Why was James Foley left to die?

August 22, 2014

Gretchen Carlson is one of the best of the Fox News anchors and she just nailed it with her comment about the gruesome  murder of James Foley by ISIS thugs.  She quoted a State Department spokesman, who explained why we had not negotiated for the release of the journalist. “The United States does not negotiate with terrorists.”

“But isn’t that exactly what we did for Bowe Burgdahl?”  Carlson asked.  Burgdahl was the Islamic sympathizer whose parents were feted at the White House by President Barack Obama when his release was announced.

An article in The Hill says the Pentagon clearly broke the law in the Burgdahl case.  The Associated Press just ran a story on the hypocrisy of the difference between the two hostages.

What many will miss is the deep faith of James Foley and how that factored into this story and American policy.

Keep in mind, ISIS is confronting Christians in Iraq with the following option: convert to Islam or die.  And Christians are being executed in other Islamic countries for no other reason than their faith.

Before Barack Obama, every recent president since Reagan has been active worldwide in helping persecuted and martyred Christians.  When I worked in the White House of George H.W. Bush we regularly helped get Christians out of prisons all over Africa and Asia.  These included missionaries and educators but also journalists and relief workers.  Bill Clinton helped establish the International Religious Freedom Act that worked with the United Nations to stop the slaughter.  Unfortunately what we saw happen to James Foley is only a small vignette of killings of Christians worldwide.  Senator Rand Paul has called for withholding foreign aid to nations who execute Christians just because of their faith.  But he has had only two co-sponsors.  And the Obama administration quickly quashed the idea.

The national media, who once winked at communism, hoping to avoid getting on their killing lists when they took over America, now seem to be courting the Islamic extremists.  Leave us alone.  Don’t hurt us or our families when we travel the world and we will not hurt you.  Here, take our Christians.  For years the media blurred the distinctions between Muslims and Christians in wars in Africa leaving most Americans ignorant of how religion was actually driving the crisis.

On all of these issues moderate Muslims are silent.

Meanwhile, being a Christian and being open about it can get you killed in the Islamic world, and left to die by a politically correct American government who will not ransom you.  James Foley, whose Christian faith was no secret, once described to an audience at Marquette how prayer kept him alive during his captivity by Muammar Gaddafi.

As it turned out surviving Barack Obama’s foreign policy takes more than prayer.

 


When presidents go on vacation

August 16, 2014

Having written about presidents and worked for presidents I can tell you that there are some misconceptions about presidential vacations.  Some things happen like the rest of us.  Some things don’t.

First there is the idea that the president is the boss and can take off when he wants.  Actually, he is at the mercy of other people just as we all are.  For example, he must co-ordinate with the legislative calendar on Capitol Hill.  If he is not in Washington to help lobby his own bills in congress both his legislation and his presidency will suffer.

Likewise, the timing and planning behind visits from foreign Heads of State are calculated well in advance.  If the president cancels a visit in favor of a sudden vacation with the kids to Disney World he can ruin a relationship or trigger an international crisis.  And if the president insists on taking a scheduled vacation when the rest of the world is falling apart he risks a political uproar.

In 1983, when the Soviets shot down a civilian Korean Airlines, Reagan cut short his time at the ranch in California and flew back to the Oval Office to address the nation.

Some people get upset if the president isn’t in the Oval Office with his sleeves rolled up.  But actually the work of a president is making decisions and that process does not stop, not for Eisenhower on the Golf Course, Kennedy at the beach, or Obama on a bicycle.

Woodrow Wilson, who had been the president of Princeton University, and brought an academic mindset to Oval Office decision making, was scandalized by the pace.  He told his wife and daughters that he didn’t have time to think, that he couldn’t even take a walk before making a decision.

The Oval Office was only built in 1909, which means that most presidents never worked there at all.  And today’s West Wing Oval Office was built in 1934 by President Franklin Roosevelt.  Many presidents, such as Richard Nixon, only used it for ceremonial purposes.  He did his real work in a more expansive office in the Old Executive Office Building which is adjacent to the White House mansion.

Some presidents, like George W. Bush, were not paper shufflers.  They got much of their work done through conversations and that could take place anywhere. The staff had to turn it all into paper. When presidents travel their communications network travels with them, as well as a miniature White House staff.

You will hear a lot of people talk about how Air Force One has ushered in a new era of the traveling president.  Not really. American presidents began extensive travel with trains.  At their peak presidential trains crisscrossed the continent and were a virtual traveling White House.  At one time each cabinet member had his own available train.

Presidents have always been criticized for taking time off, beginning with George Washington who often visited Mt. Vernon.  President Obama recently took a lot of hits for taking a vacation in the midst of world crisis but former presidents of both political parties won’t criticize one of their own for getting some rest. “I don’t agree with your politics,” Richard Nixon said to John F. Kennedy, after the latter won the 1960 election, “But I will never criticize you for taking a vacation.”

Perhaps the biggest misconception about presidents is how well informed they are, and how their morning intelligence briefing keeps them in the loop, even while on vacation.

It depends on the president, of course, but almost all of them become isolated in office.  It is the nature of power.  A memo sent to the president is stamped “The President Has Seen” and becomes an official document of government that will one day be seen by the world.  And so staffers who once told their boss everything are reluctant to send information that others will one day see and judge out of context.

While it’s true that because of their security briefings presidents have information that the rest of us don’t have, even on vacation, the fact is that we sometimes have information that they don’t have!  It is a story as old as the Emperor’s Clothes and it is strikingly seen in George W. Bush’s slow response to Hurricane Katrina and the unfolding tragedy in New Orleans. While the whole nation watched as mothers and children were trapped in 90 degree heat on rooftops without water, food or toilets, and an obvious major health crisis was in the making, the president was at his ranch and not to be disturbed. It was a costly mistake.

Having worked on senior staff at the White House I was often astounded and surprised at what the president knew and what he didn’t know.  There just isn’t time for anyone to know everything.


Forge of Empires: Best strategy game for iPad

August 3, 2014

At last there is a strategy game for iPad.  Forge of Empires.  Nothing else I’ve tried really compares.  And like everything else on iPad it has forced me into a wider community and to my surprise I like it.

Since Christmas, 1992, when my son first tempted me to make a move in Sid Mier’s Civilization, I have been a rabid fan of computer strategy games.  And I have enjoyed all of the variations since.  Some of today’s mods are just amazing and make it an entirely different game.

Once, in between speaking engagements in Asia, I was sent to the South Pacific island resort of Bali.  The company put me in a five star hotel-resort.  When I opened my sliding doors, cool winds blew in off the ocean.  I spent the week taking food in my room and battling the demons in the computer.  Who needs a beach when you have the whole world to conquer?

But try as it may, Sid Mier’s Civilization has not yet made the transition to iPad that I want.  And I grow tired dragging around a heavy computer.

Forge of Empires was a perfect fit for iPad.  The basics of the game are simple enough to work and yet the options are endless.  The first few weeks I was totally on iPad and only reluctantly checked out the extra features by going online with my desktop.

The best part is that you can play a game and be part of the family.  I am no longer in “the computer room.”  I can be right there on the couch watching a movie or at Panera Bread or Starbucks, while managing my growing empire.  And how can the family complain if they are checking their Facebook or pictures on Instagram?

Now don’t just rush to your iPad and download the app.  Go to your desktop and put in the url below.  Just cut and paste.  Or go to this link. It will sign you up as my friend and I will be able to give you some supplies or even coach you if you need or want it.  For this is a game where allies can be of help.

http://us.forgeofempires.com/?invitor_id=1898927&world_id=us2&ref=player_invite_link

There is war, there is economy, there is city building and long range planning.  And it can all be carried around with your iPad.

Nice.


Israel – Hamas and the Holocaust Revisited

July 29, 2014

“Israel defends its children with rockets.  Hamas defends its rockets with children.”  – Benjamin Netanyahu

After writing about the recent crisis between Israel and Hamas my post has been receiving comments by persons with revisionist views on the Holocaust.  Rather than answer each one I  thought I would write a separate post to make my own views clear.

Like most people, I share the terrible sorrow over the scenes of dying children in Gaza.  And yet I cannot sanction the continuous , indiscriminate firing of rockets into populated areas of Israel either.  The idea that the death rate is  disproportionate is not much of a moral argument to me.  An enemy in battle has no obligation to equalize the death rate for his opponents.  If a Hamas rocket landed in a crowded street of Tel Aviv would they decrease their rate of fire?

Yes, I hate the sight of dying children.  It is heartbreaking.  So I wonder why has the Hamas – influenced government refused to accept an unconditional cease-fire which would stop that killing?   And why are they openly saying that their latest attack is in retaliation for the Egyptian blockade of their border?  Why are they not sending rockets into Egypt?  And if Egypt, an Islamic nation, who has been persecuting Coptic Christians, is threatened by the Palestinian-Hamas government in Gaza and sees them as terrorists, why are we giving that government U.S. foreign aid?

The idea of some persons commenting on my blogs appears to be that the deaths of children in Gaza is evidence that the Jews are basically bad people.  That even the Holocaust has been invented and/ or distorted for propaganda purposes.

My belief is that the deaths of these children in Gaza are very real consequences to a terrible war gone bad.  But that the deaths during the Holocaust were also very real and the memory of those who suffered at the hands of a corrupt and evil government program is sacred.  The Jews, as a people, cannot be seen outside of this context.

I do not come to my views of the Holocaust casually.  As a youth I read the standard World War II books, mostly written by English and American writers, but this led to books by generals and participants on both sides of the conflict.  By the time Albert Speer’s books were published I had read deeply on the subject including transcripts of Hitler’s table talk, the Goebbels’ diaries and all the personal accounts of secretaries, valets, around the principal figures. And of course I read hundreds of the biographies and autobiographies of that era.

The Nuremberg Trial was fascinating.  I read all of the English versions of books by concentration camp survivors.  And, even now, as new ones are translated and appear, I find them and read them as well.   Very early I devoured all of the carefully researched David Irving books and later the Holocaust revisionist spin offs that followed.  I read excerpts from the Irving trial and the tedious studies of Robert Jan van Pelt.

In my travels I visited battlefields including Kursk, St. Petersburg, Volgograd (Stalingrad).  I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau, Sachsenhausen, Dachau, Buchenwald and some smaller concentration camps in Belgium and France.  In some cases I made return visits, stepping off the cement foundations of the gas chambers to calculate if it were mathematically possible for so many to be shuffled in and out.

In Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine I stopped by the road and visited markers depicting the historical sites of various atrocities.   With the collapse of the Soviet Union came the release of a whole new round of information giving insights and corrections to events.

Yes, there are mistakes in print everywhere.  Just as there are in any other history, including presidential history, which I research as a career. But the Holocaust indeed happened and has been carefully chronicled in spite of Nazi efforts to keep it hidden.  Martin Gilbert’s book, Holocaust, may be the most complete accounting and it can be mind numbing.  Gilbert tracks it all, country by country, city by city, block by block and family by family.  The predictable stories repeat over and over with the denial, right up to the end, until the door is shut behind.

I stubbornly read the stories of survivors because I know that the perpetrators wanted these people to die alone, unknown to the world.  And the victims felt abandoned, so I want to be there with them, along with thousands of other readers, whispering between the pages, “I am here too, with you, we all now know what happened, you are not alone, you are not forgotten and I weep with you over the inhumanity of your captors.”

It would be a mistake for us to turn away from the faces of the dying children in Gaza.  But it is also a shame for us to pretend that the Holocaust didn’t happen.

 


Is Obama too big too fail? Why is he acting so strangely?

July 26, 2014

President Barack Obama’s shameless fundraising tours in the midst of a world in chaos have brought immediate comparisons to Ronald Reagan.   Led by his erstwhile advisers, such as Michael Deaver, who understood imagery, Reagan would have been back in the Oval Office, looking presidential and sounding like the statesman he was.  Reagan would likely have brought his government together, State Department, NSA, Pentegon, CIA and taken an assessment of how it could all impact on American economy and lives.  He would likely have given a national address, reassuring the nation and signalling the world how we expect civilized people to act.

On the surface, Obama’s actions are incomprehensible.  There is no explanation.  Obama appears transcendent, not responsible for his own administration and uncaring about the world around him.

It has been the Obama style from the beginning. The economic crisis was the fault of the previous administration.  When his own stimulus program could not produce one of the one million jobs he promised, it was replaced with more of the same and  blame on congress for failing to immediately enact more of what wasn’t working.

The president declared that he had no responsibility for the IRS which was blatantly being used for political purposes, he had nothing to do with the failed Healthcare website and nothing to do with the Veteran’s Administration which was corrupt on his watch. Whatever happened to Harry Truman and his Oval Office motto, “the buck stops here?”

It was not just that the president was not in charge of anything, or seemed to know anything, or should be blamed for anything, it was also when we found out differently he didn’t apologize.  When we learned, for example, that the $678 million , no bid, Healthcare website was awarded to Michelle Obama’s buddy from Princeton, the White House ignored it all.  When a news agency asked about it they were charged with racism.  When the president’s hand picked political lieutenant at the IRS claimed she had lost her emails the president defended her.

Sometimes, these juxtapositions can get downright comical.  Recently, General Motors was fined millions of dollars by the Justice Department for faulty ignition issues when, in fact, at that time, the company was owned and being run by the U.S. government.  Should the Justice Department fine itself?  When Obama ran for re-election he bragged about saving the auto industry?  But he has no responsibility for the company he bought.   The President is too big to fail.

On closer examination, Obama’s recent actions make sense.  He is angling for his post presidential role.  He will either be the Secretary General of the United Nations or else he will be some NGO equivalent.  Thus, he spent the week campaigning for the Democrat Party and ultimately Hillary Clinton whom he will need as an ally if he is to realize his ambition.  Nor would he want to poke the Russians more than necessary.

And the Federal Aviation Administration’s sudden cancellation of all flights to Tel Aviv?  At a cost to Israel of millions of dollars?  At first we were told that the president didn’t get involved in such things.  And given the fact that the president isn’t responsible for the economy, the IRS, his own Healthcare namesake and the Veterans Administration, to name a few departments, then one could almost believe it.    What does he do with all that free time?  But if he is now on track for his post presidency then it makes perfect sense.  The U.N. votes solidly against Israel, with only American on her side.  Obama will need to have some more of these anti-Israel moments to shore up his support from the African and Arab nations who dominate the the U.N. and will dictate the reach of any international role.

There was an awkward scene on CNN last week.  Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg snapped at Wolf Blitzer.  The CNN reporter had asked if the FAA decision represented policy.  Given Obama’s anti Israel record it was a reasonable question.  And it had just been raised by a U.S. Senator.  A testy Bloomberg was outraged at Wolf Blitzer for daring to ask such a thing.  It was another shameful moment.  Bloomberg has taken a lot of heat for his slavish support of Obama, in spite of his record toward Israel.

The irony was that Bloomberg’s very appearance was proof of the politics of the policy. If Tel Aviv was safe, and Bloomberg could fly there, then why was it ordered closed to all American airlines?  And if it wasn’t safe, why was it opened up again after the American people reacted to the FAA’ decision with outrage?

Oh, by the way, as someone who once worked in the White House, I can tell you that no one at the FAA would make such an unprecedented and politically charged decision without the okay of the president of the United States.  Sorry.

It all points to this very likely scenario.  We will have Barrack Obama on the world stage for a very, very long time to come.

 

Below was a controversial “what would Reagan do” moment during the Egyptian crisis and the Arab spring.  On this segment, several years ago, I voiced a lonely position that turned out to be prophetic.


Woman banned from USA because of her name

July 10, 2014

America’s clumsy efforts to make herself safe continue to reach ridiculous proportions,  making enemies instead of friends.  Last April The Daily Sabah ran a story about a woman who was barred from entering the USA because of her name.  The 33 year old French citizen, Alic Aida was told at the airport in Geneva that she could not be allowed to board the flight to New York City.  She and her family were turned away without explanation. After the departure of the flight she persisted for more information and was told that her name in English sounded like al-Qaeda.

The mother of two children is of Yugoslav origin.  Her family name is hundreds of years old.

According to 2012 data, there are 21,000 people on American’s “no fly list.”  This is the same list that in 2004 had Senator Ted Kennedy flagged at airports.  (You can’t be too careful.)

Anyway, we can all feel safer knowing that Alic Aida, her husband and two children, will not be on board a flight for their summer holiday in New York City.  And hopefully others with suspicious names will be culled from the masses.

Meanwhile, if you were unlucky enough to be born with a suspicious name you might consider making a change.  Ooop, this is coming from the desk of yours truly, Doug Wead.


It’s the end of America as we know it

July 2, 2014

Happy Fourth of July. It’s the end of America as we know it.  And by the way, its the end of baseball, motherhood and apple pie as well.  Baseball has morphed from a game of statistics into a reality show with players always in search of a better and less detectable steroid.  And don’t get me going on apple pie.  Which usually isn’t.  We are edging closer to Soylent Green every day.

The changes for motherhood and women and race are major advances in civilization but the rest is a mixed bag.

What is becoming of America  should give us pause.  We are in what I call a “post Constitutional drift” and it worries me that we so easily, without debate, are confidently moving away from our foundations.

There have been two provocations for this. The first was the attack on 9-11.  President George W. Bush seized unprecedented power for the executive branch of government.

The second has been our Great Recession.  The last time we had the Great Depression it sparked the rise of Hitler and Stalin and World War Two.  You cannot have that much wealth taken from that many people without sociopolitical repercussions.  But it also gave the world FDR and Churchill.  As a student of history I wondered what cataclysmic changes our Great Recession would birth.   And lo and behold, the biggest change was us.  President Barack Obama seized on economic events to assert government involvement on a breathtaking scale. Even former socialist countries in Europe were aghast.  Welfare was increased to the masses while corporate welfare was even more lavish.  The result?  The rich got richer and the poor got poorer at an astounding rate.

In Bush we had our moment of nationalism, in Obama, socialism.  Unless we can recapture the ideals of our American Constitution quickly we are destined to experience our own American version of National Socialism.

We wage preemptive wars, torture our captives and monitor our own citizens on a massive scale.  Our government agencies are accountable to no one and openly defy, even lie to Congress.  Consider this, only a few years ago a president could not get a wire tap without a judge.  Now he can kill you.

In 1946 we joined an international tribunal which indicted Nazi war criminals.  One of the four counts was defined as “war of aggression.”  Our prosecutor, Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, made an eloquent case against what is now American policy, the immorality of a so-called “preemptive war.”

Jackson’s opening statement at Nuremberg should be required reading for television pundits.  He pointed to the June 30, 1934 Blood Purge as the turning point in German justice.  Without formal charges or a trial Hitler ordered the execution of Nazi Brown shirts, (terrorists) who were suspected of planning a counter revolution.  “In this hour I was responsible for the fate of the German people,” Hitler later reported to the Reichstag and the nation, “And thereby I became the Supreme judge.”  The decision was applauded in Germany as a move back toward moderation but Jackson asserts that it was this abandonment of Germany’s own constitution that began its descent into lawlessness.

Barack Obama’s decision to kill American citizen, Anwar al-Awaki, is instructive.  Al-Awaki was a one man Islamic propaganda machine.  His online sermons of hatred inspired terrorism.  In Nuremberg, only one top Nazi propagandist was in the docket.  He was Hans Fritzsche, a popular Nazi radio voice.  But as repugnant as his words had been, the American, Soviet, British and French judges acquitted him.  How can you hang a  man for free speech no matter how repugnant?

Months after the al-Awaki death, his sixteen year old son, an American citizen born in Denver, Colorado, with no ties to radical Islam, went to Yemen in search of his father’s body.  He was likewise killed by an American drone.  We call it a mistake.

Throughout our history we have condemned torture.  The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits “cruel and unusual punishments.”  Our motion pictures and culture have shown the barbarism of our enemies.  The Japanese and the Germans tortured, so did the North Koreans and later the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese.  Who can forget Michael Cimino’s gut wrenching scenes from Deer Hunter?

Now, in the new post constitutional America, we too, torture.  For legal purposes we do “a little sidestep” in the tradition of Charles Durning in The Last Little Whore House in Texas.  We torture outside the United States and thus our Justice Department contends we are not violating the Constitution.

It isn’t too late. There are about fifty men and women in this country who run the television industry.  They are far more powerful than members of the Federal Reserve, or elected officials, such as members of congress.  They and their television companies have the power to open up a debate on all of this.  If not, we are in the process of losing the great American experiment without even a chance to say goodbye.  It’s the end of America as we know it.

 


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