« May 2014 | Main | July 2014 »

June 2014

Book Review - Bret Baier's "Special Heart: A Journey of Faith, Hope, Courage, and Love

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right sidebar.

9781455583638_p0_v3_s260x420As I heard Bret Baier talking about his book, Special Heart: A Journey of Faith, Hope, Courage, and Love I thought back to my son’s own struggle with congenital heart disease.  While reading the book memories were invoked of my son’s open-heart surgery two and a half years ago.  Anyone reading his book will go through a range of emotions, especially those who have had a child with health problems.

Thankfully, our son Michael was not in the same dire straights as Bret’s son, Paul. Congenial heart disease is not as uncommon as people think:  one out of every hundred children born has some type of congenital heart defect, and half of those will need surgery or another type procedure.

Bret noted to blackfive.net that fate played a role in saving Paul as it saved Michael.  “The first nurse had a seizure and was pulled off duty.  Nurse Kennedy was assigned to our room and after examining Paul found him to be very pale.  She is the one that spotted it.  At first it was thought it might be a bacterial infection, but we soon found out that Paul had numerous heart defects and if he did not have surgery in a matter of days he would die.  Had Nurse Kennedy not noticed it he would have been home with us and we could have had a baby turning blue with the possibility he would have died in his crib.  Fate also played a role in that the cardiologist paged happened to be one of the top in their field because they happened to be driving past the hospital. I do believe there are a lot of things that happen that are bigger than coincidence.  I think it is part of a bigger plan.”

We both understand how in a moment’s time the emotion of blissfulness from having a newborn turns to despair after receiving the news. Bret wants people who go through tough times to understand “Both Amy and I had our moments, going into really dark places.  For her, it initially was more intense because she just gave birth.  She actually collapsed in the first few days at Children’s National and became the oldest patient there.  That is when we had our moment and decided to be the parents Paul needed us to be.  We changed our outlook to optimism.  Our mantra was giving each other a high five at the end of the day, knowing we were one day closer to bringing Paul home.”

No matter how old your child, a parent watching their child being wheeled on that gurney heading toward open-heart surgery feels a sense of hopelessness.  Bret’s feelings conveyed what a parent goes through, “As parents we want to protect and cuddle our children.  That was the feeling we had and wished we could have changed the dynamics. We turned to prayer, family, and a positive attitude. The challenge was for it not to overwhelm us.”

While going through all the trials and tribulations there was the feeling that as parents it was ‘us against the world.’”  Bret agrees, “We definitely drew closer.  I think couples that go through something like this consider themselves a team.  We called ourselves ‘Team Baier.’  When one of us got down, the other stepped up.  Amy and I were each others’ rock.”

After undergoing an experience like this people examine what is really important in life.  Bret and Amy as well as my husband and I knew that we had to balance family with our professions.  Bret commented to blackfive.net, “It had given me a perspective about life.  Everyone gets so busy these days.  My profession is non-stop, 24/7.  But our society is so engrossed in other things besides personal interaction such as Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.  I have learned the time I spend with my wife and children is the most important time of the week.  If there is something at one of my children’s schools I always try to be there.  Fortunately, I have a great wife who is a rock in this whole thing.  Life is precious because before you turnaround it’s gone.”

As our children get older it does not get any easier.  There is always the next hurdle to leap.  Bret regards Paul’s last surgery as being the hardest since “being a six year old we now had to explain it to him.   I was having recurring nightmares that I was giving a eulogy for Paul.  I had to fight through that and not sleeping well.  The way we dealt with Paul was to have his cardiologist speak to his kindergarten class.  We gave all the children stethoscopes.  Paul essentially held a press conference and answered questions.  He even lifted his shirt to show his scar.  His prognosis is great.  He is the tallest child in the class and is full of energy.”

As a parent who had a similar experience to Bret, I am grateful he wrote the book.  It should serve as an inspiration and awareness, especially since there are children out there that can be saved.  Bret tells of an early warning test that is placed on a newborn’s fingernails to detect the oxygen level and can signal whether there is a congenital heart defect.  Currently it is mandated in thirty-six states. 

Bret stated, he wrote the book, “To help people going through a tough time, whatever it is.  I also wanted to raise consciousness of congenital heart disease as well as to raise money for the non-profits that are doing the research.” Special Heart is the story of every parent's worst nightmare.  It is an inspirational example of overcoming hardship through faith, courage, and perseverance.

ATTN Media: Stop Referring to the U.S. Advisors in Iraq as "the 300"

Seriously.  Read a freaking history book.  While I'm sure its not malicious, knock it off.  [the third time I heard it said that way...it was by Chris Wallace of FoxNews Sunday]

Also, let's be honest. These advisors are there to select targets.  And until force is authorized, they will be vulnerable.

Last, it will be WAY more than 300 "troops"...add in all of the contractors and support people.  Double or triple the number.

Benghazi lawfare delays

The delay in picking up the Benghazi ringleader has now been made clear. He was booked doing interviews with so many news outlets that it took the Delta operators a year to get an appointment with him. Which actually makes more sense than the comical story the administration attempted to spin that it took Delta a year of planning and practice to pick up a guy whose location was known and who kept a profile almost as public as Hillary Clinton’s

The mission to capture Ahmed abu Khatallah, one of the ringleaders of the September 11, 2012 attacks on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya was more than a year in the making.....Indeed, the Benghazi ringleader had been in the sights of Delta Force operators at the end of August, according to these sources, but no order was given at the time.

So why wasn't the order given? The raid as described and shown on video was not a whole lot more complicated than serving divorce papers. I am not disparaging the work and professionalism of the folks who scarfed this gentleman up or the danger inherent in any tactical operation in denied territory. I have written an Op-Ed pointing out how hard it is, but also noting that military operators are not really set up to be part of a law enforcement operation.

A raid into enemy territory to capture a terrorist alive is one of the most complex undertakings we attempt short of space flight. You could call it an intricate martial ballet, but I liken it to conducting a Beethoven symphony with all the players and instruments in free fall, hurtling toward Earth like a phalanx of lawn darts. So many facets must occur in perfect harmony that adding additional complicating factors is inviting failure.

Yet that is exactly what the law enforcement model must consider. If the information leading to a raid is not sufficient to justify a warrant, then what right do we have to kidnap a suspected terrorist? 

But th he bottom line is that this was not the Raid on Entebbe and the Delta teams were not the reason for the ridiculously long delay and beneficial timing of the “arrest”. And the entire mission seems to have fallen victim to the lawfare mentality that puts civilian justice procedures above national security.

A senior administration official told The Daily Beast that the delay in apprehending the suspect was due in part to requests from the Justice Department to gather appropriate evidence to prosecute him in criminal court. 

That’s right, this was an arrest not a capture of a terrorist by a military outfit. The Delta guys were there to make sure none of the FBI agents got shot. And the reason we waited 21 months to grab this guy is that the lawyers were still thumb wrestling about the stuff lawyers always thumb wrestle about. Obama and Sheriff Holder want to prove that terrorists are really just a different flavor of criminal, like really bad drunk drivers or something. So they sat and planned out their prosecution and then when the news cycle was bad enough against them, they pulled the trigger served the warrant and slapped the cuffs on him.

The big question then becomes when did they read him his rights, and the related one, why in the hell would he have any? The answer to the first is still a bit murky and one hopes, but doesn’t trust, that they are still squeezing his melon for any nuggets of terror info. The answer to the second is that we are not fighting a war against the terrorists. We are conducting a community policing of some particularly pesky cultural graffiti artists.  The terrorists on the other hand are engaged in a long war of Islamist Jihad against the entire more civilized world.

President Obama can hope that isn’t the case, but it doesn’t change the fact that they are at war with us. And they have been pretty successful if you judge it by the blood and treasure they have taken and we have expended. I would be the first one to the negotiating table if there actually were an accommodation that we could arrive at with them. But submitting to the will of Allah or paying a dhimmi tax doesn’t much appeal to me. The “War on Terror” was always a misnomer; it truly should have been the “War against medieval Islamist obscurantists dedicated to the return of the Caliphate and the conquest of Earth”. Not the most elegant, but spot on for accuracy. I think we could even get them to sign on.

The current regime has made it pretty clear they are all about ending any wars and the enemy warring on us be damned. Thus we will get a civilian trial and the terrorist will get the ghost of Johnnie Cochran as his attorney and a whole slew of rights he has no business exercising. I think we have a good chance at a conviction, especially since he has confessed, even bragged about it, to every media outlet he could find. But that doesn’t make it right or smart or sound to treat him as a trumped up common criminal. It is still a war even if only one side acknowledges it.

Photo - Sub Return

Hires_140614-N-LP168-024aSailors aboard the USS Pennsylvania handle lines as the ballistic missile submarine moors in Bangor, Wash., June 14, 2014. The Pennsylvania completed a 140-day strategic deterrent patrol, a new record for the longest strategic deterrent patrol completed by an Ohio class submarine. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Petty Officer Ahron Arendes

Book Review - "The Hydra Protocol" by

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right side bar.

9780062248824_p0_v3_s260x420The Hydra Protocol by David Wellington is a suspenseful, gripping novel.  It is a warning about the dangers of Russia, nuclear weapons, and rogue intelligence officials. This exciting thriller brings back memories of the Cold War era where annihilation was the fear of many Americans. The tale has both modern day and future computer technologies interwoven with Soviet atrocities and history.

From the very beginning of the book the action is intense.  A Russian intelligence agent, Nadia, informs America about a secret project conceived during the 1980’s, HYDRA, a forgotten Cold War supercomputer that controls hundreds of nuclear missiles aimed at the US.  Jim Chapel, a retired Army Ranger, who now works for a secret US intelligence agency is assigned to work with Nadia.  Their mission is to prevent nuclear annihilation by infiltrating a top secret Russian military base and disable the supercomputer. Within the settings traveled are the US, Cuba, Eastern Europe, and Russia. 

Wellington commented to blackfive.net, “Jim is my way of saying a thank you to the troops.  They have done an incredible job.  These people are not about entitlements but are extraordinarily responsible.  Jim is an emblem of how much I respect and admire our soldiers. I gave him a prosthetic arm because I wanted to show the sacrifices our soldiers make as well as the advancements made on how they work.”

Unlike Wellington’s first novel, Chimera, this one has no science fiction and can be classified solely as a thriller.  There are no super human beings and horror stories as with his other novels.  However, there are “horror” scenes when his Russian interrogators torture Chapel after being captured.  The true nature of the Russians is displayed by the author but is done in a thoughtful way without grossing out the readers. 

Another issue examined is how someone’s moral character can change after experiencing a dark period in their life.  Chapel has moral lapses while on the mission, but thankfully recovers and once again becomes a person to root for.  It is interesting how Wellington contrasts the American patriot, Chapel, with the rogue Russian patriot, Nadia, in personality and with their intentions.  Through the relationship scenes these characters are humanized and make the plot more realistic.

Through Nadia’s eyes readers are able to understand how Russia is the master to the Soviet satellites who are treated no better than slaves.  Throughout history the Russians have taken over territories for their own purpose.  While doing this they pollute them and endanger them to chemical, biological, and nuclear threats. 

The author noted to blackfive.net, “Russia takes advantage of these satellite states that cannot fight back.  Look at what happened at Chernobyl.  There is now this area that is radioactive. All life was killed and when scientists were sent there it was so quiet it was surreal.  The Russian government countered this by putting up loudspeakers playing music. Another example, Lake Baikal used to be larger and is greatly downsized because of the chemical pollutants.  There is also an Island nearby where bioweapons were tested and now Russia abandoned it, but never cleaned it up.  Russia is creating and has created environmental time bombs.”

The Hydra Protocol is a fast action thriller with a lot of twists and turns.  It is a reminder of the brutality of the Russians, and a warning of how deadly nuclear weapons can be, even obsolete ones.  Anyone that wants to understand the fears and terror that can be brought about by having nuclear weapons fall under the wrong hands must read this book.

Benghazi suspect captured

That is some good news.

U.S. Special Operations forces captured one of the suspected ringleaders of the terrorist attacks in Benghazi in a secret raid in Libya over the weekend, the first time one of the accused perpetrators of the 2012 assaults has been apprehended, according to U.S. officials.

The officials said Ahmed Abu Khattala was captured Sunday near Benghazi by American troops, working alongside the FBI, following months of planning, and was now in U.S. custody “in a secure location outside Libya.” The officials said there were no casualties in the operation, and that all U.S. personnel involved have safely left Libya.

I just have one question, why didn't we scarf him up a year and a half ago when he was giving interviews poolside at his hotel?

BENGHAZI, Libya — Witnesses and the authorities have called Ahmed Abu Khattala one of the ringleaders of the Sept. 11 attack on the American diplomatic mission here. But just days after President Obama reasserted his vow to bring those responsible to justice, Mr. Abu Khattala spent two leisurely hours on Thursday evening at a crowded luxury hotel, sipping a strawberry frappe on a patio and scoffing at the threats coming from the American and Libyan governments.

Libya’s fledgling national army is a “national chicken,” Mr. Abu Khattala said, using an Arabic rhyme. Asked who should take responsibility for apprehending the mission’s attackers, he smirked at the idea that the weak Libyan government could possibly do it. And he accused the leaders of the United States of “playing with the emotions of the American people” and “using the consulate attack just to gather votes for their elections.”

Well, he does understand the political nature of the Obama team and if he was interviewed now could point out the amazing timing behind his arrest. There are Benghazi hearings on the hill, Iraq is burning and the Bergdahl dog wagging attempt was a dismal failure, this could be just the good news needed. Nothing like a show trial to respin Hillary's most dismal failure. Any bets on a New York court around 2016?

Don't get me wrong, I am extremely pleased that we have him in chains. This was an attack on US soil where our Ambassador and three other Americans were killed. That was an act of war as much as terrorism. We must show resolve to the world to deter anyone else thinking about messing with us. But even a bad Hollywood script writer wouldn't try to get these continued twists past an editor. Too many decisions in this White House get put off or not made based on political concerns. 

I wonder where they are going to hold him? There are some empty accommodations down at Club Gitmo these days.

Marines head back to Iraq

Many people raved that we “won” the war on Iraq and pulled out, now well over 500 Marines just entered the Persian Gulf along with a carrier as many news reports say.  With everything going on in Afg (yes, we are still at war) we go back into a war zone that was deemed “accomplished” by Washington. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say we won at half time, then go back for the fourth quarter to continue to play. The military and especially the Marine Corps has been hit the hardest with “cuts” to the point the USMC is below required numbers since before the 80s. Doing more with less can only go so far.

However, looking at this, their main mission will most likely to secure the Embassy, but however you look at it, its American boots on the ground back in Iraq. Time for a C-Gar

Tal Afar Falls

Better, WP.

The fall of the religiously mixed town of Tal Afar to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) raised the specter of deepening sectarian violence. It came as the U.S. government announced that it was drawing down staff at its embassy in Baghdad.

We remember Tal Afar for its gratitude to the Brave Rifles.

"In the Name of God the Compassionate and Merciful 

"To the Courageous Men and Women of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, who have changed the city of Tall’ Afar from a ghost town, in which terrorists spread death and destruction, to a secure city flourishing with life. 

"To the lion-hearts who liberated our city from the grasp of terrorists who were beheading men, women and children in the streets for many months.

"To those who spread smiles on the faces of our children, and gave us restored hope.... Let America, their families, and the world be proud of their sacrifice for humanity and life. 

"Finally, no matter how much I write or speak about this brave Regiment, I haven’t the words to describe the courage of its officers and soldiers. I pray to God to grant happiness and health to these legendary heroes and their brave families."

Mayor of Tall 'Afar, Ninewa, Iraq 

I knew many of the al-Jiborui tribe.

Dear Washington Post...

A lot of us have actually been to Iraq, so when you report that a town has been taken by one side or the other, tell us which town!

A Shiite militia seized control of an Iraqi town Saturday, blunting the advance toward Baghdad of radical Sunni fighters in a sign that the widespread mobilization of paramilitary forces may be starting to have an impact.

Well, perhaps it is 'blunting the advance,' but I can't say for sure since no names of any towns appear in the first twelve paragraphs.  By the time we get to Samarra -- which is apparently not the town, as fighting is reported as ongoing there -- the article has apparently lost the thread of which town the militia seized.  

Did you forget to ask?