Monday, April 12, 2010

The Unfortunate Reality of Friendly Fire in Combat

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday that he backs the troops on the Apache attack that killed 12 people, including two Reuters news staff members. 

Friday, January 29, 2010

New Legislation for a New Enemy

After nearly every terrorist attack by a radical Islamic extremist group, the cowards behind the attacks do their best to promote their deadly deeds by proudly taking credit for the death and destruction they have caused or attempted to cause.

Osama Bin Laden couldn’t refrain from going public after the attacks on the World Trade Center, just as he did this week in trying to claim responsibility for the attempted Christmas Day bombing of the KLM flight by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. While Bin Laden’s claim was widely described as a bit of nasty credit stealing, claiming responsibility, whether real or not, enables the group to instill fear into the minds and hearts of their enemy, which is a substantial part of what terrorism is all about.

The bigger the soap box terrorists can stand on to proclaim their message, the more effective they can be at instilling fear and furthering their agenda. This is one reason why the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the alleged mastermind of the attacks on America on 9/11, should not be allowed to take place in New York City. The international press and media coverage would be every bit as intense as it was in the aftermath of the attacks on the Towers, and would be a inspiration to every maniac out there who thinks nothing of strapping on a bomb belt and blowing himself and as many innocents as possible into a thousand pieces, believing it’s the right thing to do.

The security concerns for a trial like this would come close to shutting down southern Manhattan, as we did in the aftermath of 9/11. Businesses, government agencies, and residents alike would suffer greatly, as caution dictates that abundant security elements would be needed to secure areas around the courthouse, detention center, FBI headquarters, other government buildings, and a myriad of soft targets.

The reality is that it would be in the best interest of New York City and the American people that this trial does not happen in New York City or, for that matter, in any other major city in our country.
If the reports that the venue for the terror trial has been changed from New York City are true, this should be broadened to “Any American city.” A trial in DC, for example, would provide a tremendous backdrop for pro-terrorist propaganda. Los Angeles would provide Hollywood contrasts. Kansas City would let them set their propaganda against the Heartland. All cities would suffer tremendous security costs and risk being targeted for revenge attacks.

Consideration should be given to situating all trials of suspected terrorists and enemy combatants against the U.S. on a secluded military installation that can provide the perimeter security required for such an event and that can accommodate the security requirements for detention and court proceedings. Indeed, it wouldn’t be foolish to keep the location secret for as long as possible.

I strongly believe that it’s time we change the way we are handling the enemy altogether. Forget what the Clinton or Bush Administrations have done in the past and who was tried when and where or how prior incidents were handled. Forget what Bush or Obama has or hasn’t done and just face the reality, that terrorism is here to stay, and here in a bigger way than ever before in our history.
We need to prepare now, for how we will handle terrorism and attacks against the United States by enemies foreign and domestic.

Does new legislation need to be drafted, to outline how suspected terrorists will be detained – where and by whom – and where and how they will be tried? If those detained are truly enemy combatants, as I believe they are, then are there laws on the books to provide the necessary funding, resources and tools we need to get us from point A – Z, once they are captured and taken into custody?

If there are grey areas in the law, now is the time to turn those areas into black and white, and get it over with. We can’t continue to play political hot potato every time one of these guys is taken into custody in the United States or abroad.

An enemy is at war with us in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Africa, and even right here, right in our own backyard. Just because they don’t wear the uniform of another country or follow the orders of its leader doesn’t mean a terrorist shouldn’t be considered an enemy of the state. That’s what the terrorists are and the tactics they employ, exploiting out society’s freedom of movement and protections of individual rights, are especially dangerous.

These people are malicious chameleons, that can’t be seen; they are especially deadly because they can’t be seen – something we may have to address with legislation as well. This is the terrible dilemma that we face:we have an enemy that exploits our freedoms and then turns them against us.
We must continue to defend our freedoms but we need to learn how to balance our right to privacy against the dangers we face and our God given right to live in a safe and secure environment.

If the Geneva Convention no longer fits the kind of warfare in which we are now engaged, then let’s amend it. If the United Nations is incapable of enforcing its own rules, then we must ignore it to save ourselves.

Let’s not worry about what other people around the world think because history has clearly demonstrated that, when it comes to our national security, we’re on our own.
We need to fix a system that’s obviously broken before it is too late.

This is a new enemy that we must learn how to deal with. It’s time to face the fact that we’re going to have to carve out a new path to victory over those who are attempting to use our own constitution and institutions to destroy us.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Crisis in Haiti

Every disaster, natural or man-made, demands a response tailored to its particular challenges, but the lessons learned through handling past disasters can help avoid predictable mistakes.

The most substantial difference between the response to the attack on the World Trade Center and Katrina disaster was the management of the crisis. It remains an open question how well disaster relief for Haiti will be managed and coordinated.

In New York City, after the attacks of September 11th, there was a unified command structure, with the Mayor or Governor sitting in charge at executive management meetings three to four times a day. Those meetings consisted of all of the agencies responsible for running the city or state. Anything and everything that had to be done was coordinated in those meetings and delegated to the appropriate agency for handling. There was constant follow-up at these meetings to insure that the tasks assigned to agencies were carried out.By having so many regularly scheduled, highly focused meetings, crisis management strategies could be quickly modified as conditions changed or new information became available. If additional follow-up was required, it was only a matter of hours before the next meeting would be held, and any problems not taken care of in the field could be resolved quickly.

Coordination of volunteer assistance and resources is essential, and, just as there must be a unified executive command, the operational areas must also have a defined chain of command and mechanisms to promptly communicate necessary information from the executive command center to the operational or event commanders in the field.

In contrast to New York’s handling of September 11th, this kind of executive leadership never happened during the Katrina crisis. Although all parties were well intentioned, the Governor was going one way and the Mayor of New Orleans another, with the Mayor failing to communicate with federal assistance personnel. This chaotic absence of coordinated management only added to the crisis at hand.

September 11th and Katrina posed immense management challenges. The situation in Haiti, however, is far worse. The Haiti crisis is of epic proportion. All the issues we had to deal with in the United States during 9/11 or Katrina will be multiplied a hundred-fold, perhaps a thousand-fold. The importance of a unified command that efficiently manages the flow of information and resources to operational commanders in the field cannot be overstated. These are absolutely essential components for the best outcome for Haiti catastrophe relief efforts.

Haiti needs all the resources they can get through charitable contributions and foreign governments. Collecting, transporting, storing, and distributing resources poses an immense, complex challenge.
First and foremost, getting water and food and medical supplies to the people is a top priority. Relief leaders must do whatever it’s going to take to prevent the spread of disease. To minimize risk, supplies should be delivered within the first 72 hours – and the quake struck last Tuesday. Every passing hour in an area with contaminated water, insect-borne disease, and insufficient sanitation facilities puts survivors and rescuers at greater and greater risk.

For those interested in donating money to a Haiti-related charity, there are two things to keep in mind. You want to make sure that as much of your charitable dollar as possible reaches those who are suffering, rather than to support the administrative costs of whatever charity you’re considering giving to. A good rule of thumb is to choose a charity whose administrative fee does not exceed 10%. You can find this information for free online, through the searchable database at Charity Navigator. You don’t want to donate money to a life-and-death cause like Haiti relief, only to find that 50% of your money is going toward the charity’s administrative costs and employee salaries.

The other thing you should be aware of is that you must make sure the charity you’ve chosen will direct the full amount of your donation to Haiti relief. Even with a legitimate charity, you want to direct and to verify that all that the money you donate is going to Haiti relief, not to a bigger pot with only a portion of it going to Haiti.

We saw an historic problem of this kind in New York after September 11th. The Red Cross set up a fund to provide relief to the victims of the terrorist attacks.By November, 2001, the fund totaled $564 million in donations. Red Cross officials then decided to use 2/3 of these donations for other purposes, such as upgrading Red Cross computer and phone systems, which resulted in public outrage and Congressional hearings. So it’s important, even with the most trustworthy charity, to write your check so that the charity is obliged to use your money in the way you intend.

The President has already committed $100M in support to the government of Haiti and other governments should be doing the same. However, under no circumstance do I think that we should do so without conditions being put on that money, as to where it goes and how it should be spent, with methods of accountability installed to insure that it is used for the purpose it was granted.

I believe Haiti is going to be a test case for international compassion and coordination, and already it is pretty evident that the United States once again will lead the way. Where are Russia, China, and some of the other countries on the so-called world stage? China has pledged $1 million – a far cry from the $100 million the U.S. has pledged.

If other powerful nations can’t produce at times like this, when an entire country is on the verge of extinction, then we and the rest of the world need to seriously re-evaluate what we do for them, and with them.

God bless the people of Haiti, and Godspeed to those who go there to help the Haitian people.