the tape was seen to be pro-Bush. OBL must have known ahead of time that the American populace would react in a manner directly opposite to his stated intent. I believe that he knew this, and I believe that his intent was to get Bush reelected.

Why would he want Bush reelected? The argument can be made that OBL has been trying to provoke the United States since the first World Trade Center attack. If this was his intent, and he has so stated, then with the attacks of 9/11 he succeeded. President Bush responded to this provocation by invading Afghanistan and Iraq. OBL's strategy was to provoke the sleeping giant in the hope that his response would awaken and unite the Muslim world to OBL's vision of a new Caliphate.

Some have argued that Bush followed OBL's strategy as designed, to the Western World's universal detriment. The way this argument goes, the U.S. military actions in the Middle East have turned the Muslim world against us. More and more Muslims are rallying to OBL's banner. If we had not "overreacted" to the Al Qaeda attacks the World would still love us. The way to deal with the Al Qaeda terrorists is through law enforcement and the courts: arrest them, read them their rights and then put them on trial. If they go free, well, at least we have the self satisfaction that we protected their rights.

Not everyone agrees with this argument. My view is that we weren't that popular in the Muslim world before 9/11. The escalation of attacks by Al Qaeda was going to get worse if we continued to ignore them, not better. Assuming we were able to actually locate and arrest these terrorists, their trials would be security nightmares and propaganda bonanzas for OBL and his minions. The better solution is to take the fight to the enemy.

Would OBL rather face Hillary or Rudy as an opponent? A better question is whether he would rather face a Republican or a Democrat. His preference for a candidate will dictate his choice of actions. He has displayed a tendency for the dramatic. The most drama and the most impact would be some kind of action immediately prior to the election. He has already released a tape prior to the previous election, so the drama of this action would be lessened.

A better option for him would be a well planned, coordinated attack: his specialty. The attack would be immediately before the election. To execute such an attack the planning would even now be underway.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Veteran's Day 2007

On this Veteran's Day 2007 holiday I spent two and a half hours helping Colonel Bear cook sixty pounds of bacon for the annual Veterans breakfast at the American Legion Hall in Tallahassee. Because the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 2007 fell on a Sunday, by Act of Congress we celebrated Veteran's Day on Monday November 12th. Almost 300 Veterans and their families came together for a traditional military (and Southern) breakfast of bacon, scrambled eggs, sausage, and biscuits smothered in sausage gravy.

Colonel Michael Whitehead, in Kuwait in April 2003, preparing to enter Iraq.

We cooked the bacon outside on propane burners in iron, deep fat fryers bubbling with oil that Colonel Bear provided. Retired U.S. Army Colonel Calvin A. "Bear" Winter was the chief bacon cook and I was one of two assistants on duty. I had a variety of tasks to perform but the most important, and the reason that I volunteered myself for this duty, was to listen to Colonel Bear's stories about his military career.

Some of his most interesting stories came from 1952 and the six weeks he spent under almost continuous direct and indirect fire on a bone cold, freezing piece of ground called Heartbreak Ridge. By continuous fire I mean he never left that hole for six weeks for fear of being killed. The particular hole in which he resided was important because it provided him with an uninterrupted view of the movements of the Chinese Communists to his front. He used a radio to relay his observations to an array of artillery battteries to his rear. The timely and effective artillery fires that he called down on the Chinese made them all the more determined to get him out of his hole. Spending six uninterrupted weeks in a hole brought to my mind certain unavoidable issues of sanitation and I asked him about that, while we stood there cooking the bacon. He told me that he honestly didn't remember how he solved that particular problem (one of many, I'm sure, that he encountered, but he did). Like many veterans, Colonel Bear's uncertain memory helped him in this and many other ways.

When the breakfast was over, I delivered John and Betty O'Farrell to the American Legion float so that they could ride in the Veteran's Day Parade. Although they were both WW II veterans, neither had been in a Veteran's Day parade, and they both participated at my invitation. John fought in the Battle of the Bulge and Betty was an Army Nurse. I told them the Parade would be a moving experience for them, and when it was over they agreed. To watch the crowd on the side of the road rise and give us a standing ovation as we passed by brought tears to our eyes.

Before the parade I looked for and found a Viet Nam veteran that I had first met at last year's parade. His name is Jerald Collman and he was a graves registration officer in Viet Nam. In this and many other wars, the bodies of the fallen in the field were placed intact, or in pieces, into black bags and delivered to graves registration units, where they were prepared for the journey by air back to the United States. Jerald told me that the Veteran's Administration has documented that the two categories of veterans most likely to receive 100% disability for Post Traumatic Stress were members of front line combat units and members of graves registration units. Jerald was granted just such a disability by the VA.

Jerald admitted to me last year that he had suffered greatly from his experience in Viet Nam. He said that he had committed to memory over one thousand names of the dead that he and his unit had cared for in the year that he spent there. Many times at night he had recited the names as he tried to fall asleep. Last year, and this year, he carried a large, thick book that listed the over 55,000 names of the fallen in that war.

Since we had spoken last year, Jerald told me that he had returned to Viet Nam and had found the slab of concrete where his unit had received and processed the dead. The Vietnamese knew and understood the significance of this piece of ground and had refused to allow any other building or structure to be built on this spot. He showed me pictures of a memorial plague that was erected on this piece of hallowed ground as a result of his visit. I asked him if he was doing any better and he said that he was, that his visit to Viet Nam had been instrumental for him in exorcising some of the demons that he had carried for so many years.

As a commissioned Army officer for thirty years I have a very clear and unequivocal understanding of the concept of duty. Doing my duty for my family, for my job and for my country are an important part of my life and how I see myself as a person. My participation in the American Legion and the small part that I play in the Veteran's Day activities in my small town are my duty. I do it for Colonel Bear, for John, for Betty, for Jerald, for myself and for all the other Veteran's out there.