Friday, July 20, 2012

Brand New Mourning - Thoughts about Aurora

Brand New Mourning

by the Rev. Dr. Kwasi Kena, GBOD

We never know what each new day will bring.
We hope for joy and peace
Or at least the comfort
Of predictable routine.

We're never prepared
For the intrusion of
Acted out through
Harm and mayhem.

When death rips life
From our grasp,
When horror blurs
Our sight,

Have mercy on us, Lord.

Hold our aching souls
Guide us through
Dizzying grief,
Listen to our wailing "Why?"

Be the Comfort we may not even know we need
As we live through this brand new mourning. Amen.

Movie theater shooting

The shooting at the movie theater is a horrible and terrible event. Rightly causing outrage in any decent human being. So I don't begrudge that sentiment nor the call to action to avoid it in the future.

I suspect there will be the usual call for more gun control. The investigation will reveal, I'm sure, whether the suspect was legally allowed to own firearms. If he wasn't, then the problem isn't the laws.

If he was legally allowed to have them, then I wonder what "lunatic detector" anyone has in mind that could have been applied and was not. We must be wary of trampling rights in response to tragedies.

-Card-Carrying American

Thursday, July 19, 2012

What to do about Syria...

The situation in Syria is quite unpredictable and dangerous. There are lots of possible outcomes, and several of them are not advantageous to the United States. Unfortunately, the U.S. is not in a good position to influence which of the outcomes result. This is even true if we are covertly aiding the opposition. Doing so may increase the chances that the regime falls, but there is no guarantee that what replaces it will be less hostile to U.S. interests. I am against open military intervention against the regime. Short of a ground invasion, even if we succeed in toppling the Syrian government, we'll have little control over what happens next. In fact, recent history shows that even a ground invasion does not guarantee a desirable outcome after the fall. Our best play, at this point, is to do very little. We have little chance of success, but efforts at building international support are worth taking anyway. -Card-Carrying American

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Let's roll!

Today I want to remember the heros on United Flight 93.

The hijackers that morning had defeated every layer of official defense by 8am. The hijacker's comrades had already successfully completed their devastating attacks. Less than 30 minutes after their own flight was hijacked, Flight 93's passengers made the decision that they were not going to be idle, or passive.

At the cost of their lives, this group of unprepared, unarmed, untrained, quite ordinary and yet extraordinary Americans won their victory, saved the lives of countless innocents on the ground, and preserved one of our nation's important symbols. Armed terrorists who trained for this operation for years were defeated in only a few minutes by the first Americans in a position to resist; and armed only with the strength of their character.

I'd be ecstatic if I could muster even a tiny percentage of the moral and physical courage displayed on that flight. God bless them and their families. "Let's roll!"

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Time to revive the American's Creed?

In this time of divisive politics, where the "us vs. them" attitude of our politicians seems to get in the way of progress, where defeating "their" proposal and "winning" is more important than the issues themselves, and approaching the anniversary of 9/11 where we should be unified, it might do some good to revisit this old set of words.

The American's Creed was written by Tyler Page of Maryland during World War I as part of nationwide contest to best summarize basic American beliefs. Page won the prize, and used his $1,000 prize money to buy Liberty Bonds and give them to his church.

Surely this Creed is so basic, so true to American beliefs, that Americans on both sides of the aisle, both sides of the debate, can agree on this. I'd love to see Congress get together and recite it together on the steps of the capital.

Here it is:

I believe in the United States of America, as a government of the people, by the people, for the people; whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed; a democracy in a republic; a sovereign Nation of many sovereign States; a perfect union, one and inseparable; established upon those principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes.

I therefore believe it is my duty to my country to love it, to support its Constitution, to obey its laws, to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies.

-Card-Carrying American

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Writing your elected officials about Afghanistan

Our President, Senators, and Representatives in DC need to know that we don't want them to throw away the hard fought progress our troops have fought and died for over the last year! We're finally, belatedly, close to victory. Don't let politics throw it away.

I use but there are other sites that do the same thing. Find one you like. Free account creation. Then in just a few clicks you can send a single note to all of your elected officials, state or federal. They'll also send you emails whenever your representatives vote, if you want. That can be quite educational. It's easy.

Here's the letter I just sent:

I'm writing to urge you to allow the Generals in Afghanistan to determine the pace of troop withdrawals.

It is critical as we decide how many troops to withdraw from Afghanistan this summer, that we do not jeopardize the hard won gains achieved in the last year from the surge.

Nothing could be worse than throwing away the progress our troops have died for. We must not leave Afghanistan until the job is done; that job being to ensure the Taliban can never return to power and host terrorist groups. We are finally, belatedly, reaching that goal. We need to FINISH THE JOB, not ruin it at the end.

The Generals are in the best position to determine the pace that still allows us to achieve our goals.

-Card-Carrying American

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What does Osama bin Laden's death mean?

Osama bin Laden decided, apparently years ago, to stop running, and elected to "hide in place." It is unclear what led to this decision. One possibility is that he was indeed sheltered by Pakistani leadership who had convinced him that they would be able to tip him off to any impending raid. Thus there was no need to run. Another is that he truly believed his hiding spot was so good that he'd never be found. Lastly, and most likely in my personal view, he may have tired of running. That kind of life would be dreadful. He may have decided that he would hide, but no longer run, come what may. At any rate, the decision ultimately cost him his life and gave the US a great victory.

Aside from the "kept promise" and "justice, no matter the time" messages, what does his death mean, in practical terms, in the war against al Qaeda and the war in Afghanistan?

We are fighting in Afghanistan to prevent the return of Taliban rule. Taliban rule of Afghanistan is intolerable because they are likely to host al Qaeda, who would use that base to launch attacks against us. This is what happened the last time the Taliban ruled, and there is little reason to believe the Taliban and al Qaeda would behave differently given a second chance. While al Qaeda has been devasted since the loss of their Afghanistan base, with many of the top cadre killed or captured, the critical top of the organization, the very few folks who originally built it into the organization that launched 9/11, remained free. If they built it once, they could again. The question is, has the situation changed with the death of Osama bin Laden?

Some things to consider. Al Qaeda, even at its top level, was never a one man show. Bin Laden's #2 man for years has been Ayman al-Zawahiri. Zawahiri had built his own capable and dangerous terrorist organization prior to merging it with al Qaeda. Speaking of 9/11, Montassar al-Zayyat, a former close associate and biographer of Zawahiri, says, "I am convinced that he [Zawahiri] not bin Laden is the main player in these events." Zawahiri, of course, is still at large. In addition, bin Laden and Zawahiri, knowing of their vulnerability, have certainly planned for succession and the possibility that one or both of them might be removed from the battlfield. That might lead one to conclude that there has NOT been any strategic change to the situation.

On the other hand, bin Laden was the founder and leader. He was the key to al Qaeda's foundation and funding. According to preliminary reports, he was still actively involved in planning and coordination of operations and al Qaeda organizations even to the very end. His personal relationship with Mullah Omar was a primary factor in the Taliban hosting and protection of al Qaeda in Afghanistan. His loss is an undeniable and significant blow to al Qaeda.

Too many questions remain for us to draw any long-term conclusions about the effects his death will have. Some include:

--Will al Qaeda retain the ability fund and recruit at a level needed for significant operations without bin Laden?
--Given freedom to operate, does Zawahiri have the ability to reconstitute al Qaeda to be a major threat?
--Are al Qaeda's succession plans sufficient, and will they be able to carry them out effectively?
--Given bin Laden's apparent continued role in planning and coordinating al Qaeda operations, will they be able to continue without him?

For its side, al Qaeda has been quick to claim that they will continue without him. Only time and further intelligence will tell. Much depends on al Qaeda's ability to cope with the loss and adapt to the new reality.

Consequently, until we have evidence that al Qaeda has, in fact, been irreparably damaged, we must continue the current strategy in Afghanistan. I suspect, that by the time the evidence is clear, Afghanistan will be a long way down the road of holding off the Taliban on their own. So my analysis is that this event, while a great victory, does not significantly alter the strategy the US needs to pursue to protect itself from a Taliban/al Qaeda threat.

It DOES present an opportunity for the Taliban to come to the negotiating table. The Taliban have stubbornly resisted calls to publicly sever ties with al Qaeda. It is possible, that this was due to personal loyalty between Mullah Omar and bin Laden. With bin Laden dead, there's a chance that the Taliban could actually, and finally break with al Qaeda. If this happened in a significant and verifiable way, then it would go a long way toward allowing the Taliban to join in Afghan society without continuing armed conflict.

-Card-Carrying American