Friday, May 22, 2009

Forget Partisanship - Remember 9/11

After listening to former Vice President Cheney’s speech yesterday on national security, I was a bit taken aback as to why his speech was even necessary.

Then it dawned on me what the problem may be with those who attempt to make believe that the events of 9/11 never happened, criminalize the prior administration, or try their best to ignore the threats we face by radical Islam today.

Maybe they just had to be there! And for those that weren’t and just don’t get it, perhaps they don’t feel the threats we face, or need for us to do everything within our power to make sure it never happens again.

As I listened to the vice president’s speech, there came a point that I was virtually knocked back in time, nearly eight years to the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. Cheney said that one of the defining moments for him on 9/11, was when radar caught sight of an airliner heading toward the White House at 500 miles per hour. It was American Airlines Flight 77, the airliner that ended up hitting the Pentagon.

While the plane was still inbound, Secret Service agents rushed into his office and I imagine with his feet barely touching the ground, he was evacuated, finding himself moments later in a fortified White House command post somewhere within the compound. Confined to this bunker, he listened to the reports and watched the images that so many Americans remember from that day.

His reflection of those events is more than mere words to me as I lived through those moments, standing in front of former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who was waiting for the vice president to come to the phone.

The mayor and I and our staff were all huddled inside a small office at 75 Barclay Street, just two blocks north of the towers on West Broadway.

After acknowledging someone on the other end of the phone, Giuliani slowly placed the phone back on its receiver. He then repeated what he had just been told, they “think the Pentagon has been hit,” and they’re “evacuating the White House.”

Cheney didn’t make it to the phone because he himself was being dragged into that bunker, and just as that moment is etched in his mind, it is etched in mine as well. It was 9:49 a.m., and although I wasn’t looking at a clock, I’m positive of the time because within 30 seconds after Giuliani hung up that phone, the building we were in began to shake as if a freight train was colliding into the side of it.

The windows in the hallways began to shatter as someone kicked open the door and yelled for us to get down to the ground. For the next 15-20 seconds, there appeared to be an endless explosion, saturating our temporary headquarters with dust, gas, and debris.

We were almost suffocating. It was now 9:50 a.m., and the unthinkable and unimaginable has just happened. Tower II of the World Trade Center had just imploded with enough force to vaporize almost everything and anything in its path.

For me and those who were there, and for those brave men and women that responded and worked day and night at ground zero for months, the events of 9/11 are very personal as we witnessed firsthand, the evil of the enemy and threats we face.

We must realize that most of the people impacted worst, like those who lost friends and family members on 9/11 or the men and women in our armed forces and their families at home; take the events of that day and our country’s national security very personal.

I believe President Bush and Vice President Cheney also took it personal. It happened on their watch; they lived through it and then most importantly, had to ensure that it wouldn’t happen again.

Now it’s President Obama’s watch, and I believe he himself has gotten a firsthand look at the threats we face, which resulted in an appointment of a much stronger National Security team than anyone would have predicted. But besides those threats, he must deal with a House and Senate, loaded with a partisan obsession to criminalize the former administration for what they felt was right and necessary at the time.

Second guessing and Monday-morning quarterbacking from the outside looking in does no one any good. At the end of the day, it’s the man in the seat who calls the shots and must deal with the outcome. We can only hope he makes the right call, and when he’s wrong, he learns from his mistakes.

Like it or not, the shots were called, and we’ve learned from what mistakes there were. Now move on and move forward. The president has a hard enough job as it is, but the partisan politics and attacks by the House and Senate serves in no one’s interest — except for those out to see us fail.

We’ve been through one 9/11 — and take my word for it — we do not want another one.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Pledge of Allegiance by Red Skelton

From the 1950's to the 1980's, there was a very famous comedian here in the United States by the name of Red Skelton who was enormously funny and extremely patriotic. At one point in his career, he had his own weekly show that as I recall, ran on Sunday evenings.

One evening in 1969 and quite out of character, he touched on a serious note and reflected about a grammar school teacher he once had by the name of Mr. Laswell. He explained that Mr. Laswell was concerned that his students were losing their interest in our flag and that it appeared that their reciting of the pledge of allegiance to our flag was becoming monotonous. So, in an attempt to demonstrate to his students the importance of our pledge... he began to explain the pledge in detail - what each and every word meant.

Country singer and star Charlie Daniels later took the Skelton skit and turned it into a song.

In today's world of political correctness and political BS... perhaps we should go back to the basics in teaching our children about our flag and the country it represents. They should learn from Mr. Laswell and Mr. Skelton, all the things that many in this country sometimes forget or so often take for granted.

The Skelton skit was a very cute story but the meaning behind it, is one that as American's we should never forget. I urge everyone to take a minute and click on the title above and listen to it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Obama Risks National Security with CIA Scrutiny

In the past week, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said in a television interview, that the Obama administration would not support prosecutions for "those who devised policy" regarding the CIA interrogations.

The same interrogations that President Barack Obama’s top intelligence adviser, National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair, recently admitted had resulted in "high-value information" as well as a "deeper understanding" of al-Qaida.

Attorney General Eric Holder offered an assurance that the CIA officials who were involved in these acts would not be targeted, as long as their actions were in line with legal advice at the time.

General Holder also told the CIA that the government would provide free legal representation to its employees in any legal proceeding or congressional investigation related to the program and would repay any financial judgment. He said, "It would be unfair to prosecute dedicated men and women working to protect America for conduct that was sanctioned in advance by the Justice Department."

President Obama’s current CIA Director Leon Panetta recently wrote in a message to his employees that, “the CIA responded, as duty requires,” and the president himself said in a letter sent directly to CIA employees that the nation must protect their identity "as vigilantly as they protect our security."

These are the right responses for all the right reasons.

For example, with the exception of Rahm Emanuel, each one of these men has to lead some of the most courageous men and women in the world into an indefinite war against an evil that surpasses any enemy we have ever had to deal with before.

These agents or operatives need the inspiration and support of their leaders and their country.
They shouldn’t have to work with a fear of reprisal or criminal prosecution by politicians who are obsessed with the previous administration, particularly when their actions were deemed legal and necessary at the time and resulted in valuable intelligence that we may not have acquired otherwise.

The politicizing of this and other issues involving our national security has to stop as it is weakening our ability to protect ourselves.

It is amazing to hear our congressional leaders call for one investigation after another when in fact members of Congress repeatedly signed off on the CIA’s enhanced interrogation methods (such as waterboarding) that many of them today decry as torture.

That’s right — Director Blair recently revealed that from 2002 through 2006 when the use of these techniques ended, “the leadership of the CIA repeatedly reported their activities both to executive branch policymakers and to members of Congress, and received permission to continue to use the techniques."

Will those members of Congress too be investigated?

In their zeal to politically persecute President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and others, it appears they have lost their objectivity. It appears they have no concern over the release of national security related information, past and present, that in no way should ever be released publicly or more so to our enemies.

If Congress sincerely wants an accurate report on the National Security policies or the CIA’s interrogation methods used during the Bush administration, perhaps they should hire an independent body to do so for they can’t investigate themselves.

More importantly, we should not and cannot impede our ability to secure this country and fight the war and enemy we face.

The president said himself that he worries about “getting so politicized that we cannot function effectively, and it hampers our ability to carry out national security operations."

Perhaps Congress should take heed and stop politicizing our National Security before it is too late.