Monday, December 26, 2005

The Glass - Half Full or Half Empty

The other day a Democrat pundante was desperately trying to make a claim of his party’s leadership in the now commencing withdrawal of American Troops from Iraq. Fred Barnes, of the “Weekly Standard” gave the perfect retort. “The Democrats wanted to leave Iraq because, as they claimed, “America is losing”. Bush is now ordering withdrawals because America is winning.” This Democrat insistence on seeing only the empty portion of the glass has led the Democrats to endanger their country and make a joke of their politics.

A month ago the Democrats were eager for the United States to lose the War in Iraq. Murtha demanded some sort of withdrawal beyond the horizon. A foolish strategy, that has never won a war. It cost the Nationalists, China and the Spanish, the New World. Had it been put forward by anyone but the “hand picked veteran darling of the left”, it would have been laughed out of the conversation. At the first of December, Pelosi and Kennedy were openly saying the war was lost, the glass had been tipped over, and all that was left for America to do was cut and run.

Then came Presidents Bush’s speeches explaining to the American people the strategy and success in Iraq. Americans saw the “good stuff” in the glass and fixation on the empty portion was washed away as support for the war and the President rebounded.

To those that savor the sweetness of America, it was amusing that even as Kennedy’s empty rhetoric once centered on complaints that Bush was wasting time in Iraq and not concentrating hard enough on the War on Terror that; now, taking their cue from their media masters at the NY Times, the Democrats are indignant that President Bush is doing too much on that front. The entire anti-Bush strategy clings to the hope that the American people will fixate on their empty arguments and ignore the full half of the glass of American accomplishment. It only takes one sip of the truth to bring Americans around to the recognition that below the empty bubbles of Democrat propaganda is a sweet draft of success.

Desperate at the revelation of the hollowness of their dissent, the New York Times has taken over the lead of the “offer nothing party”. Together, the anti-war media and the anti-Bush Democrats are trying to poison the victory cup. Four propaganda blasts in the media followed by frothing gusts or bubbles from the Democrat leadership, attempted to dilute Bush’s success. But, in each case these attack stories in the press have flowed into Bush’s cup. Charges of domestic spying have proven false; a NY Times story on intentional spying on domestic communications proved to be unfounded; an article on the vast trove of intelligence garnered on terrorists by the NSA “mining” of international-to-international calls has proved a support to the successes of the Bush plan; and finally indignation that the government, in an attempt to do its job and seek out nuclear weapons, has been testing the air around suspicious sites, turned to support for a President who is willing to act in the nation’s defense. Thus the gaseous garbage from the left has quickly risen to the surface and popped; leaving nothing in the upper half of the glass.

A friend recently put me on to two articles in the Weekly Standard. They and the daily flow of news clarify the good stuff in the glass. My thanks to her for leading me to answers and helping me to see that our glass is indeed half full.

I have been casting about for a lawyer to explain the Constitutional questions related to President Bush’s efforts to combat terror by listening to the phone conversations of terrorists plotting to attack America. Mackubin Thomas Owens, professor of national security at the Naval War College, provides arguments from no less a lawyer than Abraham Lincoln. (“War and Peace, Lincoln and Bush on Vigilance and Responsibility”, the Weekly Standard, 12/21/2005)

The Albany Democratic convention censured Lincoln for what it called unconstitutional acts. Lincoln replies that certain actions that are unconstitutional in the absence of rebellion or invasion become constitutional when those conditions exist. Let me quote Lincoln’s Corning letter as Owens provided it.

“I can no more be persuaded that the Government can constitutionally take no strong measures in time of rebellion, because it can be shown that the same could not lawfully be taken in time of peace, that I can be persuaded that a particular drug is not good medicine for a sick man, because it can be shown not to be good for a well one. Nor am I able to appreciated the danger apprehended by the meeting [of the New York Democrats] that the American people will, by means of military arrest during the Rebellion, lose the right of Public Discussion, the Liberty of Speech and the press, the Law of Evidence Trial by Jury, and Habeas Corpus, throughout the indefinite peaceful future, which I trust lies before them, any more that I am able to believe that a man could contract so strong an appetite or emetics during temporary illness as to persist in feeding upon them during the remainder of his healthful life.”

Owens then argues that, “IN TAKING THE STEPS he believes to be necessary to preserve republican government, it is important to note that the president possesses his own inherent constitutional powers. The presidency is not, as one commentator suggested, merely “a kind of independent agency under the ultimate control of Congress.” The president is the commander-in-chief, which directly bestows upon him powers in times of military crisis that are not derivative of any congressional power.”

Owens not only provides us with a “heavy weight” in the legal arena, he also presents a philosopher of some punch to support the President’s “prerogative”. None less than John Lock argues that “the prerogative is ‘the power [of the executive] to act according to discretion for the public good, without the prescription of the law and sometimes even against it.’ Since the fundamental law that the executive ultimately must implement is to preserve society, it is ‘fit that the laws themselves should in some cases give way to the executive power, or rather to this fundamental law of nature and government, viz. that as much as may be, all members of society are to be preserved.”

If these arguments from legal and philosophical minds are not enough to revel the emptiness of the anti-Bush portion of the glass, consider the following statutory support from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, quoted from an article by Edward Morrissely from the December 21 2005 issue of Weekly Standard:

“However, FISA gives wide latitude to the government when such communication does not involve a “U.S. person.” FISA authorizes warrantless surveillance in its opening chapter: (1) Notwithstanding any other law, the President, through the Attorney General, may authorize electronic surveillance without a court order under this subchapter to acquire foreign intelligence information for periods of up to one year if the Attorney General certifies in writhing under oath that - -

(A) the electronic surveillance is solely directed at - -

(i) the acquisition of the contents of communications transmitted by means of communications used exclusively between or among foreign powers, as defined in section1802 (a)(1), (2), or (3) of this title; or (ii) the acquisition of technical intelligence, other than the spoken communications of individuals, from property or premises under the open and exclusive control of a foreign power, as defined in sections 1801 (a)(1), (2), or (3) of this title;

(B) there is no substantial likelihood that the surveillance will acquire the contents of any communication to which a United States person is a party; and

(C) the proposed minimization procedures with respect to such surveillance meet the definition of minimization procedures under section 1802 (h) of this title; and if the Attorney General reports such minimization procedures and any changes thereto to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence at least thirty days prior to their effective date, unless the Attorney General determines immediate action is required and notifies the committees immediately of such minimization procedures and the reason for their becoming effective immediately.

The core of the issue is this: the NSA and the administration defined international communications as including those where one end – and one end only -- occurs in the United States."

Further support came from no less a statesman than former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Speaking on ABC’s “This Week” Powell said that a major controversy could have been avoided had Bush gone to the FISA court, but he sees “absolutely nothing wrong with the president authorizing these kinds of actions” to protect the nation. Powell did add that “My own judgment is that it didn’t seem to me, anyway , that it would have been hard to go get the warrants. And even in the case of emergency, you go and do it.” But although Powell’s equivocation over method explains why we are in a controversy, it does not lessen his support for the legality and necessity of the President’s actions. He adds, “Of course it should continue, and nobody is suggesting that the president shouldn’t do this.”

Anyone who is claiming that the Administration’s efforts are aimed at anything but terrorism is blowing bubbles. There has not been any evidence that the Administration has done anything but seek for legitimate foreign communications that relate directly to national security. There is probably no stronger support for the need of the President’s order than the FACT that, although the Democrat Leadership condemns the President’s actions, they have not called for him to desist from the surveillance he insists he will continue. I imagine Democrats are justly concerned at how it will look if they add their demand that the President stop doing all he can to protect American to Hairy Reid’s recent jubilance at “killing the Patriot Act”. The question, “Whose side are these guys on?” is coming into the minds of more and more citizens. What is important to citizens contemplating the content of the glass is where the substance is; and Bush’s actions are brimful of substance. In his Weekly Standard column, Morrissey continues:

“AND THE PROGRAM PAYED OFF. Information developed during the NSA effort kept al Qaeda from destroying the Brooklyn Bridge in 2003 when Iyman Faris was captured before he could initiate the attack. He pled guilty to terror-related charges and is now serving a long prison sentence.”

Two important points to note: First, by fixation on the empty glass the Times and its lackeys in the Democrat Party leadership are endangering America’s defense against terrorist attack, and secondly, by harping on the empty part of the glass, the Democrats are in dangerous political territory. Their efforts to destroy Bush in order to garner seats in the 2006 election has left them fighting for a position that consists of exactly nothing. In the glass that contains the heady brew that is American Success and its challenge in the war on terror, Democrats are fixated on the nothing that floats above. The Democrats have offered nothing to replace either the sweet taste of victory or the bitter dregs of disaster. The cup the President holds is not all sweetness and buzz, but the portion the Democrats offer is the nothing at all.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Questions in Question:

Should President George W. Bush II have directed the National Security Agency to eavesdrop in America?

My first purely “emotional” response is NO!

Right now it seems that there were specific rules in place to block domestic “eves Dropping” by the NSA if there was no involvement of an independent judge. I even understand that there is a special court to expedite and keep secret the issuance of such permission. I think I am for changing those rules in the cases as specific as President Bush has described, or perhaps granting some kind of extraordinary power to fight new enemies in the age of new technologies, however it dose not seem to me that the President has the prerogative to sidestep rules specifically in place.

More Questions to consider:

1. The President claims he is within his legal and constitutional power to make this directive. What are the legal and constitutional powers he is claiming?

2. Members of the U.S. Congress, including Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leader on the House Intelligence Committee, knew about and obviously sanctioned the President’s actions. Why did Congress feel the President was within the law then and why have some changed their minds now?

3. The New York Times has had this story for a year and has held in back until this time. What is the newspaper's motive in holding the story, and in releasing it now?

4. What benefits have come to our nation because of the President’s action? What harm has this action done to our enemies, what harm has it done to our Constitution?

5. If there are legitimate constitutional questions, how can our country continue to take advantage of the NSA’s abilities to protect our security and at the same time protect our freedoms?

6. Will the New York Times be forced to tell the name of the leaker?

7. Will this “leaker” be forced to face a Grand Jury and indictment for his or her criminal behavior?

8. What advantage has the leaker and the NY Times given to the enemies of America?

9. How angry should we be with President Bush if he, in good faith, thought he was legally acting in the defense of our nation and the Constitution?

10. If the President has broken a law, what should be the consequence for his crime?

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Meeting the Challenge: George Bush Casts His Shadow on History

My school is trying to “re-discover” its heritage; develop some traditions related to our mascot – the Roman Lancer. My “part” is to present a lecture at each assembly. Rather a let down for most of the students, they escape class for a few minuets to hear a lecture from “old man ____.” The theme of this assembly was overcoming challenges. The most powerful presentation was the Downs syndrome student who stood alone in front of the 1,700 students and sang The Star Spangled Banner. The applause was deafening. Quite an act to follow, I did my best.

Scipio Afracanus: Citius, Altius, Fortuius

Excellence comes from meeting and overcoming challenges; the greater the challenge we overcome; the faster, higher, and stronger we become.

Among the greatest Roman Lancers produced in 1200 years of challenges was Scipio Afracanus.

On the Battle field at Zama where “the two most famous generals and two mightiest armies of the two wealthiest nations in the world advanced to battle, doomed either to crown or to destroy the many triumphs each had won in the past.” (Livy, pg.659) Scipio met his greatest challenge and proved himself faster, higher, and stronger. Defeating Hannibal to save Rome was not Scipio’s first challenge.

At age seventeen Scipio had saved his father’s life. The stricken general had been deserted on the battle field by allies who cut and ran at the approach of Hannibal. Scipio rushed into the chaos to carry his father to safety.

Two years later, when he was too young to officially stand in the ranks, Scipio saw the largest Roman Army ever assembled under one commander destroyed by Hannibal’s genius and the Fortune’s malice. Fifty thousand Roman soldiers were killed in a single day. Many of the patrician leaders, fearing Rome was lost, planned to flee Italy and abandon their city to Hannibal.

When word of their leaders’ desertion reached the desperate survivors they turned to Scipio, a boy of nineteen, and voted him commander by universal consent.

Scipio drew his sword and ran to the house were the mutineers were assembled. He cried “I swear with all the passion of my heart that I will never desert our country, or permit any other citizen of Rome to leave her in a lurch.” (pg. 153) These men of great power and influence, Generals, and Senators, were shamed by Scipio’s courage and determination. Taking him as their leader, they organized the retreat of the survivors. Their arrival at the city preempted surrender and saved Rome from destruction.

In twelve years of war there were few successes for Rome but Scipio’s reputation for leadership grew as he faced every challenge. At last he presented a daring plan to lead a Roman army to Africa and draw Hannibal from Italy. The Senate agreed.

But many Senators were jealous of Scipio. These men were willing to endanger Rome for political gain. They accused Scipio of looting the temple of Persephone in the city of Locri. As Scipio raised his armies, his Roman enemies brought ten Locrain envoys, to “make their appearance . . . dressed in filthy rags . . . they prostrated themselves before the consuls’ tribunal with pitiful cries and floods of tears.” Scipio’s enemies “accused him of having all the qualities which inevitably lead to the ruin of military discipline. . . So strong was party feeling for and against Scipio that there was not time that day for every senator to be given a chance to speak . . . much was said against the commander-in-chief himself – his dress and bearing were un-Roman, and not even soldierly; he strolled about the gymnasium in a Greek mantle and sandals, and wasted his time over books and physical exercise; his staff and friends were enjoying amenities . . . The discipline of the whole army had gone to the dogs . . . so that it was more of a menace to its friends than its enemies.” (pg.592)

The Senate sent officers to Sicily to relieve Scipio of command, but the officers went to Locri first and found that the accusations against Scipio were false. They went to his camp to see, “about Scipio’s dress and idleness and the lax discipline of his troops. The day after their arrival Scipio put both his land and naval forces though their paces . . . and such was their admiration for every detail in the grand total of what they saw that the officers were convinced that, if Scipio and his army could not defeat Carthage, assuredly nobody else could.” (pg 595)

Crossing the sea was difficult, beset by fog and storm. Scipio arrived to find that
his most powerful ally had betrayed him; his only supporter defeated in battle.

Two years of challenges followed. Scipio’s envoys to Carthage were rejected and
humiliated, his ships destroyed, and Hannibal returned to Africa. At last the battle was
joined. On that morning, Hannibal brought forth his powerful army supported with
eighty war elephants. “Factors which seemed trivial to recall . . . proved of great
importance at the time of action. The Roman war-cry was louder and more terrifying
because it was in unison, the Roman attack gained solidity as the men pressed on,” (pgs
661-662) and the discipline of the Roman legions allowed them to work together on the
battle field. Scipio was victorious.

At age 32, Scipio had become great by overcoming a multitude of challenges. He was
able to save his country and founded Roman greatness for hundreds of years.

It is easy to see the challenges of our lives as defeats, to be discouraged by the attacks of
Enemies, and lose faith. When challenges come, remember the example of that Great
Lancer, Scipio Afracanus, Citius, Altius, Fortuius.

***References are from Livy, The War With Hannibal, Penguin Books, 1972.

The parallels between Scipio and Bush II are obvious. It was rather enjoyable
for me to go beyond my usual 200 student reach to the full 1700 of our student body
with a message so important, and which so many of them got. George Bush’s greatness
will have far reaching consequences on the world; George Bush has stood against the
most difficult of challenges, foreign and domestic, and has done so well. His greatness
will be revealed in time. I just wanted to go on record.

Friday, December 02, 2005

In Defense of Saddam Hussein

In his thirty years as dictator of Iraq, Saddam Hussein murdered hundred of thousands of innocent people without justice or mercy. NOW HE IS INNOCENT.

Under Roman Law, under American Law, and, now that freedom and justice rule in Iraq, under Iraqi Law; a man who tortured men and boys to death for the entertainment and “education” of his sons; will be innocent UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY.

There should be no difficulty in attaining this conviction. Like a tourist in Hell, Saddam made films and videotapes of his atrocities. But for now he shelters under the shield of justice. He basks in the rights he so long denied his people and for which so much precious blood has been shed!

The irony is bitter sweet. The man who denied the most basic of human rights to his people, now demands them for himself. While questioning the legitimacy of the government and the court where he seeks mercy, he sits smug and secure, protected by the very law he would destroy. But for Her blindfold, Justice would weep!

I have great respect for the officers of this Iraqi court; for the judges and lawyers, both prosecution and defense, who take up the heavy burden of this trial. I stand in awe of the guards and soldiers who risk their lives, and the lives of their families, that a tyrant might find justice.

I have no respect for Ramsey Clark, a joy riding opportunist, seeking one more whiff of adoration, one more chance to attack the country that gives him, and the world, the freedom to savage it. As far as I can tell the Iraqi defense team, who are risking their lives – two have already been murdered – to see justice done, have not accepted this grandstanding interloper into their ranks. How such a publicity stunt would sully their sacrifice!

Now the world will wait while the “wheels of justice” grind out the atrocities of Saddam; both slow and fine. And we can have faith, that while justice is blind, she also wields a sword.

Personal note: I am against capital punishment under any circumstance. Death, the fate and right of all men, is too good for Saddam. Let him spend his days, and may they be long, in the life he designed for his fellows; in a world without freedom or hope, where mercy deepens the weight of justice.

Note #2: Chapter 2 Article 5 of the Iraqi Constitution reads:

The accused is innocent until proven guilty pursuant to law, and he likewise has the right to engage independent and competent counsel, to remain silent in response to questions addressed to him with no compulsion to testify for any reason, to participate in preparing his defense, and to summon and examine witnesses or to ask the judge to do so. At the time a person is arrested, he must be notified of these rights.”