Tag Archives: Osama bin Laden

How will history judge this presidency?

Is it too early to begin thinking about how history is going to judge Donald J. Trump’s term as president?

I think not.

We’re well into the second year of Trump’s time in office. I am beginning to ponder how history might end up categorizing this most unconventional, chaotic, tumult-filled presidency.

Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace during the Watergate scandal; Gerald Ford restored a sense of decency in government; Jimmy Carter was bedeviled by the Iran hostage crisis; Ronald Reagan is remembered for restoring the nation’s sense of confidence; the Cold War ended on George H.W. Bush’s watch; Bill Clinton got impeached and he oversaw tremendous economic growth and the balancing of the federal budget; George W. Bush took us to war against terror after 9/11 and endured a financial collapse that rivaled the Great Depression; Barack Obama helped rescue the economy and ordered the death of the 9/11 mastermind, Osama bin Laden.

Trump’s time in office?

I have begun looking back on it and I keep coming up with a course that hasn’t yet been charted.

He took office in January 2017, delivering a grim and foreboding inaugural speech and then ratcheted up his war against the media. He has described reporters as the “enemy of the American people.”

He uses “fake news” to disparage anyone who reports anything negative about him. He has burned through several Cabinet secretaries and key White House advisers.

Trump awakens  every day and fires off tweets attacking anyone who sits in his crosshairs.

The president is facing a serious shellacking in the midterm election coming up later this year. Democrats might retake the U.S. House; the Senate is within reach, too. Then it might really, really rocky for the president as he sets up a re-election campaign for 2020.

He signed a tax cut into law. He has tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He pulled us out of a deal that seeks to keep Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Trump yanked the United States out of a climate accord signed by virtually every other nation on Earth.

Through all of this, the president refuses to acknowledge what intelligence officials have said already, that the Russians meddled in our 2016 election and has declared war against the FBI and the Department of Justice.

What a legacy — so far. I am quite certain we’ll have a whole lot more drama in store as this presidency heads toward the next election.

Stay tuned.

Good news: Osama bin Laden is still dead

I have been grappling emotionally with how I should approach the crux of this next blog post.

I’ll start with the positive aspect first. Seven years ago today, a group of Navy SEALs, along with CIA operatives flew into Pakistan under the darkness of a moonless night. They departed their helicopters and killed Osama bin Laden, the world’s most notorious international terrorist — and the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks on New  York and Washington, D.C.

President Barack Obama issued the order after examining months of intelligence-gathering. Our anti-terror effort found bin Laden in a compound in Abbattobad, Pakistan. The president then issued the order to take bin Laden out.

The team performed flawlessly. There were no casualties on our side of the fight.

The president made a gutsy call and to his great credit, praised the work of our nation’s anti-terrorist efforts that began during President George W. Bush’s administration.

The SEAL team delivered justice to Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011. It could have gone badly, causing the president irreparable political harm.

***

Then a curious development arose not long after bin Laden’s death. One of the SEAL team members, Robert O’Neill, stepped forward to take credit for firing the shots that killed the despicable terrorist.

O’Neill’s public pronouncement drew immediate criticism from others in the military, notably those who serve in special forces such as the Army Green Berets, other SEALs and Air Force rescue commandos. They said O’Neill violated a code among those who serve in this high-risk, high-danger form of military service. That code is designed to protect the identities of those who actually pull the trigger on fatal shots. The Marine Corps calls it “espirit de corps,” or “spirit of the group.” No single team member should stand above or in front of the rest of the members of his team.

O’Neill violated that code by speaking out.

But now he’s coming to Amarillo later this month to speak at a public event designed to honor our nation’s veterans.

I am torn over this. O’Neill’s service as a SEAL deserves a nation’s eternal gratitude. I just wish organizers of the Amarillo event could have found a keynote speaker who hadn’t violated a code that aims to prevent our elite fighters from seeking individual glory.

And the fight goes on and on

You remember al-Qaida, yes? That was the terrorist cabal that hurled the United States into a global war on 9/11. It’s a new form of worldwide conflict.

In recent years our attention has been riveted on the Islamic State, which emerged as Public Enemy No. 1 in that ongoing war.

ISIS has produced its share of public figures who’ve taunted the rest of the world. Perhaps the most notable of them was a British national nicknamed “Jihadi John,” who beheaded prisoners. Jihadi John got his, though, in a missile strike that took him out in 2016.

Here is some more good news: The U.S. military, working with Libyan forces, has killed a key al-Qaida leader in another strike. Musa Abu Dawud was one of two key militant leaders to get blown to bits in a strike in Libya.

Now, before we start our end zone dance and high-five each other, I would like to remind us all of an irrefutable truth in this war: We will need to kill every single terrorist if we have any hope of ending this threat. In other words, although an al-Qaida leader has been smoked, another one — or more — is likely to emerge to replace him.

Donald Trump once told us knew knows “more about ISIS than the generals.” OK, but there must be continued pressure put on the original top enemy, al-Qaida. That organization has continued to wage terror campaigns even though its leader, Osama bin Laden, died in that U.S. commando raid in May 2011.

This is my way of reminding us about the nature of this war against terror. There likely is no way we can declare victory the way we did in World War II, when the world put down the forces of tyranny emanating from Berlin, Rome and Tokyo.

We aren’t fighting military forces that march under the banner of a nation or even a group of nations. We are fighting shady, cunning and creative terrorists who lurk in darkness before striking out.

The president vows to continue the fight, bringing the full weight of our immense military power to bear against terrorists, whether they represent ISIS, al-Qaida, Boko Haram or any sinister organization that seeks to do us harm.

May the fight go on … for as long as it takes.

Look out, ‘radical Islam’

President George W. Bush told us in clear and unequivocal terms while the nation grieved over the 9/11 attack: We are not at war with Islam.

President Barack H. Obama followed that message to the letter. On the night he announced the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, the president told us that bin Laden was not a “Muslim leader,” but that he was a “mass murderer of Muslims.”

A new president has taken over. Donald J. Trump has just nominated Mike Pompeo to be secretary of state and has appointed John Bolton to be the new national security adviser.

These two men — not to mention the president — seem intent on changing the narrative. They want to take direct aim at “radical Islam,” as if the terrorists with whom we are at war represent a great world religion. They do not. They have perverted Islam to fit some ruthless ideology.

As Politico has reported: Both Bolton and Pompeo will now be working for a president who has alleged, with no evidence, that American Muslims celebrated the 9/11 attacks, and who has proposed banning all foreign Muslims from U.S. shores. Critics say the personnel moves suggest Trump’s worst instincts on how to approach the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims will find receptive ears among his foreign policy aides.

Rex Tillerson and H.R. McMaster, who will be leaving the State Department and the National Security Council, respectively, were thought to have some sort of moderating influence on Trump. But the president has shoved them aside, elevating two more fiery confidants to help formulate U.S. foreign policy. They are likely to seek to steer the president toward a position that mainstream Muslims might interpret to be more hostile to their religious faith.

That, I suggest, is a dangerous trend.

The killers with whom we have been at war since 9/11 need damn little pretext to recruit new militants to follow their perverted cause.

No, Mr. POTUS, Islam doesn’t ‘hate’ us

I watched a two-year-old video of Donald John Trump in which he told an interviewer that Islam “hates Americans.”

That comment has bothered me from the moment I heard it the first time.

I’ve long wondered, given what the president said at the time, why this country is full of so many Muslims. Why do people who follow the Islamic faith choose to live in a country full of those they supposedly “hate”? And, oh yes, what about Islamic Americans? How do we categorize those fellow citizens?

To me the answer is obvious. Muslims don’t “hate” Americans just because we are, um, Americans.

Muslim perverts — those who commit terrorist acts in the name of Islam — certainly do hate Americans. They also hate other Muslims.

I remember the night President Barack Obama told the world that U.S. special forces had killed Osama bin Laden. The president made it clear — just as President George W. Bush had made clear — that bin Laden wasn’t a Muslim leader. “He was a mass murderer of Muslims,” President Obama said.

I keep circling back to that notion every time I hear Donald Trump harp on this falsehood, that the Islamic faith teaches its followers to hate others who adhere to other faiths.

CNN’s Fareed Zakaria posed the question the other day to Jordanian King Abdullah about whether the president was right to say that Muslims “hate Americans.” The king said, quite simply and with eloquence, that the president needs to learn more about Islam before making any statements about what the faith teaches.

Indeed, the president needs to learn more about, oh, just about everything before he opens his mouth.

ISIS: Perverts kill more Muslims

As if we needed more examples …

The Islamic State has taken responsibility for a bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan that killed at least 41 Muslims at a Shiite center.

Let’s ponder that for a moment. Yes, ISIS — a radical Sunni cabal — has declared war on the United States of America. And, yes, the terrorists have killed many non-Muslims. However, the preponderance of this monstrous group’s victims have been Muslims.

This group, which claims its mission is on behalf of Islam, simply is an organization of religious perverts. They do not adhere to traditional Islamic faith. They adhere instead to a perverted version of their so-called “faith.”

President Barack Obama made the point quite clearly the night he announced the death of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. He said that bin Laden was “not a Muslim leader. He was a killer of Muslims.”

The very same thing can be said of the Islamic State.

ISIS is on the run throughout the Middle East. To the extent that the United States has contributed to ISIS’s further degradation, we must continue that struggle and I welcome Donald Trump’s commitment to waging that fight to the fullest extent of our nation’s ability — which happens to be formidable, indeed.

Before we label Muslims as inherently evil, though, let us understand that the terror organizations, such as ISIS, are themselves the source of the evil. They do not represent the tenets of a great religion.

Another date to mark a war with no end in sight

I refuse to call Sept. 11 an “anniversary.” I reserve that term to commemorate weddings and other happy beginnings.

9/11 is none of that. It’s coming up Monday. Sixteen years ago terrorists commandeered four jetliners; they flew two of them into the World Trade Center’s twin towers; one flew into the Pentagon; one crashed in a Pennsylvania field after a titanic struggle between passengers and terrorists.

Roughly 3,000 people died on that terrible day.

Not long after that, President Bush sent young Americans to war against the terrorists. The Taliban government in Afghanistan, which had given shelter for the monsters, fell to our forces. The war raged on and on and on.

In March 2003 the war spread to Iraq. We toppled a dictator, who later was captured, tried and hanged. We were told we went into Iraq looking for weapons of mass destruction. We didn’t find any.

What the 9/11 date will remind me on Monday is that we very well may never — at least not in my lifetime — be able to end this war against international terrorism.

President Bush handed the struggle off to Barack Obama in 2009. The fight went on.

In May 2011, President Obama announced “to the nation and the world” that U.S. special forces had killed Osama bin Laden, the 9/11 mastermind. We cheered the news. Crowds gathered outside the White House chanting “USA! USA! USA!” We got the main bad guy.

What happened after that? The war went on.

The Islamic State surfaced during this time. ISIS has continued to bring havoc and horror. There have been beheadings and bombings.

The war rages on, despite the arrest of and deaths of several key ISIS and al-Qaeda leaders.

Our enemy is cunning. He is smart. He knows how to hit “soft targets.” His victims primarily are other Muslims, which puts the lie to the notion that we are “at war with Islam.” As President Obama said while announcing bin Laden’s death, our enemy comprises a cabal of murderers who have declared war on Muslims as well as they have on Christians and Jews.

This year, President Obama handed it off to Donald Trump. The new president campaigned foolishly on the pledge to wipe out ISIS and al-Qaeda. He boasted that he knows “more than the generals about ISIS.” He doesn’t.

No matter the level of presidential boastfulness, the fight will rage on. We’ll keep killing terrorist leaders. Others will slither out and take the place of those we eliminate.

How do we prevent more “soft target” incidents? How do we prevent the so-called “lone wolf” from driving a motor vehicle into crowds? Or how do we stop those from igniting bombs at sporting events or other places where large crowds of victims gather?

9/11 is no anniversary. It’s not a date to celebrate. It’s a date that should serve to remind us of the threat that has lurked among us for far longer than we ever imagined.

And it lurks to this very day.

The war will rage on.

Where’s the battle plan, Mr. President?

“I know more about ISIS than the generals. Believe me.”

— Donald Trump, while campaigning for president in 2016

This is one of my favorite moments from the 2016 presidential campaign. Donald J. Trump sought to persuade his (now-shrinking) legions of fans that he was the man with the plan to fight the bad guys.

He won the election. Trump took command of our armed forces. The fight against ISIS, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Boko Haram and other terror groups goes on.

Now, though, the president of the United States is angry. Those generals who have been engaged in this fight against terrorists haven’t defeated them yet. Our vaunted military hasn’t yet killed every single terrorist and brought those villainous organizations to their knees.

Trump’s reliance on “the generals” is a ruse, isn’t it? Doesn’t the commander in chief know more about how to fight ISIS and, I presume, other terrorists than they do? Were that the case, then where in the world is the presidential battle plan? Why doesn’t he reveal to the Pentagon brass how they should implement his strategy?

Reports have bubbled out of the White House that the president is dissatisfied with the progress of the Afghan War, which the United States has been fighting since 2001 in response to the 9/11 terror attack in the United States.

The president ought to consider settling down just a bit.

He has a fine man leading the Defense Department, retired Marine Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis. The new White House chief of staff is another retired Marine general, John Kelly. Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, is an active duty Army lieutenant general. He has two four-stars and a three-star general as critical parts of his national security team. They’re all brilliant military men.

They also are fighting a profoundly unconventional enemy. These terror groups took the fight to us on 9/11 and we have responded with precision, professionalism and cold calculation. Our nation’s counter-terrorism team tracked down Osama bin Laden and a SEAL/CIA team took him out, killed him dead.

Donald Trump clearly doesn’t “know more about ISIS” than the military professionals who provide him with advice and military counsel.

And, no, Mr. President, the United States is not “losing” the Afghan War. Everyone in America knew this would be a long slog when we went to war in Afghanistan.

If only the president simply would pay attention.

CIA: former foe of the left becomes its friend

An interesting Internet meme is making the rounds. It says that “real patriots” don’t question when the Central Intelligence Agency says that Russians hacked into our electoral system in 2016.

Now, those of us who are old enough to have lived through a good bit of U.S. history remember something quite different about American attitudes toward the CIA.

The meme to which I referred is intended to take a swipe at conservatives who are siding with Donald J. Trump’s view that the CIA’s intelligence-gathering capability isn’t up to snuff. Think about that for a moment: Liberals are siding with the spooks.

It wasn’t always this way.

Let’s flash back for a moment to the 1970s. The Vietnam War was still raging; a Republican president was about to be re-elected; the CIA was allegedly helping the president develop an “enemies list” that targeted left-wing protesters; then came that burglary at the Watergate office complex; the president then told the CIA to instruct the FBI to back off its probe of the break-in.

The crap hit the fan. The CIA was caught doing something wrong. Liberals cheered; conservatives moaned. The president resigned and it took years for the CIA to wipe its face clean.

More than four decades later, the CIA is still on the job. It is conducting intelligence operations around the world. It is well-run. Indeed, the CIA played a huge role in the mission that killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011, an event that brought liberals and conservatives together to cheer the success of that endeavor.

Politics, though, does have this way of ebbing and flowing. We are the point today where the CIA is seen as a valuable watchdog against those who would do harm to our political system.

The CIA — and a few other agencies — have concluded that Russian meddled in our 2016 presidential election. Whether they actually swung the election in Donald Trump’s favor is one of the questions of the moment; I tend to think Trump would have won regardless. That’s not the point.

The point is that they meddled. The CIA has determined they have meddled. A lot of political hands across the spectrum — and that includes progressives/liberals — believe in the CIA analysis. The most prominent denier of all this happens to the Republican president of the United States, the current darling of the conservative movement, the guy who says he wants to “put America first” and to make this country “great again.”

Oh, the winds of change do have this curious way of blowing away old thoughts and bias.

No, Mr. President; Obama did react to Russian hacking

Donald J. Trump keeps harping on a canard, which is that Barack Obama “did nothing” when he learned in the summer of 2016 about Russian efforts to hack into our electoral process.

Wrong, Mr. President.

Trump keeps dodging the question about whether he believes the Russians sought to influence the 2016 presidential election. Today, he once again gave the Russians some political cover by saying that “other countries” are hacking us, too.

My point here, though, is that President Obama did react to reports of Russian hacking.

He imposed economic sanctions against individuals; he tossed Russian diplomats out of the United States; he closed two Russian diplomatic compounds — all of this in reaction to reports of Russian hacking.

Trump is having none of it. He wants to divert attention from the questions and suspicion that continues to swirl around him regarding the Russians and whatever — if any — relationship they had with the Trump presidential campaign.

I get that presidents have blamed their immediate predecessors for real and imagined problems. Obama laid a lot of blame at the feet of his predecessor, George W. Bush — although he did give the Bush administration plenty of credit for the work it had done in helping locate Osama bin Laden prior to the May 2011 commando raid that killed the al-Qaeda leader.

Is there ever going to be a moment when the current president would offer a good word to his immediate predecessor? Don’t hold your breath. I won’t.

As for Trump’s insistence that Obama did “nothing” to respond to Russian hackers, that’s just another lie.