Tag Archives: september 11

The Big Benghazi Lie

I have avoided writing this article for some time. Not that it hasn’t been tempting. The oblique assault against the President is blatantly and completely partisan, and betrays either the outright complicit nature of the Press or their fundamental ignorance. Not that I’m an apologist for Obama. Though I was happy that he was re-elected, I also feel he is significantly beholden to corporate and money interests. The bottom line here is, I just can’t stand by any longer while the Right parades absolute untruths while the media wallows in blissful banality

Anyone who has been to a US diplomatic facility in an active conflict zones knows they are hardly consulates, let alone embassies. They are not there to spread the message of democracy and freedom. They are not sanctuaries. To the contrary. And how would I know this? I have been there. Well, not to Libya, but in Sarajevo during the siege in 1994.

This story is something of a third rail for the Progressive side; that tiny minority who at least attempts the truth.  but even the professed liberal side of the so-called liberal press has deftly side-stepped the Benghazi attack against a US “consulate.” Not surprising, and admittedly, not a lot of people have been to a consulate in a war zone. and now, two months after the incident, the whole affair is a dark and tangled affair.

First the facts. It was a terrorist attack. 4 Americans were killed. It did happen amid a sudden surge of unrest following the release on YouTube of an anti-Muslim film that saw simultaneous unrest in Egypt, and violence in Pakistan that left a number of Pakistanis dead. Libya was and is still in turmoil, and deeply divided following the civil war. The nation was still dangerous.

In October 1994 I found myself trapped in Sarajevo, with the fighting in the city growing and winter approaching. In the Holiday Inn along Sarajevo’s infamous sniper alley the United States maintained a “consulate.” It seemed logical an American out of reasonable options would look for help at a US Consulate, right?

The Sarajevo consulate was a spy ring, tasked either with collecting or getting intelligence, either on one or more of the warring parties or for the dozen or so other foreign intelligence services active in Bosnia, including the Russians and Iranians. Running a gauntlet of sniper fire to the consulate was a constant. in the hall outside the consulate suite sat a laconic Bosnian kid with an AK-47. He was tasked with keep interlopers out. Truth of it was, he  was just happy to be off the bloody frontlines, and could be cowed with the wave of a US passport and a bit of bravado bordering on arrogance. Once in passing, when he attempted to stop me I literally threw up a hand and said, “Have a seat, son,” with this stern sort of militaristic tone. the heavily armed types inside could hardly scatter from sight, startled by my sudden appearance.

When I pressed the issue of not being able to escape the city, at that point arrested by two different armies attempting to escape, the “officials” did not act as diplomats, but reverted to this sort of black market mentality. Now, I am not accusing who would then become the first American ambassador to Bosnia of corruption, but I will say this. The going rate to the actual Bosnian blackmarket at the time was $5000USD. This future ambassador coincidentally offered his help, and that I would need to pay him…wait for it…$5 grand USD “to rent” a seat on one of the airlift flights.

In 1992 an arms embargo, said to stop the flow of arms into the break up Yugoslavia, was championed by the United States and  later defended by the US. The stated intention was to stop the violence. The reality, and this was no secret to any government, and certainly not a secret on the ground in the war zone, but was a secret nearly everywhere else, was that it was a windfall for international arms dealers. The cost of weaponry skyrocketed to more than 20 times original value. those deals, worth billions in hard  and untraceable cash were rarely if ever handled by arms companies, but by agents of their national governments. and during the wars of the 1990s, everyone wanted to get in on that action.

The point of that story? The consulate in Benghazi, I am certain, was not tasked with diplomacy as its primary mission. And if that is the case, as all reports seem to indicate, whether from holding al qaeda suspects, or that all of these men had significant intelligence and military backgrounds, as well as none of the survivors have been heard from or identified, this was an intelligence outpost in a very unstable place.

Few will ever see that world, but it exists. the mythology is that they are the good guys behind the scenes keeping us all safe. The reality is that a world of international espionage absolutely exists, but they feed the unrest and tragedy of the world, rather than stem or assuage it. They are the problem not the solution. Theirs is a game of arrogant perspective parading as broad visionary strategy. They play that game among one another, but trample upon the rest of us in the process. They are an industry. They work for industry, but in the most cynical and insidious ways. The President and State Department will never cop to any of this. They can’t. No one is going to give up their own spies. They won’t, but that’s the reality, no matter what FOX News and the Right want to pretend

September 11 Recollections #3

It was the following March, a little more than 6 months after the attacks. I was a crisp but clear day I was at the airport, planeside for a trip to Portland, Oregon. Word came over the radio that there was a security issue on the jetbridge that would result in a delay.

Upstairs on the jetbridge I found the flight crew trying to calm a near hysterical woman. She was demanding that something be done about a suspicious character she’d spied at the gate who was now seated at the back of the plane. Corporate security and the police arrived a moment later. The woman was adamant.

“He was chanting something,” she said, ‘rocking back and forth, and then he folded up something and stuffed it into his pocket. I couldn’t tell what he was chanting exactly, but it sound like a Muslim prayer.”

The decision was made to hold the plane, while the crew went back and asked the suspicious chanting character to step out of the plane.

About a minute later a small balding man, who reminded me of the George character from Seinfeld, appeared in the door, taken aback by all the commotion. As he passed the woman she glared at him with all the disdain and accusation she could muster, sneering that “yep, he’s the one.”

Quickly surrounded by security, the police and crew the sheepish and thoroughly embarrassed little man scratched his bald head and stammered out a quick explanation.

“I wasn’t chanting,” he said, opening some rolled up pages. “I’m a music teacher at the university of Portland. I was going over a lesson plan; Mozart.” 

“We have a report that you folded up something and stuffed it into your pocket?” asked the security person. “What was that?”

His face flushing bright red, he drew a small cap from his pocket and unfolded it, running a hand across his forehead. “I, I have a window seat and I sunburn easily.”

As he returned to his seat the poor fellow offered heartfelt apologies to every person on that plane. The woman, undaunted, sneered and told the crew before returning to her seat, “Well he ought to know what he was doing looked suspicious. next time maybe he’ll think about it. Just can’t be too careful.”

The crew, cops, security and I all exchanged obvious looks that bespoke the character of the nation post-September 11. Between a hand full of hysterics and a number of opportunists, the rest of us were robbed of a rational non-dysfunctional response to the attacks and the course the nation might have taken afterwards. Worse, the opportunists used the hysterics like puppets to foment chaos and confusion while they ransacked the country. Dissent was met with derision,accusations of being anti-American or worse. When dissent drew support a new terror threat seemed conveniently to arise. The dead from that terrible September day were all but dragged from their graves and used to confuse us all the more, just as the wounded and dead troops were used.

To be sure there were threats, but in being that hysterical person on the plane while not securing the country from lunacy and opportunists, did we cause greater damage to our national soul than the September attacks could ever have hoped to accomplish on their own?  The answer and true damge to the nation still remain to be seen and sorted out.

September 11 Recollections #2

History is about people. It is the avalanche of moments and experiences and decisions. History does not charge or race in times of crisis. History is everything. It is the world moving unstoppable to the future a moment, an hour, a day, and epoch at a time. Only perception and emotion defines the importance of that unending march. It is the emotion and the impact events have upon individual souls that brings humanity to the cold analysis of our shared past. It was those moments and individual faces that defined the true impact of September 11, at least for me. One particular face stands out from all others.

I went upstairs into the terminal, into the chaos and stunned silence after the announcement that flights nationwide had come to a complete stop.. There was a crowd around the customer service desk at the gate. Folks were struggling to get their minds around the incredible concept that nothing was moving anywhere in the United States. One young woman pressed through to the counter. She had long straight hair, her crisp blue eyes were distraught, bordering on panicked.

“Nothing is moving anywhere?” she asked.

“I’m sorry,” I replied, sympathetic.

“For how long?”

“Indefinitely, they’re telling us.”

“I have to get to Hartford(Connecticut) by tomorrow for my father’s funeral.”

“The best advice I can give you is to get down stairs as fast as you can and rent a car before they’re all…”

She cut me off, her eyes threatening tears. “All I have is this ticket and ten Dollars. I don’t have a credit card.”

She looked at me for the longest time before turning and disappearing into the crowd.

Steadily the terminal emptied. I was wandering, soaking up conversations and moments. A middle-aged business woman rushed up to me and, with a look of utter terror in her eyes said that she’d heard another hijacked plane was headed for the terminal.

“Haven’t heard that,” I told her, though at that moment most anything seemed possible.

“Then why is everyone leaving the airport?” her voice rose almost to hysteria.

“Because there is no reason to be here any more,” I replied, feeling fully the implication inherent in the words.

By noon the terminal at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, then the busiest airport in the world, was a ghost town. The silence was unnerving. The lights had been turned off and all the vendors had gone home, the  shadows and darkness adding a gloom to this wholly unnatural scene.  I was walking through the terminal with a buddy when a Mexican woman appeared with a small child. She spoke no English, but with my simple understanding of Spanish, she revealed she had no money and no means of feeding her child. Her return flight to Mexico was obviously cancelled. In a scene no doubt repeated thousands of times throughout the nation and world, she was trapped. 

She sort of followed us through the terminal for a while until we found a manager who held some vouchers for  a local hotel, offering to take the woman there, as she obviously could not afford a taxi, if she could have found one. We gave her what money we had, hoping that the flights would begin before the vouchers and that meager bit of cash ran out.

I left work early that day. There was no reason to remain. The airline had hired a lot of good people that summer. A number fit in quickly, proving themselves as reliable and hardworking. It had been a dream job. Despite the dangers, the pay was excellent, with great benefits, the travel benefit notwithstanding. One of the new guys I found in the employee parking lot. He was looking back across the empty runway at the silent terminal with a hopeless and far away look.

“Everything okay?” I asked.

He sighed and shook his head, forcing an ironic grin. “Lost my job today. Now I’m just waiting until they make it official.”

By October he was gone, with hundreds of others. It is these faces that define September 11th to me.

September 11 Recollections #1

I had a unique perspective that September Day back in 2001. Working for a Major Airline, the first reports were sketchy and confused. I recall walking out to a flight, on a television screen the sight of the first tower silhouetted in an opel New York sky. Smoke  drifted oblique from a ragged scar in the pale tower.

Funny, in the airline business every aircraft incident resonates deeply. The first reports were of a small or commuter plane crashing into the tower.  I shrugged and could well imagine such an accident would occupy not only the news, but conversations with coworkers, speculations from mechanics and air controllers, and the occasional morsel of inside information from a friendly FAA official. When the second aircraft struck no one could deny what was unfolding.. Right after a choice expletive I turned to a couple shocked coworkers and said, “We are at war.”

A friend named Mark was married to a flight attendant and had been assigned to one of the flights out of Boston’s Logan airport where the doomed flight originated. I knew her. She was pretty and sweet, and in an environment that can best be described as a cross between a high school locker and prison, Mark was a genuinely decent guy, well-educated enough to do most anything else, but loving the flight benefits and the hard physically exhausting work  of a frontline airline worker. More than that, he loved the people he worked beside, as crews bonded in dangerous conditions, tested in all weather extremes as closely as men in battle. Having been in battle, I can attest fully to that.

Then word came of the crash  at the Pentagon. Meanwhile Mark paced madly, awaiting calls amid a desperately overwhelmed system about whether his wife was on one of the flights. No one knew what to say to him. How does one console someone for not knowing? Time becomes a madman with a knife. Fate is the madman’s laugh, mocking and cruel all at once.

It wasn’t long after that, a matter of minutes when the FAA announced an unprecidented full ground stop nationwide. Someone came down and said that all the planes parked at gates needed to be checked and the gates needed to be cleared. An argument erupted. The toughest big mouths in the room were the first to remind that they weren’t being paid for that sort of danger. A number of us, in small groups or alone went out the door to that uncertainty. I grabbed a big wrench and recall thinking, ” What the f%$k will this do against people willing to crash planes into buildings?”

I recall  when I returned to the room, sweating buckets, numb, Mark was sitting in a chair with his face buried in his hands. My heart sank and I sighed think the worst. For a moment I could imagine his  wife and how terrified she must have been as the plane slammed into the tower. An Irish kid named Sean, an IRA courier years before as a boy, came over. Our eyes met for a long moment, sharing the tragedy of the moment. Quiet and not prone to his emotions getting the best of him, Sean shook his head slowly.

“Messed up.”

I nodded to Mark. “He hear?”

“His wife wasn’t on the flight,” said Sean. “She was supposed to be.”

I only shook my head and threw the wrench on a cabinet.

Fights  are about the moment. Whoever perpetrated the attacks had won the fight. What was to come was about retribution and revenge. Some may disagree and call it justice, but then that is fully a matter for hearts and minds to reconcile. 

“Messed up

Darn the luck: FOX News’ sad campaign to discredit Obama’s Terror record

No one serious would give Rudi dekker the time of day.  Indeed, after the September 11, 2001 attacks he should have been in jail, or at the very least forever banned from his chosen profession. Instead, hard to believe, FOX loves the guy. Surprise, Rudi is selling a book, and FOX is only to happy to spin this schlock into an indictment of Obama’s fight against terrorism in the days leading up to the 10th anniversary of that terrible day.

Who is Rudi Dekker? Truly he should have been forgotten by history. I think in the “olden” days they called it “shunned.” But Mister Dekker owned the flight school where Mohammad Atta trained to leaned how to crash a plane into the World Trade center that sunny September day. Mister Dekker, now considered by FOX to be a terrorism expert-the same way the guy who teaches a car full of armed men in ski masks how to drive a car can then call himself an expert in preventing bank robberies-is making the rounds on Right-wing radio and FOX.

He isn’t alone. Dick Cheney, part of the Administration that missed such veiled and ambiguous warnings the summer of 2001 as “Bin Laden determined to strike within the US,” is also making the rounds, curiously as the current crop of Republican Presidential wanna-bes are desperate to undermine any success by the current administration.

And there are many successes. The killing of bin Laden himself, something Bush and Cheney couldn’t accomplish, was only topping on a greater anti-terrorism cake. Obama’s strategy hasn’t been merely to make war. rather, by improving views of the United States around the world and in the Middle East, by being tougher on Israel, he was ratcheted down the international war tempo and emotion so prevalent during the Bush and Cheney years. He has actively pursued and killed far more terrorist leaders than Bush and Cheney did in 8 years, without the chest thumping and in-your-face cowboy rhetoric. Quietly he has worked to stabilize Somalia, and when was the last time you heard of Somali pirates?  Had Bush and Cheney undertaken Libya there would have been an emphasis on “America boys beatin’ back terrorism,” instead of America taking a subtler role that lead in 6 months to the toppling of Gaddafi’s regime(Recall Pan Am 103?). That softer approach robbed terrorist antagonists from fresh anti-American propaganda and recruiting material. Iran and Hamas were all but silent.

But back to Dekker and Cheney, and their diatribes, which amount to little more than a hoodlums effort to divert attention from their own failures and, dare I opine, crimes?

Reminds me of a story about Sirhan Sirhan, the man who assassinated Robert F. Kennedy. At Sirhan’s parole hearing he said that if Robert F’ Kennedy were still alive he would want him to go free. Wow! the one guy who would speak on his behalf, and Sirhan killed him. The one guy who could speak to Dekker’s ability to spot terrorists, and that guy flew into the World Trade tower. Mister Cheney, any idea what those who died on 9-11 would view your record on terrorism? No doubt they give it a big thumbs up, or maybe they’d opt for an alternate finger.   

To Obama’s

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