Apparently the White House is about to bow to the inevitable and prosecute Khalid Sheik Mohammed by military tribunal:
President Obama’s advisers are nearing a recommendation that Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, be prosecuted in a military tribunal, administration officials said, a step that would reverse Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s plan to try him in civilian court in New York City.
The president’s advisers feel increasingly hemmed in by bipartisan opposition to a federal trial in New York and demands, mainly from Republicans, that Mohammed and his accused co-conspirators remain under military jurisdiction, officials said. While Obama has favored trying some terrorism suspects in civilian courts as a symbol of U.S. commitment to the rule of law, critics have said military tribunals are the appropriate venue for those accused of attacking the United States.
I’ve never understood why only civilian courts were considered to be a symbol of the US commitment to the rule of law. The military tribunal system now in use was created by an act of Congress, signed into law by the president and vetted by the Supreme Court (which, as I recall, made Congress change a few things before it okayed the procedure). So how is its use somehow the abandonment of the rule of law?
Of course it’s not. What this is about is a petulant and mistaken insistence, at least in this case, that the previous administration preferred to operate outside the law.
What they’re about to admit, if indeed that’s the course of action they decide on, is the proper venue in which to try terrorists that have declared war on our nation is via military tribunal. That’s also a tacit admission that their’s isn’t a criminal conspiracy to be handled in civilian court, but instead an act of war to be handled in the appropriate military legal venue.
All this after 14 months of chasing their tail, trying to pound a square legal peg in a round hole. Wasn’t it Obama complaining about these people not receiving a speedy trial?
Heck of a job, Eric.
UPDATE: Andy McCarthy at NRO thinks this is all a compromise to finally get the backing (and funding) necessary to close GITMO. SLATE agrees, citing the story above:
If Obama accepts the likely recommendation of his advisers, the White House may be able to secure from Congress the funding and legal authority it needs to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and replace it with a facility within the United States.
Any guess as to who this is aimed at? Does the name Lindsey Graham ring a bell? Says McCarthy:
The real agenda here is to close Gitmo. That’s the ball to keep your eye on. The Post is trying to soften the opposition to shuttering the detention camp by portraying beleaguered, reasonable Obama as making a great compromise that will exasperate the Left. The idea is to strengthen Sen. Lindsey Graham’s hand in seeking reciprocal compromise from our side.
This, however, is a matter of national security, not horse-trading over a highway bill. You don’t agree to do a stupid thing that endangers the country just because your opposition has magnanimously come off its insistence that you do two stupid things that endanger the country.
Bold emphasis mine – they’re the two key points in what McCarthy says. So let’s make it clear – KSM should be tried by a military tribunal and those trials for him and others should be held at Gitmo. As originally planned.
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Counterterrorism Czar John Brennan made a comparison this weekend that has landed him in hot water. Speaking at the Islamic Center at New York University on Saturday and apparently in response to a question about recidivism among the Gitmo inmates who had been released, he said the rate was about 20%.
Ok, that’s arguable, but it is a number that has been tossed around by any number of people. That isn’t what got him in trouble. If we stipulate that the 20% of terror suspects released have returned to extremism or outright participation in terror activities, most would consider such a rate unacceptable. In fact, most would not be happy with recidivism at all, but understand that 0% is most likely an unrealistic expectation.
“People sometimes use that figure, 20 percent, say ‘Oh my goodness, one out of five detainees returned to some type of extremist activity,'” Brennan said. “You know, the American penal system, the recidivism rate is up to something about 50 percent or so, as far as return to crime. Twenty percent isn’t that bad.”
Indeed, the recidivism rate for property crimes is quite high according to the Department of Justice:
Released prisoners with the highest rearrest rates were robbers (70.2%), burglars (74.0%), larcenists (74.6%), motor vehicle thieves (78.8%), those in prison for possessing or selling stolen property (77.4%), and those in prison for possessing, using, or selling illegal weapons (70.2%).
But violent crime, more akin to terrorism – not so much:
Within 3 years, 2.5% of released rapists were arrested for another rape, and 1.2% of those who had served time for homicide were arrested for homicide.
This apparent acceptance of 20% recidivism by terrorists has to inspire tremendous confidence in the public to know the guy who is supposedly engaged in fighting terrorists equates them with the kid who popped the lock on your car and stole your GPS and finds the 20% rate nothing to get excited about . Yes, to him a burglar and someone who blows up embassies are pretty much the same. And he’s quite satisfied that only 20% are going back to burglary, er, blowing up Americans.
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Suppose I told you that there is an organization which claims to have worldwide jurisdiction (literally, “where the law speaks”) over all matters of criminal law and justice, regardless of who a person is? No I’m not referring to the ICC, but instead to the Obama administration.
The Obama administration is considering a criminal trial in Washington for the Guantanamo Bay detainee suspected of masterminding the bombing of a Bali nightclub that killed 202 people, a plan that would bring one of the world’s most notorious terrorism suspects just steps from the U.S. Capitol, The Associated Press has learned.
Riduan Isamuddin, better known as Hambali, was allegedly Osama bin Laden’s point man in Indonesia and, until his capture in August 2003, was believed to be the main link between al-Qaida and Jemaah Islamiyah, the terror group blamed for the 2002 bombing on the island of Bali.
It’s not readily apparent what charges would be brought against Hambali, but a real question exists as to exactly what power our civil judicial system would have over him. In order to pass judgment on anyone, a court must have personal jurisdiction over the defendant, which essentially means that he has some nexus with the place where his trial takes place. With respect to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, there is at least a good argument that his alleged activities with respect to the 9/11 attacks and the World Trade Center bombings creates a connection with the court of record in New York City. In contrast, Hambali does not, as far as anyone has alleged, have any connection whatsoever with the District of Columbia, nor with anywhere else in the United States. So on what basis can a DC court claim to have any power over his person?
Yet that’s just what the Obama administration proposes to do. It is considering trying Hambali in a federal civil court, supposedly for his terrorist actions (which are legion, to be sure) elsewhere in the world. Most famously, Hambali is thought to be the mastermind behind the devastating bombings in Bali back in 2002. But Bali is in Indonesia, not the United States. Indeed, Jemaah Islamiya, of which Hambali is known to be the operations coordinator and chief liason to al Qaeda regarding its Southeast Asia conquests, has not been alleged to be involved in any actions in America or her protectorates. All of which should lead to the inexorable conclusion that our federal courts have no jurisdiction over Hambali.
Perhaps no real harm would come from a court reaching such a decision. It wouldn’t lead to a release of the prisoner, necessarily, since the question of guilt or innocence would never be addressed. But what if, instead, a ruling is made that there is personal jurisdiction over Hambali? Stranger things have happened — witness the vast expansion of judicial power created in Boumediene v. Bush, where the Supreme Court found that its jurisdiction for habeas corpus purposes extended to any person within America’s exclusive control. Should a DC court find it does have personal jurisdiction over a person who has no connection to America except for being captured by her soldiers, that would be paramount to declaring American law and jurisprudence the law of every land. In other words, we would be claiming that our laws “speak” everywhere and for everyone, whether you like it or not.
If you are inclined to believe that holding enemy combatants at GITMO directly aids al Qaeda’s recruitment efforts, how do you think the terrorist organization and her adherents will take to our claim that they, and everyone else in the world, are subject to our civil laws? How will the rest of the world view such an arrogant statement? Beyond satisfying some petty political aims, by taking such a misguided step as this the Obama administration is not doing the U.S. any favors, and is likely damaging our interests.
Fareed Zakaria provides the second installment in how terrorists win (the example of the Met deciding not to show art depicting the prophet Mohammed being the first):
In responding to the attempted bombing of an airliner on Christmas Day, Sen. Dianne Feinstein voiced the feelings of many when she said that to prevent such situations, “I’d rather overreact than underreact.” This appears to be the consensus view in Washington, but it is quite wrong. The purpose of terrorism is to provoke an overreaction. Its real aim is not to kill the hundreds of people directly targeted but to sow fear in the rest of the population. Terrorism is an unusual military tactic in that it depends on the response of the onlookers. If we are not terrorized, then the attack didn’t work. Alas, this one worked very well.
He is exactly right. Terrorism is all about effecting change through the threat of or use of violence. It is a tool of the weak that can be devastatingly effective if those at whom it is aimed overreact. The aim may be political change. The aim may be economic change. Or terrorists may be satisfied with any change they can effect through their actions which makes life miserable for those at whom it is aimed. As Zakaria points out, given our response, the latest terrorist failure is, in fact, a win. We’re jumping through our collective arses trying to react to the threat and pretty much settling on making air travel more miserable for everyone.
Overreacting to terrorist attacks plays into al-Qaeda’s hands. It also provokes responses that are likely to be large-scale, expensive, ineffective and possibly counterproductive. More screening for every passenger makes no sense. When searching for needles in haystacks, adding hay doesn’t help. What’s needed is a larger, more robust watch list that is instantly available to all relevant government agencies. Almost 2 million people travel on planes in the United States every day. We need to isolate the tiny percentage of suspicious characters and search them, not cause needless fear in everyone else.
We know, to this point the one common thread that links these “needles” and separates them from the “hay”. But we continue to resist using that as a discriminator as we refine our security searches because, apparently, discrimination (aka “profiling”) is a much worse political sin than getting airliners with 300 souls on board blown out of the sky.
It simply defies common sense.
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One is by making you afraid to do what you might normally do:
Is the Met afraid of Mohammed?
The Metropolitan Museum of Art quietly pulled images of the Prophet Mohammed from its Islamic collection and may not include them in a renovated exhibition area slated to open in 2011, The Post has learned.
The museum said the controversial images — objected to by conservative Muslims who say their religion forbids images of their holy founder — were “under review.”
Critics say the Met has a history of dodging criticism and likely wants to escape the kind of outcry that Danish cartoons of Mohammed caused in 2006.
To answer the question – no, the Met isn’t afraid of Mohammed. It’s afraid of some of his followers. The bomb throwing, murdering group of his followers who take offense at just about anything.
But is self-censorship the answer?
Isn’t the reaction exactly that for which they are hoping?
One of the things those involved in the arts like to tell us is one of the purposes of art is to challenge convention. To jab hard at those that are comfortable. Smack their beliefs and conceptions around a bit. Make ‘em think. And when there’s no real risk, they’re all for it aren’t they? “Piss Christ” for example was done knowing no one would show up throwing bombs or threatening to kill those who exhibited the “work of art”.
But when it comes to the likelihood that there’s an actual possibility of violence, suddenly artists and their backers aren’t so keen on “challenging convention”, are they? Suddenly the challenge to convention – that purpose of art – isn’t really that important anymore, is it?
Funny how that works.
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It remains a mystery, to me at least, why closing Gitmo is such a priority to this president. In fact, it seems like it is the only campaign promise he actually plans on keeping, although to this point he’s been spectacularly unsuccessful.
But seriously, other than location, what does closing Gitmo and moving these “detainees” to a prison in Illinois accomplish? Does Obama and the left actually believe that doing so will kill jihadi propaganda about the prison in Cuba which they claim is used as a recruiting tool?
“Make no mistake,” he said. “We will close Guantanamo prison, which has damaged our national security interests and become a tremendous recruiting tool for al-Qaeda.”
Realistically, all the jihadis will do is change the name to the new prison and it will be recruiting propaganda as usual. Do you think they really care where their fellow terrorists are held? Of course not – the propaganda value isn’t in the place, its in the fact that they’re “suffering under the power of the infidel”. Whether that “suffering” takes place in Cuba or Illinois is absolutely irrelevant to them.
And the Obama administration can run the best prison in the world, but the propaganda they seem so worried about will still characterize it as a infidel hell hole and torture chamber. The depth of naivete necessary to believe that closing Gitmo will solve some sort of perception problem throughout the world and hurt jihadi recruiting is rather disturbing when you consider who it is that supposedly believes it. In fact, the only thing I see this closure of Gitmo bringing is the expenditure of more money we don’t have for no apparent gain – not that government isn’t quite good at that anyway.
Today we learn that 20% of those poor goat herders who were innocently swept up in Iraq and Afghanistan have engaged in terrorist activities after their release. And we’ve supposedly kept the really bad one’s. Wasn’t the fact that they were terrorists the reason we stuck them in Gitmo to begin with? So, if we now stick them in Thompson Correctional Center and keep them “indefinitely” without trial if it determined that is necessary (as promised by President Obama) how does TCC become any different in the eyes of jihadi’s (or, for that matter, the rest of the world) than Gitmo?
The short and simple answer is, it doesn’t. All of that is a smoke screen. In fact what the move does accomplish is to transfer the terrorists from military control and custody to civilian control and custody and, by the way, into the US legal system – the real reason, I believe, behind the desire to close the Cuban facility.
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Something that’s been bouncing around inside my head the past couple of days is that it really seems like al Qaeda (and terrorists in general) have gotten inside our OODA Loop.
For those who don’t know, you can find a really good description of the OODA Loop here and a good summary here. Briefly it’s the decision cycle (“observe, orient, decide, act”) of those engaged in some sort of struggle or competition. The faster and more accurate one’s decision cycle, the more quickly he can disorient and defeat his opponent. By forcing your opponent into a defensive posture, where your moves are not readily or easily discerned, you can outmaneuver and even control what your opponent does — hence, you are inside his OODA Loop. So when I say that the terrorists have gotten inside our OODA Loop, I mean that we are fighting them from predictable, even enemy-dictated stances that make it easier for them to survive and continue fighting.
To some extent, of course, that’s almost entirely what terrorism is designed to do: i.e. affect our decision-making process in such a way as to turn the populace against the government. The terrorists attack soft targets, and the government responds by restraining the freedom of its own citizens, maybe even going overboard. In fact, in countries where a considerable amount of freedom is the norm, most if not all such government restrictions will seem like they are going overboard, because only the terrorists really know how and when they are going to attack next (recall the famous IRA admonishment to Margaret Thatcher: you have to be lucky every day; we just have to be lucky once). The people eventually get tired of the restraints and overbearing policies of the government and either demand a stop to the war against the terrorists or join the terrorists’ cause. Indeed, the whole concept behind Petraeus’ counterinsurgency was an attempt to reorganize our OODA Loop in a way that was not affected by the terrorists’ actions. The idea was to win over the populace to the coalition side by taking the fight to the terrorists and protecting the citizens. When it comes to fighting terrorism on as a nation, however, we don’t seem to have any similar strategy, and that appears to be helping al Qaeda, et al.
That’s not to say that the terrorists will ever truly defeat America and the West, because that’s not ever going to be possible. Militarily, whether speaking in terms of strategy, tactics, policy or just sheer power, they are simply no match for us on any level. Even so, they have become somewhat adept at pushing our buttons in a way that makes us turn on one another, thus weakening our resolve. Keep in mind too that they don’t have to “win” in this struggle, they just have to tie. If we leave Iraq and/or Afghanistan before those nations are able to effectively capable of governing themselves in a peaceful manner, including the ability to keep terrorists at bay, then they will count that as a victory and we will face an emboldened enemy. If we react in predictably defensive ways to every terrorist act, and let them dictate how our government rules her citizens, then we hand them all the controls they need to thrive. And when we do that coupled with a near-pathological fear of offending a protected class of persons, even when we have some really well-founded reasons for distrusting a certain, easily identifiable class of persons, we practically write a script for the terrorists to help us implode.
Just consider how we treat foreign nationals who wish to come to America. On the one hand we keep productive, job-producing citizens out, while allowing watch-listed BVD-bombers easy access:
The question on the visa is critical. No one has a right to a visa to the US. If we have credible information that someone constitutes a threat — and a father’s testimony should be considered at least credible enough to hoist a red flag or two — then the visa should be canceled until more investigation can take place. It’s absolutely ridiculous that we’re kicking out Anatolie Vartosu for being too successful in America while keeping Adbulmutallab’s visa in place because we’re just not sure he’s a radical jihadi. It’s as ridiculous as doing strip-searches on Grandma while allowing a Nigerian on a watch list to pass through two sets of security without a patdown.
The whole point the watch-list and no-fly lists, not to mention the ridiculously random and complicated TSA security measures in general, was to prevent another 9-11 from happening. Yet the only people whom seem to be at all hampered by these government restrictions are those who have no intention of blowing up airplanes.
So in response to the attempted terror attack over Christmas, TSA will apparently adopt a new policy prohibiting passengers from moving during the last hour of a flight. Also, no pillows or blankets during that last hour.
In addition to keeping with its usually [sic] tradition of making policy on a reactionary [sic] basis, this one wouldn’t even have done anything to prevent the attempt over the weekend. The guy was in his seat when he tried to light the explosive device. And the passenger who confronted him got out of his seat to do it.
TSA … equates hassle with safety. For all the crap they put us through, this guy still got some sort of explosive material on the plane from Amsterdam. He was stopped by law-abiding passengers. So TSA responds to all of this by . . . announcing plans to hassle law-abiding U.S. passengers even more.
If you’re really cynical, you could make a good argument that they’re really only interested in the appearance of safety. They’ve simply concluded that the more difficult they make your flight, the safer you’ll feel. Never mind if any of the theatrics actually work.
That’s one way of explaining how the cycle of terrorist act/government restriction/citizen agitation works. Or, you could say that al Qaeda is inside our OODA Loop. And we can’t seem to find an effective way to remove them.
Well, that’s not entirely correct. The best way we’ve found of dealing with terrorists is by taking the fight to them, and forcing them to fight for their own ground. When we did that, we severely disrupted their ability to form and execute new plans, and made it increasingly difficult for state-supporters to remain hidden or passive. Of course, our government still took the ridiculous, theatrical approach to safety at home anyway, so the system isn’t fool-proof. Essentially it’s Petraeus’ counterinsurgency strategy writ large in a place that’s not sanguine about a military presence, but where plenty of us will whine and moan if the theater doesn’t put the show on anyway (while remembering to annoying everyone equally, even if our business cards declare us to be soldiers for Allah). We put them on the defensive, and that’s right w.here they belong now.
Victor David Hanson predicts that we will see the Obama administration start heading that way in the near term, and perhaps it already has. I hope that’s right. Because taking our foot off the gas is not getting the job done. It just lets the enemy get back to steering our bus in the direction they want. Back inside our OODA Loop.
You can’t beat the left for not getting the message or understanding the problem, can you:
[Montel Williams, on his Air America program] suggested on Monday that the Fort Hood backlash against Muslims could be so great we would put Muslims in internment camps like the Japanese under Franklin Roosevelt:
WILLIAMS: We pulled something like this back in World War II when we decided to round up all Japanese Americans and put them in internment camps. This is something that I think before we can blink, the [anti-Muslim] rhetoric, Doc, could get out of hand. What do you think?
FRANK FARLEY, psychologist, Temple University: I agree totally. I mean, the possibilities of prejudice and racism and so on are incredible here. You know, we should be treating this as a unique incident and look at the factors involved in this very unique and specific incident, and not overgeneralize. Unfortunately, we tend to overgeneralize all the time. The idea that all Muslims are the same is ridiculous….
Everybody’s got their own personal qualities and individual differences and let’s just treat this as a very specific incident and try to figure out why this particular person did this particular thing.
WILLIAMS: Absolutely. No matter what it comes out to, at the end of the day, even if it comes out in the last five months and all his anxiety around his impending deployment, he decided his frame of reference was his religion and that was what was giving him, you know, the power within himself to make his stand, that doesn’t mean that the religion is to blame.
FARLEY: Absolutely, it’s his interpretation of everything, and his interpretation [of Islam] may vary dramatically from his fellow Muslims.
Wow. As much as I cautioned people to give the facts a chance to come out before coming to conclusions about Hasan, this is just an example of some incredible denial going on here. We now have facts – lots of facts – and informed conclusions can be drawn.
And let’s deal with the internment camp nonsense. That happened because a liberal Democratic president signed an Executive Order (Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942) which enabled US citizens of a particular national background to be interned (a total violation of their civil rights). Is he really suggesting that because we have a liberal Democrat president again in the White House that history may repeat itself. Or is he as ignorant of history as most and assuming it was done by mean, nasty right-wing types?
Something else that sort of hits me here – if there was no “backlash” against muslims after 9/11, why do these yahoos think there will be one now? Who is it who will be involved in this backlash and why is this incident so different from 9/11 that it will spark the backlash 9/11 didn’t? I don’t know. But I would think that the American people, who sorted that out the last time, will sort it out this time as well.
Are there prudent steps to be taken in light of what has happened at Ft. Hood as concerns muslim soldiers? Yes. Given Ft. Hood, the Little Rock incident and the fragging incident in Iraq, all involving muslim soldiers or muslims attacking soldiers, I’d say that it would be prudent to screen the reported 3,500 muslim military members (discretely and unobtrusively as possible) given the deadly action of two (as I recall, the left was all for a purge of the military to look for neo-nazis and white supremacists) . And yes that means, given the unique situation our military is in (fighting in two muslim countries) and the possible conflict that may bring to the minds of some who are of the dominant religion of those two countries – that we’re “profiling”. But then, while it is the antithesis of political correctness, it is the smart thing to do. Show me a compelling reason to screen the rest of the military for those who might be in a similar situation and I’d be for that as well.
Should there be procedures put in place that would encourage the reporting of language or actions that appear to support a radicalized person – be it through religion or ideology? Yes, there should. And the chain of command must be made to take such reports seriously, investigate them thoroughly and act if necessary. Or said another way, political correctness and the fear of being censured if you do report such utterances or actions, must be banned from the military.
Finally, people like Williams and Farley must be pointed out and ridiculed because it is their sort of denial which leads to incidents like Ft. Hood. We all need to grow up a bit, quit taking everything as an insult and understand that your feelings don’t take precedence over someone else’s life. Yes, we’re diverse. Yes, we’re an amalgamation of peoples.
However, if you are consistently being bitten on the leg by dogs, you don’t go looking for cats or chickens. We have to learn to honestly and forthrightly address the threat. Radical Islam has been attacking us since the embassy takeover in Iran 30 years ago. They are the ones we should be looking for right now – and you’re not going to find them among Christian, atheist or Jewish military personnel.
The threat appears to be a segment of Islam that becomes violently radicalized and strikes out at those it considers “infidels”. In the case of Hasan that was obviously anyone within reach. And, as experts say, self-generated jihadis are not unusual and are, as we’ve found out, more dangerous than those with organized connections (those with organized connections are easier to find and track). Given all I’ve read about Hasan – and it has been a lot – that’s what I believe he is. A self-generated jihadi who became increasingly radicalized over the years to the point that he finally decided he must act.
I understand and appreciate the attempts to warn us off of using too broad a brush. That was one of the points of my previous post that generated so much discussion. But it is no longer a secret that there are radicals among the religion of Islam who find it to be their duty to do similar acts to those of Hasan. Pretending Hasan wasn’t one of those stretches credulity to the max. The first day of the shootings – yes, a perfectly acceptable argument. We had few facts and much of what was reported we subsequently found out was wrong. However now, given the veritable avalanche of information which has been provided about this man and verified, it is more than a little lame to pretend he might have been something our experience and the facts tell us he’s not.
Willams and Farley do a disservice to us all by claiming those who have concluded his religion radicalized him and was the reason he did what he did are “overgeneralizing”. Not anymore. Sure it was a “specific incident” as Farley claims, but so was 9/11. And after we learned about each of the radicals who committed that atrocity we found men not unlike Nadal Malik Hasan, didn’t we?
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Pakistan’s army is on the march against both the Taliban and al Qaeda in South Warziristan where there is a large concentration of both:
The Pakistani army pushed farther into a mountainous Taliban and al-Qaeda haven Sunday, as civilians continued to flow out of an area that has become a full-fledged battleground.
On the second day of a ground offensive in the restive border region of South Waziristan, the military said at least 60 militants and five soldiers had been killed. The Pakistani Taliban, which the government says has plotted a cascade of recent attacks on security forces from its base in the area, told the Associated Press that its fighters had inflicted “heavy casualties” against the army.
The fight in South Waziristan is a key test for Pakistan’s military, which is tasked with shattering a rising Islamist insurgency that has killed nearly 200 people in bombings and gunfights in the past two weeks. American officials, who have urged Pakistan to get tougher on militants operating on its soil, say the region is also a hub for militants who plan attacks on U.S.-led forces across the border in Afghanistan.
According to reports we’ve been asking for and encouraging the Pakistanis to take exactly this sort of action since the Obama administration has been in office.
Question: How long do you suppose the Pakistanis will commit to such operations and continue to push back against the Taliban and al Qaeda if we continue to dither about our commitment? Here we have a desired result in action. You’d think that would be extremely useful against the very target candidate Obama said we’d taken our eye off of with Iraq – namely Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. Are we conducting a complimentary and supporting NATO operation right now? And if not, why not?
I’ll tell you why – the administration is instead worried about the results of a run-off election in Afghanistan and can’t manage to separate that from the supposed strategic goal that candidate Obama laid out as our purpose for being Afghanistan in the first place.
All things being equal, it would be wonderful to have a popularly elected government free of corruption and connected across the country with provincial and local governments. But what has that to do with that primary goal of defeating (i.e. eliminating) al Qaeda and those who support it who are now located between Kabul and Islamabad? Eliminate the threat, go home, and let the Afghan’s sort out who they want in charge and what sort of government they’d prefer.
In the meantime, we’re undermanned to do what we claim, or at least claimed, was our goal – kill al Qaeda and its supporters. We’ve finally seen Pakistan get off its collective posterior and do what we’ve been asking them to do for years and we’re unprepared to support the operation even though we’ve had 10 months in which to make a decision (IOW, why aren’ t we engaged in an operation that supports theirs?).
If Pakistan’s losses mount while we (and NATO) sit on our rear ends, how long do you imagine Pakistan will commit to proactive and costly offensive combat?
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A post I did in September of 2006, originally entitled “September 11th, 2001 – “We Lost David”. It is the ongoing fulfillment of a promise made in the last sentence of the post. This is what 9/11 should be about.
Each week I do a tribute, called Project Hero, about a Soldier, Sailor, Marine or Airman who’s been awarded a medal for valor in combat. Those medals represent their actions above and beyond the call of duty. But, as we all know, valor and courage aren’t exclusive to the military or combat. And no better example of that is what the courageous men and women of fire, rescue and police did that awful day in September of 2001 when terrorists attacked our country by flying commercial aircraft into the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
A few weeks ago I signed on to an effort called the “2996 Project” organized by a blog to do a tribute to each and every one of those who died on that day. Three thousand bloggers are participating. The names were assigned randomly. When you signed up, you got whoever was next.
I was honored to draw the name of David Halderman Jr.
Of course, I never knew David Halderman. I’d never previously seen his name or if I had, it never registered beyond that of a person who’d died that day in those barbaric attacks. But when I began to research David, I found a man for whom my admiration and respect knew no bounds.
You see, David Halderman was a firefighter with Squad 18 of FDNY.
On that grim day in September, FDNY lost 343 of its finest who, disregarding their own safety, rushed toward the scene of the disaster while others were running away. It is estimated they saved over 20,000 souls that day. In the finest tradition of firefighters everywhere, they never hesitated. David Halderman, Jr. was among them.
Squad 18 is located in Greenwich Village. When the towers were hit, Squad 18 responded immediately. All seven firefighters on duty that morning were lost.
A visitor to New York just prior to 9/11 happened to remember Squad 18 for a particular reason:
This past Labor Day weekend, one of the youngest attendees, my nephew Beau, was walking with his mom and aunt past Firehouse #18 in Greenwich Village. Beau asked if they could stop. Three firefighters took the time to show Beau and his sister the fire truck and posed for some pictures.
Among the three firefighters who so made those visitors feel so welcome was David.
After returning home to Alaska, and following the terrible events of 9/11, Beau asked his mom if the guys in the picture were OK. After checking back with Squad #18, and showing them the picture, my sister in New York learned that “Chris and Harry made it. We lost David.” The photograph was the last picture taken of him.
As I looked further and further into the life of David Halderman, I found a man who was worthy of love, admiration and respect. He was a 2nd generation firefighter, following in the footsteps of his father and namesake who had very recently died. His brother also was with FDNY.
The fact that he’d taken time out of his day to spend with a young visitor from Alaska seemed something completely in character for him. The fact he’d responded immediately to the disaster of the World Trade Center came as no surprise either. His mother remembers the night before:
On Monday night, David Halderman called his mother in Brentwood to comfort her, as he has done regularly since his father died on Aug. 8.
“I asked him to have a good night, to be careful, to be safe, and I told him I loved him,” his mother, Geraldine Halderman, said. “That was the last time I spoke to him.”
“I love you, take care of yourself.” That was how David Halderman always ended his telephone conversations with his mother.
The next day fate and tragedy took David Halderman while performing the duty to which he’d dedicated his life:
On Tuesday morning, Halderman, a firefighter with Engine-Squad 18 in the West Village, entered the World Trade Center to help victims escape. He is now among the missing city firefighters.
“He was in the building when it collapsed,” Geraldine Halderman said. “They found his helmet. That’s all they found.”
The helmet was identified by its badge – No. 10652, the same badge number used by Halderman’s late father.
Where do we get such men? In the face of every human instinct which tells us to flee, they resist that and walk into danger, risking their lives to help others escape and live. Courage and valor are rare commodities. That’s why we revere and reward them. Those attributes were displayed by hundreds of the fire and rescue people who responded with David Halderman Jr. on that grim and horrid day in September of 2001. As a nation watched in stunned horror, men like David were saving lives.
A few days ago, David’s mother left this message on his memorial site:
Dear David, Five Years! My son you are in my thoughts and prayers every day. I have moved from the house where you grew up,it was too much for me alone. I carry all my memories in my heart. I know you are with me always, you are the voice within me that says “don’t be afraid” when I am sad or anxious. The ache in my heart remains, dulled with time but always present even through the laughter and happy times. There have been weddings and a birth since you left us,and you have been missed so much and remembered at those times. I love you forever.
Life goes on but the hurt never goes away, and mothers suffer a special agony which comes with losing their children. But we are all poorer for the loss of David and those like him. It is they who define what is good and right about us. It is they who show us what man can be. It is they who give us hope for the future.
September 11th is the day to remember those, who like David Halderman Jr., gave their lives in the service of others. I didn’t know David Halderman before this year. But I do now. He was a man to both admire and respect. And every subsequent September 11th I will remember and honor his name. It is the least we can do for the heros among us.