Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Writings of General Dempsey

President Obama's pick for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, has a paper trail. Here's a link to my limegreenbook's critique, and some lingering unanswered questions:
Obviously, GEN Dempsey and his staff are executing a very thorough strategic communications plan!

The articles contain much food for thought. Here’s some that comes to mind:

1. How goes the “Army-wide dialogue about our emerging concepts”? What have learned from it so far? Has it prompted any changes? Is the dialogue being summed up anywhere? (Although TRADOC has a blog with posts for many of these articles, the relatively low number of comments suggests that the Army-wide dialogue isn’t occurring there!)

2. Have these concepts already been validated? If not, how are they being validated? Are we plunging ahead with implementing these concepts before validating them?

3.[Note to self: Find and read the ALDS, the Profession of Arms white paper, and the ATC.]

4. What will it cost to replicate “the complexity of the operational environment in the classroom and at home station”? Can we afford it?

5. What are the implications of moving “away from a platform-centric learning model to one that is centered more on learning through facilitation and collaboration”? For example, what changes will be needed to TRADOC Reg 350-70 Systems Approach to Training?

6. For companies that support the Army in doctrine development, training support, etc., what can they do now to better prepare for the changes that will occur as a result of these concepts and initiatives?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My Next Life: Ode to Boy

My Next Life: Ode to Boy: "It's my son's 12th birthday tomorrow. Last year I started a tradition to write him a poem for his birthday as a way to celebrate the person..."

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Union Protection Made Dominique Strauss-Kahn Case Possible

From The Guardian::
Imagine the situation of the hotel worker had she not been protected by a union contract. She is a young immigrant mother who needs this job to support her family. According to reports, she likely did not know Strauss-Kahn's identity at the time she reported the assault, but she undoubtedly understood that the person staying in the $3,000-a-night suite was a wealthy and important person. In these circumstances, how likely would it be that she would make an issue of a sexual assault to her supervisors?

Housekeepers are generally among the lowest-paid workers at hotels, often earning little more than the minimum wage. It is a high turnover job, meaning that any individual housekeeper is likely to be viewed as easily replaceable by the management. If this housekeeper did not enjoy the protection of a union contract, is it likely that she would have counted on her supervisors taking her side against an important guest at the hotel? Would she have been prepared to risk her job to pursue the case?

We can never know how this particular woman would have responded otherwise – as, fortunately, she did have the protection of a union. However, it is likely that many similar assaults go unreported because the victims do not feel they can risk their jobs to pursue the case. They simply have to accept sexual harassment and even sexual assault as "part of the job".

There is a special irony to this situation given Dominique Strauss-Kahn's prior position. The IMF, along with other pillars of the economic establishment, has long pushed for reducing the rights of workers at their workplace. Specifically, they have pushed countries around the world to adopt measures that weaken the power of unions. The IMF has also urged western European countries to eliminate or weaken laws that prevent employers from firing workers at will. These laws, along with unions, are seen as "labour market rigidities" that prevent labour markets from operating efficiently.

In the dream world of the economists' textbook policies, all employers would have the ability to fire employees at will. There would be no protective legislation and no unions to get in the way. In that economist's dream world, then, powerful executives could be fairly certain that they would have licence to molest hotel workers with impunity.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Eliyho Matz on Fathers and Sons in Israeli-American Relations

Two Fathers, Two Sons and Two Presidents
By Eliyho Matz


[This article is dedicated to the memory of Michael Bergson Fichman Matz, godson of Peter H. Bergson.]

“Only trees have roots.”
George Steiner

The current May 2011 American/Israeli political crisis has been building up for the past 63 years, and maybe a few years longer if we consider FDR, the WWII President, as a component in this political-diplomatic entanglement and equation. In his May 20, 2011, speech at the State Department in Washington, President Barack Obama, tried politely to tell the people of Middle East region that the current changes in the region are recognized by America, at the same time mentioning to the Israeli nation that it will have to make some changes, too, that is, to move back to the pre-1967 borders, as part of a general political arrangement with the Palestinians.

The immediate response of the Israeli nation, led by its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has been one of dismay. For we see that the Israeli nation of 2011, with its Prime Minister, are tragically trying to redefine the Israeli Zionist Jewish story by asking the Palestinians to recognize the Israeli nation as the national home of the Jewish people, as well as one that is Jewish and democratic. This new self-definition put forth by the Israeli Prime Minister makes no political sense, because, first, Israel has no constitution, and second, has never been the nation of all Jews. (Where are most of the Jews today? – definitely not in Israel.) What Israel is, is definitely the nation of the Israelis, and it should remain so and define itself as such. All Biblical and Talmudic arguments about the ancient Israelites, Hebrews, (etc.) are nonsensical in relation to the political reality of the nation today. The current Israeli population is represented by a mishmash of groups, and those who are Jewish became Jews during the last 2000 years. Even if there are some few Jews who claim an ancestry dating back to the Davidic Biblical period,* one has to be careful not to fall into this argument of Jewish ancestral antiquity when justifying the existence of the modern Israeli nation.

The Israeli nation established in 1948 as result of Political Zionism claimed sovereignty as an Israeli nation, and that was how the world (UN) saw it. Thus the decree that ended the British Mandate and the path of non-Jewish sovereignty signified the of the path of Political Zionism and started a new phase in the history of the Israeli nation and world Jewry. MAAZEL TOV!

The people who had led the Israelis to become a new sovereign nation were a) the chalutzim, or pioneers, who settled in Turkish-British Palestine; and b) the Palestinian and Stateless political activists in the United States during WWII. The story of the chalutzim is represented by Ben Gurion. The story of the political Palestinian and Stateless Jews in the US is represented by the Bergson Boys, also known as the Bergson Group. The Bergson Group included a core of the Irgun Tzvai Leumi (an illegal Palestinian underground terrorist organization active during the British Mandate), among whom was Yitshaq Ben-Ami (as mentioned above, the father of J-Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami). From 1940-1948, this group worked tirelessly to try to save the remnant of European Jewry, and to prepare the groundwork for an Israeli (Hebrew) republic. Without their work the United States, it is my firm belief that the Israeli nation would not have come about; it was their intense lobbying and organizational skills that prepared the groundwork for a new Israeli state.

The main group of Ben Gurion Zionists, as well as Benzion Netanyahu, one of the leaders of the New Zionist organization in the US (a Jabotinsky Zionist faction) and the father of the current Israeli Prime Minister, did not in fact seriously try to save Jews, but rather they were preoccupied with arguments over the future meaning of Zionism. Ben Gurion, who was the person who ultimately proclaimed the Declaration of Israeli Independence, did not really understand the inner meaning of that Declaration, which becomes obvious when one reads its text. Its irreconcilable contradictions remain unresolved till today. Of course the Israeli document represented an attempt to copy the American Declaration of Independence, but its authors lacked the depth of the Americans’ intellect and serious intent.

Mr. Benzion Natanyahu, who was among the leaders of America’s New Zionists, failed to do almost anything during the Holocaust to save Jews. Rather, he spent his precious time [researching and] writing the history of Abravanel.** Benzion Netanyahu also spent quite a bit of time criticizing the political work and the rescue attempts by the Bergson Group and actually published quite a few articles criticizing them.***

Thus we have sort of an interesting story here: the Bergson Boys, who agitated against the FDR administration and tried by political action to save European Jews, were attacked by every American Jewish organization (the FBI files on the Bergson Group during the years of WWII are filled with intriguing information given by informants of all the American Jewish organizations).

It was only because of the Group’s leadership, especially that of Peter Bergson but including others of the group, among them Yitshaq Ben Ami, that FDR eventually succumbed to the political pressure the Group exacted and created the War Refugee Board in 1944, whose purported intention was solely to save Jews, despite the fact that Jews were not mentioned in the Board’s name (another political trick of FDR). But the Bergson Group also had to bow to necessity: so that the American Jewish organizations would relinquish some of their pressure against them, Yitshak Ben-Ami was compelled to join the US military as a Bergson “kapurah yingel” (sacrifice). Ben Ami did so, survived the War, and following his discharge until 1948 dealt with some very important issues that helped secure the creation of the Israeli nation.

The success the Bergson Group had in America is a complex story, one that most American Jews know hardly anything about, and most American Jewish organizations would like to forget. But it is important to retell that it was the Bergson Group who convinced the American people that the struggle of the Palestinian Jews was like the American experience of independence. Their claim “It’s 1776 in Palestine” became their slogan, and it worked. Netanyahu senior missed the opportunity and never understood the meaning of the new Israeli sovereign nation (even though he came from the United States and settled in Jerusalem), always maintaining the belief that Israel should be the “Promised Land” for all Jews, not the UN recognized Israeli sovereign state.

So we have the stories of the fathers, Netanyahu and Ben-Ami. Now, what about the children? Working as a researcher and advisor to his father while he wrote his book, I met Jeremy when he was just in high school, and, if I remember, young Jeremy Ben-Ami was interested in politics since childhood and thus ended up in juxtaposition to where his father was. Jeremy is concerned with Jews, American Jewish behavior, and the future of the Israeli nation. But he lacks the spark of political understanding that his father had relating to what sort of a future the Middle East region has. In many ways, his J-Street organization reflects a total misunderstanding and the confusion characteristic of many American Jews, because it does not perceive the depth of the Palestinian Israeli conflict. It is the same with Benjamin Netanyahu. I guess he never stopped listening to his father’s nonsense about the “Jewish nation,” and he forgets that he only represents the Israeli sovereign nation, that has no constitution and no political direction other than for messianic dreams.

Finally, we move to the two Presidents. President Obama inherited the good qualities of FDR and maybe as great a crisis as FDR, and he is trying to solve some of America’s problems despite the Republican intransigence. Moreover, let us face reality here: Obama knows as well as FDR did the importance of the Middle East and its Saudi oil. Of course, Saudi oil is and has always been the secret agenda that no one openly discusses. It should be remembered that Harry Truman, who also understood the reality of the Middle East complexity including the importance of Saudi oil, hesitated before finally recognizing the new Israeli nation. So to help solve the Middle East problems today Obama will be assigning the Israelis a job: to get out of the Palestinian-conquered areas and return to the pre-1967 borders. It is a responsible American request.

However, that in itself will not solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. What will help to bring us closer to a solution is Peter Bergson’s political idea that the Middle East must consider uniting as a Middle Eastern Block, a political and economic block that will benefit the region and will produce more of a working solution to the region. Israel with its technological know-how, America with its political and military might, Saudi Arabia with its money, Turkey with its experienced democratic system (not perfect, but functional), can all help. That is what our President, Mr. Obama, should work on to achieve, and thus this new Middle Eastern political block will reflect a real new era in the Middle East.

Post-script: My father, who is a descendant of Khazars, comes from the town of Ostra (Ostrug) established more than one thousand years ago by Khazars who later converted to Judaism. Today this town is geographically located in the Western Ukraine. He escaped from Ostra, where most of his family was massacred by the Nazis. Eventually in 1943 he joined the Russian military might and ended his war service as a decorated soldier in Berlin only after its surrender. He then went to the Russian Far East and picked up my mother, and eventually he helped to organize the Exodus 1947 journey to Palestine.

************************

* For example, Yitshaq Ben-Ami in his book Years of Wrath, Days of Glory: Memoirs for the Irgun (New York: Robert Speller & Sons, 1982). Yitshaq was the father of Jeremy Ben-Ami, a founder of J-Street, the Jewish lobby group that advocates the return of Israel to its pre-1967 borders.

** B. Netanyahu: Don Isaac Abravanel: Statesman and Philosopher (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1968).

*** For example, see “The Fiasco of the Hebrew Committee” by B. Netanyahu [Zionews, July 1944]

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Washington Post Outs the Arts Club of Washington

In this article by David Montgomery:
For reasons that defy logic, economics and social fashion, the little red brick house and its denizens endure here, on one of Washington’s least lovely downtown office blocks, like a bloom in a crack of the concrete canyon where I Street merges with Pennsylvania Avenue NW.

The green wood door is topped with an antique fan of leaded glass and adorned with a brass knocker worn smooth from use. Knock, and be admitted.

A throng of maybe 100 is sipping wine and nibbling chicken liver pate and skewered sea scallops. Most are dressed in black tie or evening gowns. Some of the dinner jackets are adorned with medals, indicating that the wearer is a military man. Many are spiced with colorful vests or adventurous cummerbunds, suggesting a free spirit. One of the freest spirits is art professor Edward “Eddie” Purcell III, who has cast aside all thought of a tux in favor of a full-length red silk 1950s vintage Chinese smoking robe.

Almost anything goes at the Arts Club of Washington, whose clubhouse is the quarters where James Monroe lived for a few months as president, in 1817, while the White House was being rebuilt following the British barbecue of 1814.

“The thing about the Arts Club, either you get it or you don’t,” says Robert Sacheli, club program chairman. “We have a lot of eccentric people here. We’re very proud of that. We encourage eccentricity.”

The bohemian side of the Social Register started calling this house home in 1916. Some of the same upper-crusty social folkways continue to be pursued, along with an artistic mission that seems equal parts anachronistic and vital. At a time when arts funding is being cut everywhere else, and private galleries are closing or moving to other parts of town, the Arts Club’s nearly $1 million annual budget is stable. The money goes to arts-related programming, historic preservation and club activities. The club hosts monthly openings for four artists in its four exhibit spaces, presents weekly free music concerts and sponsors scholarships and literary prizes. The public is welcome six days a week.

It must be the only club in this still-clubby town that is for members only — and for everybody else. This paradox is the beginning of a long list of reasons why the Arts Club makes no sense — and therefore why it survives. It is at once whimsically un-Washington and profoundly old Washington.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

What Netanyahu Should Tell US Congress

A friend of mine, a professional negotiator, suggested this approach for a Netanyahu "miracle" speech in Washington:

The Israeli Prime Minister should announce the he is willing to negotiate with the Palestinian Prime Minister for an independent Palestinian state, at once, without any preconditions for either side. Everything would be on the table--for the Israelis as well as the Palestinians. He would be willing to stay on in Washington, to go to Camp David, to move talks to Jerusalem, wherever Abbas wants. He would stay as long as it took to reach an agreement--just as at Camp David. President Obama could mediate, or not, as he saw fit.

Can we make peace? "Yes, we can!"

If the Palestinians responded to the offer with intransigence, that would be their decision, not Israel's.

In my opinion, Israel could then unilaterally declare borders prior to the September 1st recognition of the state of Palestine by the UN.

If there were to be a border war after that--well, even the US fought a border clash with Britain in 1812...it would not pose an existential struggle for either side.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Eliyho Matz on the Future of Israeli-Eskimo Co-Operation

A Warm Israeli Nation Welcomes Cool Eskimo People
Special News Release
by Feature Contributor Eliyho Matz



The first wave of converted Jewish Zionist Inupiaq (pronounced In-you-pack) Eskimos have immigrated to Israel. They were converted to Judaism by native Alaskan Reform rabbi Kerach ben Mayim. The Jewish Agency assisted in their transfer, supplying high-cooled jet airplanes that were developed by Israeli/American new age technologies. The Israeli government named the operation “Igloo Wings” recalling previous such missions carried out at the birth of the Israeli state, when Yemenite Jews were brought from Yemen on operation “Magic Carpet,” Moroccan Jews on operation “Flying Atlas,” and Iraqi Jews on operation “Baghdadi Nights.” The Reform Jewish Inupiaq Eskimo congregation, “Mogen Dovid North Star White Ice Cubes,” which is located in the Arctic Circle, was established in 2005. The congregation has in its vicinity a natural hot water hole that is shared with the polar bears and is used alternatively as a mikveh (ritual bath).

This wave of conversion started a number of years ago after an Israeli couple, tarmilaim travelers, visiting the Arctic area were attacked by a polar bear in a tragedy that resulted in the death of the husband, Avi. Avi was buried in a large ice cube at the Arctic Circle. Eventually his wife, Sarit, married a local Inupiaq who converted to Judaism. Mr. Sly Seal started studying Jewish ethics and religious studies via the internet using his Apple ipod, and he has been developing a wide range of contacts via Twitter and Facebook. According to Sly, the Jewish network Sh’makolenu has been helpful, too. Sarit has been developing her own innovative network called e-yenta.com.

Intrigued by Mr. Seal’s enthusiastic conversion, other Inupiaq couples joined in the Eskimo Judaization process, and that is how the congregation developed. As a result of intense lobbying by an Israeli shaliach (representative) sent from Jerusalem by the Jewish Agency, a number of converted residents of the Inupiaq community responded to the strong Zionist appeal and decided to move to Israel and make Aliyah.

However, some technical details had been overlooked. One of the main issues for the Israeli government was how to handle the conversion process of the Eskimos. The leader of the Jewish Agency, Mr. Nathan S., who himself had spent a number of years in the Siberian permafrost region, promised a swift resolution. He consulted with the great Rabbi Bear of Alaska, as well as Chief Rabbi White Tiger of Siberia. Because of their type of ethnicity and the lifestyle involved, the Israeli government agreed to adjust its absorption policies and practices to accommodate the Eskimos.

These Jewish Eskimos who arrived on the first wave were housed in a large abandoned ice factory. The inner space of the ice factory was altered to accommodate six igloos and a synagogue made entirely of ice, maintaining an icy cool atmosphere year round. A debate which emerged among the Jewish Agency chiefs concerning whether to use this place as a tourist attraction or leave it just as an absorption center did not result in any immediate conclusions. Other cultural issues that were raised as a result of this Arctic/Zionist transaction have yet to be resolved. The settlement of these new Jewish Zionists amidst the ongoing Middle East regional hostilities has led to additional verbal criticisms of the new Israeli/Eskimo policy. But meanwhile, a consensus has been reached by the Eskimo/Zionist leaders in their belief that their arrival in Israel would help toward the cooling of militancy in the region, as well as in the temperament of its inhabitants. The Israeli Navy Seals immediately jumped into the fray and, appreciating the special skills of these newcomers, have taken on a mission to adopt and train them. The Seals will begin teaching the Eskimos how to fish and dive in the deep cool waters of the Mediterranean Sea, as well as in the warm waters of the Red Sea. (Plans are also in the works to introduce them to the shallow salty waters of the Dead Sea.) The Navy Seals, as well as other elite Israeli forces, will provide first-hand training to the new Jewish Zionist Eskimos in order for them to grasp the new challenges of their life in the Middle East. In return, the Seals also expect to benefit from their unique lifestyle experiences, including seal hunting in the Arctic, as well as other cold weather activities.

A few cultural problems that popped up with the arrival of the Eskimos still will have to be resolved. For example, Israeli ice cream is called Eskimo, and ices are called Artik. The Jewish Eskimos are working out some sort of deal with the Israeli government which, in a special session of the Knesset honoring the Eskimos, passed a decree (the constitutional process would have taken too long) that from now on both these items, Eskimo and Artik, would have to be renamed in order not to insult the Zionist Jewish Eskimos. This issue aside, these new immigrants were warmly welcomed by all Israeli citizens, including by the Chassids who loaned them their beaver hats for Shabbos services. Other Israeli Zionists have contributed Israeli clothing and other schmatas imported from China to help enable this new group of Jewish Zionist settlers to adapt quickly to this dynamic society and region.

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All rights reserved, including movie rights, by the Frozen News Agency, eliyho_matz@yahoo.com.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Robert Spencer on Nakba Attacks Against Israel

From FrontPage.com:
“The leaders of these violent demonstrations,” explained Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, “their struggle is not over the 1967 borders but over the very existence of Israel, which they describe as a catastrophe that must be resolved. It is important that we look with open eyes at the reality and be aware of whom we are dealing with and what we are dealing with.”

Indeed. And what they are dealing with is precisely what has been obscured, ignored, and denied, by Western governments and the mainstream media, for decades now. The Obama administration is just the latest U.S. administration to assume that Israel’s enemies can be negotiated with and placated with some agreement. The fact that every such compromise has failed never shakes this core belief, or leads policy analysts to realize that Israel is dealing with an unappeasable jihadist enemy.

No state has ever successfully reached a negotiated settlement with a jihadist enemy who avows a religious obligation to destroy it. So why is Israel constantly expected to be the first? Barack Obama and virtually everyone else in power in America and Europe assume that the violent demonstrators who breached Israel’s borders on Sunday will ultimately be pacified once a Palestinian state is set up. Yet as Hamas is now merging with the “moderates” of Fatah with whom Obama and others have been dealing, it is useful to recall that the Hamas Charter of August 1988 declares that “nothing is loftier or deeper in nationalism than waging Jihad against the enemy and confronting him when he sets foot on the land of the Muslims.” When will this Jihad end? The Hamas Charter quotes Hasan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood: “Israel will rise and will remain erect until Islam eliminates it as it had eliminated its predecessors.”

Sunday, May 15, 2011

R. Tripp Evans on Grant Wood

From the Marfield Prize National Award for Arts Writing lecture about his new biography of the American artist, at the Arts Club of Washington:
The National Award for Arts Writing, the Marfield Prize, is given annually by the Arts Club of Washington to recognize excellence in writing about the arts for a broad audience. A monetary prize ($10,000 for the current year) is given to the author of a book published in the previous year about visual, performing, media, or literary arts. Intended to help increase access to the arts, the Award celebrates prose that is lucid, luminous, clear, and inspiring, and creates a strong connection with arts and artists.

It is awarded to one book published in America during the previous year, and judged by distinguished writers of fiction and poetry. It is one of the country’s largest literary prizes given to a single author and is the only one of its kind in the country.

Inaugurated in 2006, the $10,000 prize is paid through an endowment established by long-time Arts Club member Jeannie S. Marfield in honor of Florence Berryman and Helen Wharton.

2010 Winner

R. Tripp Evans, Grant Wood: A Life (Alfred A. Knopf)


The Arts Club of Washington has named R. Tripp Evans the recipient of the fifth annual National Award for Arts Writing for his biography Grant Wood: A Life. (Alfred A. Knopf, 2010).

Mr. Evans is a professor of art history at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts. Grant Wood: A Life examines the ways in which collective national identity emerges from the unstable ground of myth. In this case, the myth is that of a presumably all-American, homespun artist whose life and art, most famously the painting “American Gothic”, have become stubborn icons for traditional small-town American values. Evans explores the contradiction between Wood’s folksy public image as “America’s Painter” and the realities of his European training, sophisticated use of art-historical sources, complex family relationships and closeted homosexuality.

Finalists
Yunte Huang, Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History (W. W. Norton & Company)

Jamie MacVicar, The Advance Man (Bear Manor Media)

Sara Marcus, Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot GRRRL Revolution (Harper Perennial)

Judges
Michael Martone, professor of English and director, Creative Writing Program, University of Alabama; E. Ethelbert Miller, poet; Katherine Neville, novelist

Submitting Books for Consideration
To be eligible for the next award cycle, books must be written in English and originally published in the United States in 2011. Only non-fiction books by single, living authors will be considered. Anthologies, works of poetry and fiction, and books for children are not eligible. Manuscripts, monographs, and self-published books are also outside the scope of this award. Books may be memoirs, criticism, biographies, or histories, on the subject of any artistic discipline: visual (including painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, crafts, architecture), performing (including theater, music, and dance), literary (including poetry, fiction, storytelling, and playwriting), and media (including film and video, computer-generated arts, and new forms).

Publishers, agents, or authors may submit books for consideration. There is no fee to enter. Three copies of a book, plus the required entry form, should be submitted between July 1 and our deadline of October 1, 2011. Galleys are acceptable for books scheduled to be published in the final two months of the year. Please do not include promotional materials. All submitted material becomes the property of the Arts Club and will not be returned. Entry forms will be available for download here later this spring.
You can buy the book from Amazon.com here:

Friday, May 06, 2011

Greg Sheridan on bin Laden's Death & Aftermath

From Rupert Murdoch's The Australian, an interesting analysis, which I hope might reach readers of his Wall Street Journal. An excerpt:
A political miscalculation is easier to believe than the most miraculously perfect and clean special operations episode in the history of modern warfare.

Another interpretation has it that the Americans did tell the Pakistanis about the operation just after it began. It was too late then for them to tip off bin Laden, but it meant they could pull back their own soldiers and air force and prevent them reacting. That is also plausible.

There are a lot of other theories swirling around.

Indonesian terrorist Umar Patek, the Jemaah Islamiah commander who was integral to the Bali bombing which killed 202 people, including 88 Australians, was arrested in Pakistan a few months ago. He had been in Abbottabad. It is known he was in Pakistan to make contact with al-Qa'ida, which has helped JI in the past. According to some sources, Patek visited bin Laden at the compound in Abbottabad.

If so, it was Patek who led the Americans to bin Laden. But if Patek did visit bin Laden, how then is it that the world's most wanted terrorists didn't change his residence as soon as the Indonesian was arrested in January?

Did the ISI assure bin Laden of his safety and then betray him? Or was bin Laden in effect a prisoner in Abbottabad?

This is all very speculative. It is difficult to have confidence in any of the speculation, but nor is it easier to have faith in the detail of the official explanation, which has changed quite a lot in the various iterations.

If the Pakistanis did play a role in actively giving bin Laden to the Americans, it would make up for a lot of the grief they have caused Washington in recent years. It also makes it much easier for Barack Obama to pull the US out of Afghanistan sooner rather than later. And it occurs against a framework of US Defence Secretary Robert Gates leaving his job and General David Patraeus, the American commander in Afghanistan, being switched to head the Central Intelligence Agency.

Gates's replacement is Leon Panetta, the CIA director. The US intelligence community, as opposed to the military, has long been pessimistic about Afghanistan and inclined to leave there as soon as decently possible.

A Pakistani gift of bin Laden would assist this development and pay dividends for everybody, including the Pakistanis, who now believe the American involvement in Afghanistan is radicalising their society as well as limiting their strategic options in Afghanistan.

Invitation to an Art Exhibition in Memory of Polly Evans, May 26th, Washington, DC

At the Louise-Lisner-Dickson-Hurt Home. Open to the Public. Invitation here: http://www.lldhhome.org/artshow1.html

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Keith Koffler on the Banned bin Laden Photo

From White House Dossier:
I believe the Obama White House thinks the planet beyond Western Europe has our kind of rational, compassionate mindset. But the world has a very different mindset. If we took Bin Laden’s mangled corpse and strung it up on a flagpole at Ground Zero, half the population overseas would think this a perfectly reasonable approach.

But we can’t even release a photo.

In what way is the picture of the Terrorist King with his cerebellum dribbling out the side of his head going to inspire future Jihadists? Sure, there will be some angry ululating, but after that dies down, the message is clear: this is what the United States does to bad guys. Don’t be one.

It’s not spiking the football. How silly. It’s a lesson and a warning. Our enemies and their potential recruits understand that Bin Laden played a risky game, and lost. The photos would not shock them. Why shouldn’t America blow half his head off? That’s what they’d do to us.

Bin Laden is not a particularly sympathetic figure in the Arab world anymore. The photo would give sustenance to those seeking a better Arab world, a graphic message that the past is dead.

And then their are the conspiracies. The Arab street, and many other streets, think the sunrise is a conspiracy. We have left an indelible question mark in the minds of some around the world about whether we really got Bin Laden. The conflicting accounts we offered about the operation only accentuate the sense of a fictional story poorly told.

Gosh, some reasonable Americans took years to believe Elvis was dead. Jim Morrison of the Doors is still held by some to be in some shack in the south of France prying escargots out of their shells and laying down new rock music tracks.

Without the photo, Osama lives on. What better way to recruit the next generation of terrorists, gullible types who can be convinced that harems of willing virgins await their murderous self-immolation?

And what about us Americans. Don’t we have the right to see this? Don’t we have the right to see our worst enemy crushed by our brave protectors? Why, Mr. President, do you and some of the others in the elite ruling class grant yourselves permission to gain closure, while denying it to the rest of us?

Charles Crawford on the Death of Osama bin Laden

From CharlesCrawford.biz:
Most of the moral and legal burbling on whether it was right for the US special forces to shoot Bin Laden ("extrajudicial execution/killing" seems to be one the favourite phrases used) utterly misses the point.

Which is that the whole operation depended on brave beyond belief soldiers walking into a potential death-trap and hoping that Bin Laden was not only evil but also lazy and/or stupid.

Thus it must have been quite plausible that the whole shabby 'mansion' where Bin Laden lurked had been wired to explode in case of ultimate need, killing its inhabitants and their attackers alike.

Why did this not happen? Maybe Bin Laden was too cowardly to contemplate it, or too cocksure that his 'hiding in plain sight' plan was impenetrable?

Or maybe he wanted to do it but never got round to it, as getting sufficient TNT into the complex might have aroused suspicion?

Or maybe there were booby-traps in place but such was the skill of the SEALs that the AQ people got no chance to trigger them?

One way or the other, imagine the thoughts flashing through the minds of the yound US soldiers as they worked there way up through the dark chaotic building, driving forward to complete the mission from sheer discipline and courage, yet wondering whether when they threw open one final room the whole place would be vapourised - with them going too.

That final door is flung open. My God - there he is. Smirking in the corner with some woman. Maybe he has booby-trapped the room or has had time to put on a suicide belt.

This is no time for polite negotiation or reading Bin Laden his rights.

Bang. Bang.

End it. And hope to get out alive.

As it happens, we have one spectacular historical example of this explosive suicide involving massed Muslims, this time as the attacking troops.

It came 202 years ago to the month, on May 31 1809 on Čegar Hill, not far from Niš in central Serbia. Turkish forces closed in on Serbian 'insurgents' led by Stevan Sindjelic. Rather than surrender Sindjelic blew up his own gunpowder depot, obliterating himself and his own troops plus a goodly number of Turks.

To mark their costly victory and to warn off local Serbs from trying any more insurrections, the Turks built a tower of Serbian skulls in Niš and sent back Serbian scalps stuffed with cotton as tribute to the Sultan. Nice.

Parts of the tower are still there: The Tower of Skulls. I had a jolly dinner in Belgrade recently with one of Sindjelic's proud descendants.

So, Washington. Stop faffing about with these wimpy photographs and furtive so-called burials at sea.

Show your true respect for the finest Islamic warrior traditions. Get out a hack saw and the bricks and mortar - and start building.

President Obama's Remarks in NYC

Well, listen, the main reason I came here is because I heard the food is pretty good.

But to the Commissioner, to Mayor Giuliani -- who obviously performed heroic acts almost 10 years ago -- but most of all, to all of you, I wanted to just come up here to thank you.

This is a symbolic site of the extraordinary sacrifice that was made on that terrible day almost 10 years ago.  Obviously we can't bring back your friends that were lost, and I know that each and every one of you not only grieve for them, but have also over the last 10 years dealt with their family, their children, trying to give them comfort, trying to give them support.

What happened on Sunday, because of the courage of our military and the outstanding work of our intelligence, sent a message around the world, but also sent a message here back home that when we say we will never forget, we mean what we say; that our commitment to making sure that justice is done is something that transcended politics, transcended party; it didn’t matter which administration was in, it didn’t matter who was in charge, we were going to make sure that the perpetrators of that horrible act -- that they received justice.

So it’s some comfort, I hope, to all of you to know that when those guys took those extraordinary risks going into Pakistan, that they were doing it in part because of the sacrifices that were made in the States.  They were doing it in the name of your brothers that were lost.

And finally, let me just say that, although 9/11 obviously was a high water mark of courage for the New York Fire Department and a symbol of the sacrifice, you guys are making sacrifices every single day.  It doesn’t get as much notoriety, it doesn’t get as much attention, but every time you run into a burning building, every time that you are saving lives, you're making a difference.  And that's part of what makes this city great and that's part of what makes this country great.

So I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart and on behalf of the American people for the sacrifices that you make every single day.  And I just want to let you know that you're always going to have a President and an administration who’s got your back the way you’ve got the backs of the people of New York over these last many years.

So God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.

And with that, I'm going to try some of that food.  All right?  Appreciate you.  Thank you.

!Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Steve Clemons on the bin Laden Photo Ban

Many American intelligence officials began to think some years ago that he was dead already. A senior FBI agent once asked me, "you don't really believe he is still alive do you?"

If that is what high level Americans in the terror-tracking business thought, what does President Obama think that those through the Arab world will think.

Not releasing a photo of some sort furthers a bad trend of governments -- that the public doesn't have a right to know, that governments are better stewards of the truth and of basic information than the public. It is undemocratic and stiflingly paternalistic.

Wikileaks was a market reaction to the massive expansion of official secrecy not just in the US but elsewhere in the world.

President Obama's decision to hold back the bin Laden photo/s only aggravates this trend.

MosFilm Classics Go Online

On this MosFilm YouTube channel... (ht Robin Shapiro)

BTW, you can read the article I wrote about my tour of MosFilm, for this blog in 2005, here.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Four Questions Following the Death of Osama bin Laden

1. Who shot Osama bin Laden?

2. Why did Americans like Judy Woodruff, Diane Sawyer, and Leon Panetta wear black on television, following his death? (Panetta even wore a black tie on PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer).

3. How could bin Laden have been living in Abbottabad, Pakistan for six years without CIA knowledge or permission?

4. Why is the US government acting afraid, instead of victorious?

Fouad Ajami on the Death of Osama bin Laden

From his Wall Street Journal op-ed, Osama Bin Laden, Weak Horse:
When our remarkable soldiers gave him a choice, Osama bin Laden gave them a fight. Fittingly, he was not in a cave. He had grown up in the urban world of Jeddah, and he was struck down in a perfectly urban setting, a stone's throw from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, in odd proximity to a military academy, in a visible and large compound. He had outlived his time and use, and doubtless Pakistani intelligence was now willing to cast him adrift.

Thoughts on the Death of Osama bin Laden

1. President Obama deserves credit.

Without question, President Obama did the right thing. Two Presidents before Obama flinched when it came to Osama bin Laden. President Bill Clinton let him escape in the 1990s, while President George W. Bush let him escape in the 21st Century. It may have taken two years, but President Obama succeeded where the others failed. One may nitpick, or ask "What took so long?" Others may have found the Presidential announcement off-key.

However, any concerns about the circumstances should not take anything away from the fact that, for whatever reason, for whatever motive, President Obama succeeded where others before him had failed.

2. It is a real blow to Al Qaeda.

Those who maintain that this doesn't matter, or that bin Laden was not that important, don't understand the dynamics of revolutionary political movements. As bin Laden himself said, people bet on the strong horse against the weaker horse. Simply by staying alive for a decade with a price on his head, bin Laden defied the might and power and indeed legitimacy of the United States. Like Che Guevara, he came to symbolize anti-Americanism. He and his allies had blown up the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, downtown London, and sponsored attacks all over the world: Madrid, Bali, Algeria, Tunisia, Iraq, Israel, Russia, China, Turkey--thumbing his nose at everyone. This chutzpah alone gave Al Qaeda a following. With the killing of the Al Qaeda leader, America has finally shown the world that bin Laden didn't get away with it.

3. It is a tonic for the United States.

It makes concrete President Obama's campaign slogan, "Yes, we can!"

For almost decade, Americans have lived in fear: afraid to name the enemy's ideology; afraid to put terrorists on trial; afraid to fly; afraid to go into government buildings; afraid to close down Guantanamo, afraid even to think. The fear became contagious, creating a morale-sapping decade in which American commerce and industry--once the envy of the world--became a basket case. Likewise, government agencies ceased to function properly as scandals swirled from Hurricane Katrina, to the failure to prosecute Wall Street executives for fraud after the largest financial collapse in US history, to cheating scandals on standardized tests, to the failure to try and execute Major Nidal Hasan immediately after the Ft. Hood massacre--an open-and-shut case, if there ever was one.

Yes, the climate of fear resulted from a failure of leadership, institutionalized cowardice among political parties, business, and the citizenry. Now, the killing of bin Laden ought to permit American fear to be replaced by American confidence--and the rebuilding of shattered American institutions in the public, private, and non-profit sectors.

4. It is not a partisan issue.

This should go without saying. Bin Laden didn't attack Democrats or Republicans, he didn't attack Bush or Clinton--he attacked America. Likewise, all Americans were victims of the 9/11 attacks--not only families of those killed at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon or Flight 93. They suffered most directly, but the target was all of us.

5. It took much too long.

If this had happened in 2002, America could have celebrated. As it didn't, America can only be relieved. While cliches such as "better late than never" or Churchill's line that "Americans always do the right thing, after they have exhausted every alternative option" might seem apropos, they are not good enough.

With bin Laden finally dead, America must not flinch from rigorous self-examination, and an honest accounting for the mistakes of the past decade, in order to answer the question Bernard Lewis posed in another context: What Went Wrong?

To learn from our mistakes, first we must admit them.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Chistopher Hitchens on the Death of Osama bin Laden

Glad that Hitch has lived to see it. From Slate:
If you tell me that you are staying in a rather nice walled compound in Abbottabad, I can tell you in return that you are the honored guest of a military establishment that annually consumes several billion dollars of American aid. It's the sheer blatancy of it that catches the breath.

There's perhaps some slight satisfaction to be gained from this smoking-gun proof of official Pakistani complicity with al-Qaida, but in general it only underlines the sense of anticlimax. After all, who did not know that the United States was lavishly feeding the same hands that fed Bin Laden? There's some minor triumph, also, in the confirmation that our old enemy was not a heroic guerrilla fighter but the pampered client of a corrupt and vicious oligarchy that runs a failed and rogue state.

Elsewhere in Slate, Daniel Byman analyzes the future of al-Qaida after Osama bin Laden, John Dickerson discusses the president's proactive role in the assassination, and William Saletan uncovers some holes in the raid narrative. Also, David Weigel describes the scene outside the White House following Obama's announcement, Anne Applebaum applauds America's use of human intelligence over expensive technologies, and Brian Palmer examines Bin Laden's burial at sea. For the most up-to-date-coverage, visit The Slatest. Slate's complete coverage is rounded up here.

But, again, we were aware of all this already. At least we won't have to put up with a smirking video when the 10th anniversary of his best-known atrocity comes around. Come to think of it, though, he hadn't issued any major communiqués on any subject lately (making me wonder, some time ago, if he hadn't actually died or been accidentally killed already), and the really hateful work of his group and his ideology was being carried out by a successor generation like his incomparably more ruthless clone in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. I find myself hoping that, like Zarqawi, Bin Laden had a few moments at the end to realize who it was who had found him and to wonder who the traitor had been. That would be something. Not much, but something.

In what people irritatingly call "iconic" terms, Bin Laden certainly had no rival. The strange, scrofulous quasi-nobility and bogus spirituality of his appearance was appallingly telegenic, and it will be highly interesting to see whether this charisma survives the alternative definition of revolution that has lately transfigured the Muslim world. The most tenaciously lasting impression of all, however, is that of his sheer irrationality. What had the man thought he was doing? Ten years ago, did he expect, let alone desire, to be in a walled compound in dear little Abbottabad?

Osama Bin Laden is Dead.

It's a relief.

It's nice news.

Yet, it comes a little late.

From Pakistan's DAWN newspaper's account:
Residents said they were astounded to learn bin Laden had been in their midst. One neighbour said an old man had been living in the compound for the past 10 years.

“He never mixed much, he kept a low profile,” said the neighbour, Zahoor Ahmed.

“It’s hard to believe bin Laden was there. We never saw any extraordinary movements,” said another neighbour, Adress Ahmed.

Abbottabad has long been a cool, leafy retreat from the heat of the Pakistan plains.

It was founded by a British army officer, James Abbott, in the mid-nineteenth century as the British were pushing the bounds of their Indian empire into the northwestern hills inhabited by Pashtun tribes.

Today, the town is home to a Pakistani military academy and its surrounding hills are dotted with summer homes.

Sohaib Athar, whose online profile says he is an IT consultant taking a break from the rat race, sent out a stream of live updates on Twitter about the movement of helicopters and blasts without realising it was a raid on bin Laden.

When he learnt who had been killed, he tweeted: “Uh oh, there goes the neighbourhood.”
But it might take more to convince many people that bin Laden is dead.

One soldier on patrol near the compound said there had been talk before of bin Laden’s death, only for it to be proven untrue.

“It’s not clear if he was killed or not,” the soldier said.
Link to Google Maps view of site (ht Tom Gross).
Amateur video of Osama Bin Laden's hideout from YouTube (ht Sohaib Athar) :