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May 2014

The Only Thing Transparent in the Obama Admin Is the Name of the C.I.A. Station Chief in Afghanistan

Whoops!  Via CNN:

After the initial report had been issued, Wilson noticed that the chief of station had been identified in the list, which he flagged to the White House official. After checking with the military, the White House official said, "This is a problem."

The White House Official had to check with the military first before understanding that it was a problem...?!!!!  

Paralysis by Analysis- Emboldening our Enemies

We have more enemies than we need and currently all of them are feeling pretty froggy. We have lost the war in Afghanistan to a cult of medieval obscurantists. We have lost the peace in Iraq to a collection of the same and the usual suspects in the Middle East power struggle. We have lost the Arab Spring to Arab Islamists. We have lost the war against slavery to Boko Haram barbarians. We have lost influence in eastern Europe to its former overlords in Moscow. And we have lost dominance of the high seas to everyone from Somali pirates to the Chinese Navy.

Right now there is open battle in Ukraine over the Donetsk airport

Donetsk, Ukraine (CNN) -- A battle between pro-Russia separatists and government forces at Donetsk airport in eastern Ukraine has claimed 40 lives, authorities said Tuesday, in what is the deadliest outbreak of violence yet in the flashpoint city.

To be accurate that should say Russian troops in civilian clothes and pro-Russian separatists. Somehow Putin doesn't seem to be feeling the power of hashtag diplomacy. And our good friends and debt holders the Chinese are actually sinking civilian boats as they point out to all of their neighbors where the real power lies.

Vietnam and China traded barbs over the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat, their most serious bilateral standoff since 2007 as China asserts its claims in the disputedSouth China Sea.

There are many reasons why the US is no longer much of a deterrent to bad actors around the planet. Times change, economies rise and fall, politics and war-weariness make further actions less likely. But there is another more personality-driven one; American foreign policy gets defined by its President.

And let me be perfectly clear, no one around the globe is particularly worried about the wrath of Barack Obama. Let's clear the deck of his one shining example of "badassery", yes he had the SEALs shoot bin Laden in the eye.  Other than that, the characteristic of US foreign policy has been kowtowing (literally) to tyrants and leading from behind. The results are obvious and dangerous. Bad guys feel free to be bad  and friends, allies and innocents the world over are getting voicemail when they ring the red phone at the White House. 

This is not a call for US interventions anywhere ugliness occurs. That has never been a good idea or even possible. But it is a call for a legitimate deterrent capability and the resolution to deliver it if necessary. And this must be tied to a diplomatic stance that presents that velvet glove, but makes sure the iron fist inside is well known. We don't want to fight wars, we want to present a credible front to enable negotiations from a position of strength. Are there any good books about how weakness and appeasement carried the day and saved us all from the forces of evil? No, there are not. 

It is a simple fact enshrined in any number of after school movies about bullies. They don't respond to sweetness and light, nor become filled with the milk of human kindness when those they are abusing cringe and beg for mercy. They strike. They take advantage. They brutalize. They stop when someone stands up to them and bloodies their nose. Then they, and the rest of the thugs, start looking over their shoulders worried about when the next whack is coming instead of where the next victim is.

 I have long thought it would be useful for the President to add a bit to the State of the Union where he brings out the Wheel of Tyrants and gives it a spin. When it stops on some deserving malefactor, he pushes a red button and  we all watch the live footage of cruise missiles making some rubble. Which we all know doesn't make trouble. Not a full fledged foreign policy, but at least a step in the right direction. The alternative is to watch the rise of the Russian-Chinese alliance, Islamist terrorism and the continuing spread of oppression. I vote for deterrence and strength, and I will vote for it this Fall and in 2016.

Memorial Day Concert at the Capitol

We had the privilege of attending the 25th Memorial Day Concert at the Capitol last night. It was a moving, patriotic, powerful homage to those who gave their lives for all of us. Gary Sinise and Joe Mantegna hosted again and continued their tradition of support for the military and the music and stories were truly inspiring. It was a gorgeous evening, a brilliant setting and a fitting tribute to our fallen. Well Done.



More pictures below the fold.

Continue reading "Memorial Day Concert at the Capitol" »

President Obama to Unveil Foreign Policy in a Speech at the One Place Where No One Will Question Him...

The President courageously chose to give this highly anticipated speech...at West Point.

The last time that he did this...there was a few interesting books being read in the audience of Cadets.  Via CNN:

Eager to respond to criticism of his foreign policy approach to recent crises, from Syria to Ukraine, President Barack Obama will lay out his vision on Wednesday at the commencement at West Point for how the United States should apply force around the world...

"Eager to respond"???


Memorial Day is about BBQs too

First to all of the Gold Star community, thank you with all of my heart for raising, loving, marrying or being the child of a great person. Greater love hath no man than this: to lay down his life for his friends. Memorial Day is when we honor those who did just that, and that is the reason for this holiday weekend. 

Now fire up the grill and let's honor them. I'm pretty sure that's what they would want and as good a representation as any of the liberty and abundance that we enjoy as a result of their sacrifice. I know there are far too many people who are oblivious and just see this as the first party weekend of Summer. That is a shame, a damn shame. There are even those who don't know, don't care or even disrespect the occasion. We call those people losers. But let's not allow that to make us bitter, or to get us up on high horses. That doesn't help.

Far too many Americans do take their freedom for granted and they can. That is part of the deal.That doesn't mean we let it slide, or bite our tongues. Oh Hell no! Just make it a positive example. If no one else at an event has done so, then raise your glass, make a toast and remind everyone. Stand on a chair, turn down the music and say something simple and short. We can't reach everyone, but each little bit helps. The vast majority of people will take a polite reminder and may actually care. 

The haters are still gonna hate. That too is part of the deal. I used to spend a fair amount of my time scrapping with them and to be honest it was a lot of fun. Seven years ago I went to a Memorial Day event held by an anti-war group where in over two hours they failed to take a mere 10 seconds to be thankful for those who gave them the right to freely speak and assemble. Even the most anti-war American alive should be able to understand that we fought a war and many died just to found this great country. But nope, that concept was alien to them. So I pointed that out. (Language warning)

I don't hold this up as a perfect example and I hope most of you spend your weekend with a much friendlier and thankful crowd. But I felt it needed to be done.

Greater Love Hath No Man...

Damn, I miss you guys.

I hope everyone is enjoying their day off and their BBQ.  I am as well today, but not without a sense of the meloncholy.  Little Deebow helped to put flags out out the cemetery with his Cub Scout Troop yesterday and he is only beginning to understand what today means.

I know that everyone says most of the same things on Memorial Day, and I am guilty of it myself sometimes.  Today especially though, I think about Major Larry Bauguess, Sergeant First Class Bernard Deghand, and Sergeant Earl Werner and how they have helped me to make every day worth it. You were taken from us and your families long before we were ready and I will remember those days and our times together and who we were forever.  I think about Larry often, our time was so short together in 2007 and the controversy over what happened that day continues.

I don't know where we get men like these, but if I ever find out, I will guard the secret forever.  

May our comrades, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters and loved ones that we miss like no other in our lives and the memories of all those who have sacrificed for America make our time with our families today sweeter, our burgers and brats that much tastier and our holiday that much more enjoyable for the freedom we have to enjoy it in the greatest country God ever gave man.

Greater Love Hath No Man... 

Are journalists free to publish classified info?

I think most emphatically not! But that is not the opinion of Snowden's leak manager, enabler and co-conspirator in their classified data dump, Glenn Greenwald. I am speaking here not about whether Snowden and Greenwald released info that people had a "right to know" or evidence of law breaking by the NSA. Neither of those have been conclusively proven either way. I am simply asking whether the decision to knowingly release classified info can and should be made solely at the discretion of a journalist. Let's hear Greenwald.

Through all the bombast, Greenwald makes no serious effort to defend as a matter of law the leaking of official secrets to reporters. He merely asserts that “there are both formal and unwritten legal protections offered to journalists that are unavailable to anyone else. While it is considered generally legitimate for a journalist to publish government secrets, for example, that’s not the case for someone acting in any other capacity.”

Well I disconcur Mr. Greenwald and here is why. The possession of classified information means that you know a secret, but you don't know all of the secret and you certainly can't know the context or the potential damage of releasing that secret. That is why we keep things secret. Substituting your judgment for that of people who do know the whole secret and the other factors relevant to that secret is a mistake. And it can easily become a fatal mistake for the people, acting on our behalf, who are protected by that secret.

I am fully conversant with the First Amendment and it's prohibition against abridging freedoms of speech or of the press. But that is not a license to print anything and everything as libel and copyright laws certainly abridge an unfettered press freedom. So where does publication of known classified information fall? First I think as a legal matter it is somewhat undecided. Providing it to our enemies is treason, which can actually get you hanged, even with your press badge. But it gets murkier when you simply splash it on the front page of a newspaper.

There is a further bit in that First Amendment and it is also relevant here-- the right to petition the government for redress of grievances. In the case of Snowden, Manning and plenty of other leak cases, they had the ability to bring evidence of law breaking or other improprieties to the attention of Inspectors General tasked specifically with dealing with issues like this. Neither Snowden nor Manning did so. Absent at least attempting to resolve any concerns they had through proper channels, both they and their media mouthpieces should not be accorded the benefit of the doubt that they had no alternative.

If the goal is to stop improper or possibly illegal behavior, then reporting it as an actual whistleblower is the right thing and protections exist for those people. If the goal is to create a sensationalistic splash and be hailed as a hero, then the Snowden/Greenwald technique gets you hailed, and sells a lot of papers and pixels. I don't see why that approach is deserving of any special protection and at minimum should be treated as a criminal act.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation - Memorial Day Reading of the Names of Our Fallen Since 9-11

For the first time on the National Mall, VVMF will have people read the names of each and every American service member who has made the ultimate sacrifice since the attacks on September 11, 2001. Americans from across the nation will join together to read the names of these heroes in the order they were taken from us.

The reading of the names begins on Saturday, May 24th, 0900 EDT.

The Gates of Heaven

What is Memorial Day really about?  While we are busy gearing up for the weekend, I thought I should post this annual reminder about the holiday.  It may surprise some of you.

If you are relatively new to Blackfive, you should read this story about a Memorial Day eleven years ago - Mathew Schram's Memorial Day.  And, unfortunately, we've posted many memorials to our Fallen Americans.

The words to "Taps" are:

Day Is Done,
Gone the Sun,
From the Earth,
From the Hill,
From the Sky,
All Is Well,
Safely Rest,
God Is Nigh

When Taps is played at dusk, it has a completely different meaning than when Taps is played during the day.  No soldier really wants to hear it played during daylight.  For when the bugle plays Taps in the daylight...that means a soldier has fallen...There is a belief among some that Taps is the clarion call to open the gates of heaven for the fallen warrior and letting them know to "Safely Rest"...

Of course, Memorial Day is about remembering the sacrifices that our military men and women have made over the last 237 years.    We are still a young nation, but one that has made many sacrifices to remain free.  We should also take time to remember the families who have lost loved ones.

We have focused on just a few of the fallen over the last few years.  I've lost good friends during the War on Terror.  And I write about the others to ensure that we don't forget their sacrifices - I do that for me as much as for anybody.

I can't speak for the friends of the many others who have fallen, but for Mat, Cooter, and Mikey, I can say this:

It is important to remember them, and it is just as important to enjoy yourself this weekend.  To spend time with your family and friends.  Have a beer while grilling Wisconsin brats (Schram-bo!) in the backyard while watching your kids play tag. 

What better assurance to them that they did not die in vain?

Enjoying your freedom and understanding it's value is the best way to honor the sacrifices of my friends.

That's the way they'd want you to spend Memorial Day. 

Remembering them, and being a good friend, father, and an American is the best way that I can honor their memory.

I'll close with this heartfelt letter, written by Rick Kennedy, that I received via the late and great Corporal Seamus Garrahy about Taylor Prazynski - a Marine who was buried at Arlington nine years ago.

On Saturday morning May 21st I flew to Washington, D.C to meet my daughter Mary with grandchildren Calista and Lindsey, and her husband Joe Teller to drive with them to Chesterfield Virginia to attend a ballet recital for Callie that evening. Joe and Mary were in Washington for the burial services of Lance Corporal Taylor Prazynski USMC the 20 year old son of Joe’s cousin John Prazynski. Taylor was killed by enemy fire in Fallujah on May 9th while serving in combat with the 3rd Battalion, 8th Regiment, and 2nd Marine Division. Mary and Joe, along with 50 other family members attended the burial service for Taylor on Friday at Arlington National Cemetery, and when I met them they remained emotionally overwhelmed and forever moved by the elegant display of military reverence, and efficiency at Arlington. They were deeply saddened by the loss of this young Marine.

Earlier in the week Taylor’s body arrived at the Greater Cincinnati Airport by commercial jet. All passengers were instructed to remain on the plane until Taylor’s body was removed by a contingent of Marines. A military helicopter followed the Marine vehicle as it motored to the funeral parlor. Police and fire trucks were stationed at the overpasses and along the highway and saluted at Taylor passed by. At the funeral parlor no civilian was allowed to touch the body. The Marines prepared the deceased...A Marine color guard followed by a rider less horse accompanied Taylor’s body down Ohio Highway 4 for funeral services at Fairfield High School gym. Over 1500 people were in attendance of the funeral service at the school where the young Marine graduated in 2003, and played football and ran track. Pastor Dave Workman of the Vineyard Community Church presided. He gave a sterling tribute to this fallen hero that gave his life to his country. The pastor praised Taylor for his work with the church’s youth group, and his volunteer work with a multiple-disabilities class while in high school.

At Arlington on May 20th, the seven pall bearers dressed resplendent in the Marine dress blues uniform marched with the flag draped casket with military precision. When they reached the gravesite they abruptly raised the casket above their shoulders for 30 long seconds, giving the fallen Marine salute, and then rested the casket on its conveyor belt support over the grave. The military chaplain in civilian clothes gave the last rites, and presented the family Taylor’s posthumously awarded Purple Heart Medal.

All seven Marines removed the American Flag from the casket. They raised the stars and stripes above the casket pulling the flag rigid like a drum. Then they tightly folded the flag step by step in a triangle with the ends tucked firmly in place. One of the Marines did an about face and presented the flag to the Marine Sergeant standing alone to the rear of the casket, and saluted the flag.. The Marine in charge carrying the flag proceeded to the seat of the father John Prazynski. The Marine knelt down and bowed his head and presented the flag to the grieving father as the final gesture of sympathy and appreciation by the United States Marine Corps for the brave service of this young Marine.

Seven Marines standing away from the proceedings fired their rifles in three volleys representing a 21 gun salute, and you could hear muffled screams of sorrow from the youth in attendance as a lone bugler in Marine dress blues played the sad haunting sound of “Taps’ that echoed across the green rolling plains of Arlington on to the endless stream of white stones in this section called” Iraqi Freedom”. This was the Marines way of sending a signal to God to open the gates of Heaven for the arrival of [Corporal] Prazynski who gave his life for his country and our fight against terror throughout the world.

Remember Them.  

And have a great Memorial Day.