Thursday, May 26, 2011

May of 2011 Personal, Political Notes: Pennsylvania Primary; Corbett Protestors

     As I have posted, I was preoccupied lately with the Primary Election, in which I was a candidate for one of five seats on the Reading School Board of Directors. I won on the Republican ballot, finishing in first place, but lost on the Democratic ballot, where I was seventh out of nine, a little over 200 votes out of fifth place. Overall, I had the fourth-highest total with over 2,000 votes.

     Although I was disappointed not to win the Democratic nomination, I was pleased with the high number of votes on both ballots. The results were better than the 2009 Primary Election. I appreciate the strong bi-partisan support, the votes and the congratulations I have received since the election. 

     On another local political note, I saw the protest against Gov. Tom Corbett, who was the commencement speaker at Albright College, a few blocks from my home in Reading. They were protesting spending cuts to education in order to balance the $4.5 billion state budget, Corbett’s proposed school vouchers, and drilling for natural gas by fracturing the rocks with a water-based solution. I gave the thumbs-down to the few-dozen protestors and booed them politely as I passed by. 

     Protestors have the freedom to assemble, but not the right to assemble. Thus, they have no legal claim that imposes an obligation upon others, such as to be allowed to protest whenever or wherever they like. In other words, there is no right to be heard. Protesting at a commencement is rude behavior toward the students and their families and friends and need not be tolerated. Those who protest at the funerals of U.S. servicemen killed in the War on Terrorism are engaged in even more hurtful behavior that must not be tolerated. Such protestors should be kept out of earshot of their intended victims.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Santorum-McCain Enhanced Interrogation Controversy

     Former United States Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania has been criticized for saying that Senator John McCain of Arizona does not understand enhanced interrogation. The liberal media and other commentators have pointed out that Sen. McCain was tortured as a prisoner of war during the Vietnamese War and have called Santorum “stupid,” as if he did not know what he was talking about. As usual, the liberal media and other commentators have exposed their own ignorance by making such statements.

     Sen. McCain and the other heroic American Prisoners of War (POWs) were tortured by the Communist Vietnamese not primarily for interrogation, but in order to force them to make anti-U.S. statements for propaganda purposes. Moreover, the Americans were subjected to starvation, the infliction of severe pain, the denial of medical care and other human rights abuses, even though they are covered under the Geneva Convention, which bans torture and limits interrogation only to name, rank and serial number.

     In fact, the U.S. has yet to fight any enemy that has followed the Geneva Convention, even though every state with which it has engaged in war has been a signatory of it since its creation. POWs often have been tortured usually as a form of extrajudicial punishment or for propaganda. When they have been tortured for intelligence-gathering, it is only because the enemy wishes to gain a military advantage, not because it needs to save the lives of innocent civilians, as the U.S. does not target innocent civilians.

     By contrast, the terrorists were subjected to enhanced interrogation in order to save the lives of innocent civilians. The terrorists were not subjected to starvation, the infliction of severe pain, the denial of medical care and other human rights abuses. The terrorists are even allowed to practice their religion, unlike the American POWs. Regardless, even if we were to grant that enhanced interrogation is torture, the terrorists are war criminals because they target innocent civilians and are thus not covered by the Geneva Convention which protects only regular soldiers. Indeed, terrorists may be summarily executed under international law, meaning they can be shot immediately upon capture without trial. Thus, there is no moral or legal equivalence between terrorist detainees and American POWs. The suggestion that there is such equivalence is morally repugnant.

     Sen. McCain’s commitment to opposing torture is admirable, but Santorum’s comments suggest that perhaps his former colleague’s personal emotional reaction against any harsh treatment of detainees clouds his judgment on the nuances of enhanced interrogation of terrorist detainees. Reasonable people can differ reasonably, but the point is that Santorum comments were reasonable, even if not well put. Liberal critics of the enhanced interrogation practices of the Administration of President George W. Bush have long been citing McCain’s opposition to those practices uncritically. The current controversy over Santorum’s remarks has yet to spark the least bit of critical thinking on their part.

     Heretofore, I have posted that it was the Bush Administration’s policy of interrogating terrorists led to the intelligence that resulted in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. My point was that interrogating them at all, whether harshly or not, was the key change in policy that produced the first intelligence lead that was built upon over the years that led to the raid. Interrogating terrorist detainees was in contrast to the policy of treating them like common criminals (e.g. reading them their right to remain silent), which was the policy of Bush’s predecessor, Bill Clinton and is the current policy of his successor, Barak Obama. Critics of enhanced interrogation admit that Bush’s interrogations policy led to the critical intelligence, but insist that the particular practice of enhanced interrogation did not produce the specific leads. Santorum and others have asserted that the practice did, in fact, break Khalid Sheik Muhammad, the mastermind of the September 11 Attacks, who later became cooperative after having been waterboarded.

     I had avoided the debate about whether enhanced interrogation should be credited for the raid, even as the evidence has mounted that it should, as it was not a necessary point to make in order to give proper credit to Bush’s policies. Also, I wanted to avoid any suggestion that ends justify means, although ends certainly do mitigate any moral fault. Regardless, the Santorum controversy provided me the opportunity to respond to the liberal and libertarian critics of harsh interrogation who have been making false moral equivalence arguments between the torture of American POWs and the harsh interrogations of terrorist detainees.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Follow-Up on the Bin Laden Raid

     In addition to those I mentioned in an earlier post who should see the photograph of the dead Osama bin Laden, it should be shown to the terrorist detainees in order to demoralize them and encourage them to give up more valuable information in order to prevent further terrorist attacks.

     In my initial post on the raid, I had referred to bin Laden’s significance as the founder and spiritual leader of al-Qaeda. Apparently, he was more than a spiritual leader, having retained a higher degree of operational control than believed. Nevertheless, it is critically important to capture or kill Ayman al-Zawahiri, the second in command of al-Qaeda. Zawahari, who had a hand in the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat, had founded a terrorist organization before bin Laden founded al-Qaeda. He merged his Egyptian Islamic Jihad with bin Laden’s organization. It is also necessary to capture or kill the leaders of the various organizations around the world that have pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda.

     As I noted bin Laden’s death is a significant symbolic victory in the War on Terrorism and against Islamism in general. Al-Qaeda’s successful terrorist attacks and bin Laden’s ability to elude the United States suggested Allah’s favor, as if bin Laden were being anointed as the next Caliph. He had already issued religious edicts and was referred to as a “sheik” by his followers. Not only will bin Laden never be the next Caliph (i.e. the Muslim political and military leader and spiritual successor to Muhammad), but his death strongly suggests that Allah is not favoring al-Qaeda. It was important to capture or kill bin Laden, as it was Saddam Hussein, as well as to defeat Islamists militarily.

     Indeed, the bin Laden raid reaffirms the superiority of U.S. technology, something the September 11 Attacks had made doubtful. The superiority of Western technology made Islamists feel inferior, as if Allah were no longer favoring their religion, as they believed he had originally, when Muhammad swiftly conquered vast territories. Western technology had given the West a military advantage that enabled it to push back the Muslim invaders. One of bin Laden’s goals in the September 11 Attacks was to suggest that Western technology was not an advantage, but a vulnerability, which his al-Qaeda terrorist organization accomplished by using Western technology (e.g. airplanes) against some of its most technologically-advanced buildings. Thus, the role of U.S. technology, in addition to the critical role of human intelligence, in carrying out the bin Laden raid is also a significant symbolic victory in the War on Terrorism.

     It is also becoming apparent that the raid was a kill mission, not a capture or kill mission, as it was unlikely that bin Laden would not be regarded as a threat, which is just as well. The mission that resulted in the terrorist leader’s death was conducted in wartime – during a war that he had declared himself. Terrorists are known to believe in suicidal acts of murder, which necessitated his shooting by the Navy Seals in self-defense. Moreover, under international law, terrorists can be shot summarily.

     It also appears that the Obama Administration does not want to admit this true nature of the mission, which partly explains its contradictory reports on the raid, for fear of reaction from the Left or the Islamic world. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder had declared that the U.S. would have to read bin Laden his rights, including the right to remain silent if he were captured. The Obama Administration would prefer to try most terrorists in civilian courts as common criminals instead of in military courts as war criminals. 

     Since I posted on the revelations that interrogations of terrorists during the Administration of President George W. Bush produced the intelligence leads that led to the raid, more information has been reported that provides even further evidence for crediting Bush’s policies. The initial lead came as far back as 2002 and was developed over time as more terrorists were captured. The interrogations by the Central Intelligence Agency on foreign soil (i.e. rendition) of terrorists, including the mastermind of the September 11 Attacks, Khalid Sheik Muhammad, were fruitful in developing the leads.

     One key al-Qaeda operative was captured by the U.S. in Iraq, on his way to support Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Zarqawi was wanted by the U.S. before the Liberation of Iraq for the murder of an American diplomat in Jordan. In other words, contrary to the claims of critics of the Liberation of Iraq that the war distracted the U.S. from its goal of defeating al-Qaeda, the killing of bin Laden was one of the many fruits of the Liberation of Iraq, in addition to the destruction of al-Qaeda in Iraq.
     In addition, the Bush Administration also reportedly had reached an agreement with Pakistan that the U.S. would send its forces into Pakistan without the latter’s knowledge or consent in pursuit of bin Laden or other high value targets in the War on Terrorism.

     Although President Barak Obama has followed most of Bush’s policies, the raid was the result of a policy he continues to oppose, of harshly interrogating terrorists. See 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America, the link for which appears on the left-hand column on my blog, in which Debra Burlingame reports that President Barak Obama refused her request to give up consideration of prosecuting Americans who interrogated terrorists during the War on Terrorism.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Primary Election in Pennsylvania

     Tuesday, May 17 is Primary Election Day in Pennsylvania. On the ballot statewide are seats for both Superior and Commonwealth Court, the Keystone State’s two appellate courts.

     Locally, the offices of County Commissioners, County Row Offices and Magisterial District Judge are on the ballot, as well as Municipal offices and School Boards of Directors.

     I am a candidate for Reading School Director. Here is the link for the voters’ guide from the Reading Eagle:

     With the current economic and fiscal challenges, fiscally responsible candidates must be nominated by their parties for these important offices that affect people most directly. 

     Vote on Tuesday, May 17.

3,000th Visit to My Blog Tracked by StatCounter

     A week ago, StatCounter tracked the 3,000th visit to my blog since April 2, 2009. As always, I count visits as pageviews from individuals at least one hour apart, and do not count my own visits.

     As I have noted previously, Blogger tracks two or three times as many pageviews, especially from outside the United States. Nevertheless, StatCounter’s more specific statistical analysis is especially helpful.  One example is that I can tailor the headlines of my posts to be more likely to appear in internet searches, as StatCounter enables me to see what the visitors are searching.

     You may have noticed that I also am striving to avoid newspaper-style “headline-speak,” to coin a word. 

     I apologize that I have not posted as frequently lately as I would like because of the upcoming election, in which I am a candidate, but please visit again soon, as I intend to post more. Thank you for visiting my blog.  Your patronage is appreciated.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Personal Thoughts on the Killing of Osama Bin Laden

     I am grateful to have this opportunity to share my thoughts on the raid by United States forces that resulted in the death of al-Qaeda terrorist founder and leader Osama bin Laden, as an American and as a relative of one of one of the victims of al-Qaeda’s September 11 Attacks. 

     Upon hearing the news of the raid shortly after midnight, I was jubilant. My jubilation was not out of a sense of vengeance over the death of a human being or any desire that bin Laden be condemned to Hell, but for three reasons: 1) joyfulness that justice was served and that bin Laden knew that he was caught, 2) relief that he is no longer a threat and 3) pride in the U.S. military and intelligence services. 

     Although I had prayed for bin Laden’s conversion, which is the minimal extent of love for one’s enemy I could possibly have for someone who murdered a family member of mine and as an American, it cannot be ruled out that he responded to Jesus Christ’s call at the moment of death as bin Laden realized that Allah did not favor is evil enterprise. I pray especially for the victims of al-Qaeda. 

     As I watched the news reports on the raid, I was also proud of the crowds of Americans who took to the streets and the students who went to the grounds of their campuses in celebration of this great victory in the War on Terrorism. I was especially proud of the Phillies fans who chanted “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” when the news of the raid broke during the baseball game at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the Texans who came to the Dallas home of former President George W. Bush to thank him for the policies he put in place as he led America into the War on Terrorism that made the bin Laden raid possible, which was even before reports confirmed that it was intelligence leads that were first gained during the Bush Administration that led to the raid. 

     I, too, was out in the street after midnight, waiving an American flag, shortly after I had posted about the raid on my blog. Because of the hour and the fact that I did not observe anyone else outside, however, I refrained from making the celebratory noises as I had always intended upon hearing the long-sought news in the moment that came the closest to V.E. Day in my lifetime. 

     I believe that the photograph of the dead Osama bin Laden must at least be made available to Congress, which has the power to subpoena it as part of its oversight function. It ought to be made available also to the victims of al-Qaeda. By the victims, I mean not only the family of those who were killed in al-Qaeda’s various attacks on Americans, but also those who were wounded. Of course, every American was wounded emotionally by the September 11 Terrorist Attacks in particular, as intended by bin Laden. Therefore, all Americans ought to be allowed to see the photograph. Seeing the photograph will provide some sense of closure to Americans and other victims of bin Laden, but also have a deterrent effect. Throughout the War on Terrorism, I have supported the republishing of the horrible images of the September 11 Attacks, lest we forget the threat our enemies pose. Showing the image of bin Laden with a bullet wound to his head would prevent the Islamist militants from forgetting the reach of the American intelligence and armed services. Thus, showing the photograph would not be done merely as an act of triumphalism that might unnecessarily anger Muslims, but as a necessary act. We must not be intimidated by terrorists into acting according to their wishes instead of doing what is in our interests. 

     I am not disturbed by the fact that bin Laden was given a funeral according to Muslim tradition. It is good Christian practice to respect the dead, even one who committed such evil acts and who appeared to be unrepentant. I do not see the funeral as politically correct oversensitivity to Muslim reaction, unlike the refusal to show the photograph of bin Laden with the gunshot wound, or even a photograph of his burial at sea. The funeral was necessary, as is publishing the photograph.

     In my next post on this subject, I shall provide more political commentary on the bin Laden raid, but wanted to limit the focus of this post to my personal thoughts.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Prime Minister Stephen Harper Wins a Majority as He Steers Canada to the Right

     Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been reelected as he has won his Conservative Party a majority in Parliament for the first time since he came to power in a coalition in 2006. 

     Harper was rewarded for his fiscally conservative policies, including lowering taxes, that have helped Canada avoid recession despite the steep global economic downturn.  His policies reflect the global trend toward austerity and his election also represents the global rightward shift I have been posting about, as voters recognize the need for less government spending.  Harper was also able to convince his countrymen that the Canadian economy needed the stability of a majority government versus the instability of another coalition government, either between his Tories and others or between the opposition Liberals and the leftist New Democratic Party (NDP).

     The NDP will be the primary opposition party for the first time, which will also be the first time the Liberals will not be either in government or the main opposition.  The separtist Bloc Quebecois suffered a devestating loss of seats.

     Harper has increased Canada's military, which had been reduced to a meager force under Liberal government, and has maintained a Canadian force in Afghanistan in the War on Terrorism.  Canadians had been rejoicing within the last 24 hours over the killing by United States forces of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, who was responsible for the September 11 Terrorist Attacks in which 24 Canadians were among the nearly 3,000 people who were massacred. 

     Americans are grateful to have the Canadians as allies.  I congratulate Prime Minister Harper and the Canadian people and wish our neighbors to the North all the best.

President George W. Bush's Interrogations Policies Led to the Killing of Bin Laden

     Although United States President Barak Obama deserves credit for authorizing the mission that resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces, the credit for the intelligence lead that led to the raid belongs to former President George W. Bush.  The lead was developed several years ago as a result of Bush's policy of interrogating terrorist detainees.  Bush's policy reflected his strategy of recognizing that Islamists were at war with the U.S.

     Obama thus benefitted from the Bush lead, even though he weakened U.S. interrogation practices.  Like President Bill Clinton, Obama has often treated terrorism like a criminal matter, not a war crime, as Bush did.  Terrorists captured in the U.S. have been read their rights under the Obama Administration, including the right to remain silent, and criminally charged before proper interrogations could be conducted, while terrorists caught on the battlefield are subject to the same interrogation policy as in the U.S. Army Field Manual.  The manual is published, which allows the terrorists to practice interrogation resistance techinques. 

     Liberals and some libertarians had harshly criticized Bush for not criminally charging the terrorists or treating them as prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention, which would have protected the terrorists from interrogations, even though they are war criminals, not regular soldiers, who were the only ones intended to be covered under the Convention.  The weakening of U.S. interrogations was the main policy difference between Obama and Bush on the War on Terrorism, as Obama has followed nearly every other Bush policy in the War, despite his previous criticisms of his predessor.

     It is doubtful, therefore, that the human intelligence, which had been drastically cut under the Clinton Administration, that resulted in bin Laden's death would have been acquired under Clinton or Obama interrogation policies, or those advocated by their liberal supporters in Congress and in the general public.  The killing of bin Laden by the American military as a result of the work of U.S. intelligence services represents the fruition of Bush's policies. 

     As I noted in my last post, the War on Terrorism is not yet won, but a major victory has been achieved by the U.S.  Nevertheless, the greatness of President Bush on the War on Terrorism now is becoming increasingly apparent.  I have repeatedly praised President Obama on this blog for continuing Bush's other policies in the War, but I now call upon him to return to Bush's interrogation policies which have proven to be successful.

     I congratulate President Obama, President Bush, the U.S. military and intelligence services for the successful raid on bin Laden's compound.  As a member of a family of one of the victims of the September 11 Terrorist Attacks, I especially thank you for bringing justice to bin Laden.  May we always remember the victims of all of the al-Qaeda attacks.  May God Bless America.

     Please visit the website listed on my blog, 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America.


     Al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden has been killed by United States forces.  Bin Laden had issued a fatwah in 1996 calling upon all Muslims to kill Americans.  In 1998, his terrorist organization, al Qaeda, bombed the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.  Al-Qaeda bombed the U.S.S. Cole in 2000.  Al-Qaeda's September 11,  2001 Attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon were the bloodiest in history.  Al-Qaeda has been responsible for numerous other terrorist and guerilla attacks around the world. 

     Although these jihadist Islamist terrorists are likely to continue their ways, which will require our continued vigilance, bin Laden's death deprives them of their spiritual leader.  The killing of bin Laden by the U.S. also proves that Allah did not favor bin Laden to be the next Caliph. 

     May God Bless America.