Thursday, October 8, 2009
Between the New York City Police and Correction departments, I led a combined staff of nearly 70,000 men and women, and I oversaw a $4 billion dollar budget.
In the jail system, I had the responsibility of overseeing the 125,000 inmates who entered the system annually; in the police department, I had to worry about the 8 million to 12 million people who lived in, worked in, or visited New York City daily. In both departments, we had enormous successes, much of which I received the credit for, but the reality is that the men and women in the field are responsible for the real successes or failures of any administrator or executive.
An enormous part of leadership is getting the right men and women in place to do the job, knowing and understanding those people, inspiring them to do the job, and then providing them with the tools, and staff they need if you intend to succeed.
Be it a grocery store in New Jersey, a car wash in Florida, a Walmart anywhere in the country, or the NYPD – the principles are all the same. And that goes for our military as well.
Wednesday marked the eight-year anniversary of the U.S. and coalition invasion of Afghanistan after the attacks on America on Sept. 11, 2001. A few days earlier, hundreds of Taliban insurgents armed with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades overran two outposts near the Pakistan border, killing eight U.S. soldiers and capturing more than 20 Afghan security troops.
It was one of the deadliest assaults against U.S. forces in more than a year.
Almost simultaneously, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, said that the situation in Afghanistan is serious and growing worse — and without more boots on the ground, the United States risks failure in the war it has been waging. That said, we have two choices to make: Give him what he needs to do the job, or pull our troops out and get them home.
Continuing this battle understaffed and ill-equipped is a guarantee for heavier losses that no one wants to see.
Let’s not forget the Soviet–Afghan War, which lasted more than nine years involving the Soviet Union and India, supporting Afghanistan at its request, against the Islamist Mujahedeen Resistance. Supporting the mujahedeen were the United States, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and a few other Muslim nations.
This war ultimately was labeled the Soviets' Vietnam because of the interminable nature of the war and the Soviets' inability to achieve any sort of victory. And that was the Soviet Union, a world power whose idea of the Geneva Convention is using tanks to run over protesters at an antiwar rally.
The U.S. troops and coalition forces in Afghanistan today are fighting a battle in terrain that is nearly impossible, and their enemy is like mountain rats that live in the rocks and caves. What is worse yet is that the enemy likes those conditions.
This is no easy job.
McChrystal said he needs more troops to get the job done. He is the man on the ground tasked with a strategy to accomplish a mission. There’s no better example of this type of exercise than the merger in Iraq and the successes Gen. David Petraeus had in 2008. There’s no need to speak to the members of the Armed Services Committee for advice unless that advice is how to expedite the logistical request and get McChrystal the tools and resources he needs to get that job done.
It's now or never — for every day we waste, we put the lives of those fighting for us on the line even more than they already are. If we are not going to grant the general his request, then call him and his troops home, salute each and every one, and thank them for a job well done.
If we are, then let’s get on with it. McChrystal and the men and women under his command deserve no less.
Until the decision is made one way or another, God speed to all.
Posted by BERNARD B. KERIK at 2:51 PM
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s threat to world peace grows stronger by the day with new evidence that Iran is building an underground plant to enrich uranium that can be used for an atomic bomb.
When asked if Iran had sufficient uranium to manufacture nuclear weapons, Ahmadinejad sidestepped the question, saying the new facility won't be operational for 18 months, so Iran has not violated any IAEA requirements.
However, the semi-official Fars News Agency quoted Mohammad Mohammadi-Golpayegani, who heads the office of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as saying: "This new plant, God willing, will soon become operational and will make the enemies blind." That doesn’t sound like they will be using this facility for energy, does it?
Iran, its president, and Khamenei jeopardize global nonproliferation, the European nations, the Middle East and in particular, Israel — a country that Ahmadinejad has already identified as his principal target that should be blown off the map.
In their spare time when they are not working on their own atomic bomb, Iran is also helping Venezuela detect uranium deposits which experts suggest that their reserves could be significant.
This insanity must be stopped, and stopped now.
President Barack Obama on Saturday urged Tehran to open the site to the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency or face consequences.
The head of Iran's nuclear program suggested that United Nations inspectors may be allowed to visit the site, but history has shown that depending on the U.N., its inspectors, or sanctions have never been effective.
The threats of isolation and increased pressure by the international community will not work when China and Russia are saying publicly that they will not support sanctions against Iran.
Anyone who believes that Ahmadinejad is worried about denying his country the resources that would come with international or U.N. sanctions are a bit naïve. We have seen what he thinks of the Iranian people during his last election, when he basically took his position by force, deadly and otherwise.
Ahmadinejad and Iran’s manufacturing of nuclear weapons must be addressed, and addressed now. We cannot negotiate with a madman and we cannot wait until it’s too late or we or others might be taken by surprise.
Our allies in Europe and the Middle East are in danger, and Israel could face complete annihilation. We can’t afford another Iraq, but we don’t have to have one. Either we take out these sites, or give Israel or someone else the help they need to get the job done.
It is the right thing to do, and now is the time to do it.
Posted by BERNARD B. KERIK at 10:14 PM
Friday, September 25, 2009
On Sept. 20, 2001, President George W. Bush addressed a joint session of Congress following the attacks on America on 9/11. I sat two rows behind first lady Laura Bush as the president spoke of “a country awakened to danger and called to defend freedom.”
He spoke of a new and unconventional enemy and said, “They are recruited from their own nations and neighborhoods and brought to camps in places like Afghanistan where they are trained in the tactics of terror. They are sent back to their homes or sent to hide in countries around the world to plot evil and destruction.”
He said, “These terrorists kill not merely to end lives, but to disrupt and end a way of life. With every atrocity, they hope that America grows fearful, retreating from the world and forsaking our friends. They stand against us because we stand in their way.”
Well, for the past two weeks, we have learned of a carefully organized and massive plot to bomb a number of targets across the United States by a 24-year-old, Afghan-born Al-Qaida operative named Najibullah Zazi, precisely the enemy Bush spoke of in 2001.
Throughout the course of this investigation by the FBI and New York City Police Department, we have heard that Zazi had several pages of hand-written notes of bomb-making instructions inside a computer that he kept in his possession. He allegedly wrote those notes last year when attended an al-Qaida training camp in Pakistan.
"You're talking about subway stations, public places where potentially thousands of people could be killed," said former FBI agent Brad Garrett. "And in addition to that, when you add multiple locations, you're talking about potentially a horrendous number of people dying.”
Since Zazi’s arrest, federal agents have tracked down a number of beauty supply stores in Colorado where Zazi and accomplices purchased unusually large quantities of hydrogen peroxide and acetone, which would be used to create improvised explosive devices and weapons of mass destruction.
Attorney General Eric Holder said in a prepared statement that, “We believe an imminent threat arising from this case has been disrupted,” and added, “we are investigating a wide range of leads.”
Based on reports, it appears that Zazi was the ringleader of this al-Qaida cell and had a number of co-conspirators in Colorado and New York, and that the principal targets were probably in New York.
That being said, perhaps it’s time to look at things a little differently when it comes to keeping our country safe and free from the threats of this new and unconventional enemy.
Immigration, criminal profiling, and the Patriot Act are just for starters.
Our immigration laws have loopholes the size of Texas. Putting aside our inability to prevent intruders from illegally crossing our borders, many of our immigration policies are no better.
For example, a military commander from Saudi Arabia comes to the United States to attend a military course and brings his wife, who is eight months pregnant. Their baby is born a U.S. citizen, the family travels back to Saudi Arabia, and the child can return anytime during their lifetime with no restrictions. If by chance that child is raised or infested with the radical Islamic beliefs of Osama Bin Laden and his followers, there is nothing we can do about it. That child has the same rights and any other U.S. citizen.
Another example, based on a true story, is that a naturalized Pakistani father living in Georgia takes his two U.S.-born teenage sons to Karachi, Pakistan, drops them in a madrassa (an Islamic learning center) for four years to be indoctrinated in radical extremists beliefs. The two young men return to the United States with an incredible hatred for our country and there is nothing we can do about it.
Another example: A family from Syria is chosen thru the U.S. immigration lottery to acquire a green card. They come to the United States and acquire their green card with the understanding that they will live in the U.S. However, as soon as they receive it, they head back to Syria (using their Syrian passport) and return every six months to show up for immigration interviews until they become U.S. citizens. They then live in Syria and keep the U.S. citizenship in a drawer in case they need it.
Since political correctness has scared our legislators to death, they can’t find the courage to say publicly that we as a country must begin profiling to identify the new enemies we face, both here and abroad.
Call it criminal profiling, terrorist profiling, or whatever you wish, but don’t confuse it with racial profiling. Take the sex, age, religion, education, place of worship, travel history, and an assortment of other things that resemble the personal pedigree of Najibullah Zazi, Mohammed Atta (one of the 9/11 ring leaders), and a few of the Islamic extremist bombers in Madrid and London, and throw them into a massive super computer of every public and law enforcement data base in the U.S., and I promise you will identify a number of people we should be watching that we are not.
The civil rights advocates will scream constitutional violations, racial profiling, big brother watching, and on and on. So what! I’d rather find these people before they strike than be conducting investigations after a device was activated somewhere in the New York City mass transit system.
As for the Patriot Act, every time we hear of a plot that involves an extremist group that intends to attack our country from within, I look at how the Patriot Act has helped in the investigation. This one probably takes the cake.
The CIA observed Zazi in Pakistan frequenting a location known to be a hangout for al-Qaida operatives. The CIA relayed that information to the FBI in the United States and a target is born. Roving wiretaps, CIA-FBI communications and coordination, local and state involvement in the federal investigation, and more led to the arrest and uncovering of what could be the most substantial al-Qaida attack plot in the U.S since 9/11.
Since the details continue to filter in, only time will tell how big this plot was, but one thing is for sure: the Patriot Act was a viable tool in allowing the federal agents to accomplish their goals of taking down this cell.
Unlike World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, or even the first Gulf War, this is a new enemy that far surpasses the others in numbers. It’s an unconventional enemy and must be fought by unconventional means. Immigration, the Patriot Act and profiling are just some of the tools that local, state, and federal authorities will need to do their job.
If we are going to beat them, we must think like them, create laws to combat them, and understand that the days of battling a foreign enemy through conventional means are over. Our military must change, our local, state and federal law enforcement must change, and most importantly, our political leadership on both sides of the aisle must change.
In concluding his speech in 2001, Bush said he was “confident of the victories to come.”
For your sake and mine, I just hope he was right.
Posted by BERNARD B. KERIK at 10:22 PM