Bret Stephens remembers Michael Kelly, the American journalist killed ten years ago south of Baghdad Airport, traveling embedded with the US Army’s Third Division. His jeep came under enemy fire, and the driver lost control while trying to evade and went into a canal. Kelly drowned along with his driver, becoming the first American journalist to lose his life during the war.
Wouldn’t you know that it would be a reporter like Kelly who got killed, not one of the usual verminous breed?
Kelly treated a column as a sword, the obvious and most worthy purpose of which was to stab, slice, decapitate and—once he really got going—utterly disembowel the objects of his contempt.
Which objects? The pompous, the dishonest, the phony, the self-satisfied, the morally safe and smug, the debauched, the downright evil. To speak more precisely: Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Frank Sinatra, Mr. Gore again, the news media in general, Ted Kennedy, Yasser Arafat. And, of course, Hollywood, which pretty much exemplified all the above-mentioned qualities.
Kelly didn’t just deride these people and institutions. Before he could skewer them, he had to capture them. Writing about Oscar night, he catches Jack Nicholson “leering and sprawling paunchily in his ringside chair like an especially dissolute pasha waiting for his next lap dance.” From an early profile of Bill Clinton: “When he spoke, perception was not only reality. It was a reality that changed, quicksilver quick, from eye to eye and ear to ear.” Of one of Mr. Gore’s debate performances against George W. Bush: “It was much like the most infuriating of all husbandly marital-argument tactics. You know the one—where you play the part of the patient but pained party in the obvious right, too much a gentleman to say that your wife is spewing pure rubbish, but communicating utter contempt through creative breathing.”
Reading Kelly, I used to wonder: Did his power of observation explain his moral judgments, or was it the other way around? Usually (though few of us columnists will admit it), we make our judgments and then find our evidence. I don’t think this was true of Kelly: He was like a man born with a preternatural sense of smell. He couldn’t help smelling it. And he could smell it from a mile away.
Take his view of Frank Sinatra. Everyone loved Old Blue Eyes and mourned him when he died in 1998. Everyone except Michael Kelly.
Kelly hated Frank because Frank had invented Cool, and Cool had replaced Smart. What was Smart? It was Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca: “He possesses an outward cynicism, but at his core he is a square. . . . He is willing to die for his beliefs, and his beliefs are, although he takes pains to hide it, old-fashioned. He believes in truth, justice, the American way, and love. . . . When there is a war, he goes to it. . . . He may be world weary, but he is not ironic.”
Cool was something else. “Cool said the old values were for suckers. . . . Cool didn’t go to war; Saps went to war, and anyway, cool had no beliefs he was willing to die for. Cool never, ever, got in a fight it might lose; cool had friends who could take care of that sort of thing.”
It never, ever would have occurred to me to make the distinction until I read Kelly’s column. And then I understood Sinatra. And then I understood Kelly, too.
Kelly, who was killed 10 years ago as an embedded journalist just outside of Baghdad, was Smart. When the war came, he, too, went to it. Few columnists in America had argued as passionately, and none as cogently, for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
“To march against the war is not to give peace a chance,” he wrote six weeks before his death. “It is to give tyranny a chance.”
U.S. Marines rest in an amphibious assault vehicle.
Ryan Smith, who served in Iraq as a Marine, explains some of the issues combat soldiers might have about serving directly beside females.
Most people seem to believe that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have merely involved driving out of a forward operating base, patrolling the streets, maybe getting in a quick firefight, and then returning to the forward operating base and its separate shower facilities and chow hall. The reality of modern infantry combat, at least the portion I saw, bore little resemblance to this sanitized view.
I served in the 2003 invasion of Iraq as a Marine infantry squad leader. We rode into war crammed in the back of amphibious assault vehicles. They are designed to hold roughly 15 Marines snugly; due to maintenance issues, by the end of the invasion we had as many as 25 men stuffed into the back. Marines were forced to sit, in full gear, on each other’s laps and in contorted positions for hours on end. That was the least of our problems.
The invasion was a blitzkrieg. The goal was to move as fast to Baghdad as possible. The column would not stop for a lance corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, or even a company commander to go to the restroom. Sometimes we spent over 48 hours on the move without exiting the vehicles. We were forced to urinate in empty water bottles inches from our comrades.
Many Marines developed dysentery from the complete lack of sanitary conditions. When an uncontrollable urge hit a Marine, he would be forced to stand, as best he could, hold an MRE bag up to his rear, and defecate inches from his seated comrade’s face.
During the invasion, we wore chemical protective suits because of the fear of chemical or biological weapon attack. These are equivalent to a ski jumpsuit and hold in the heat. We also had to wear black rubber boots over our desert boots. On the occasions the column did stop, we would quickly peel off our rubber boots, desert boots and socks to let our feet air out.
Due to the heat and sweat, layers of our skin would peel off our feet. However, we rarely had time to remove our suits or perform even the most basic hygiene. We quickly developed sores on our bodies.
When we did reach Baghdad, we were in shambles. We had not showered in well over a month and our chemical protective suits were covered in a mixture of filth and dried blood. We were told to strip and place our suits in pits to be burned immediately. My unit stood there in a walled-in compound in Baghdad, naked, sores dotted all over our bodies, feet peeling, watching our suits burn. Later, they lined us up naked and washed us off with pressure washers.
Yes, a woman is as capable as a man of pulling a trigger. But the goal of our nation’s military is to fight and win wars. Before taking the drastic step of allowing women to serve in combat units, has the government considered whether introducing women into the above-described situation would have made my unit more or less combat effective?
Cairo rioters surrounding US Embassy carrying black flag. The round circle represents the personal seal of Mohammed (used in correspondence with foreign leaders) and is a standard feature found in al Qaeda flags.
‘Every normal man,” wrote H. L. Mencken, “must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.” Given that his subject was modern poetry, he can be forgiven the impulse. But we might politely decline to join him. There are few occasions on which the raising of a black flag has been an overture to something pretty, and a great many on which it has augured something ill. Black flags are harbingers of chaos.
The recent events in the Arab world are no exception. The barbarism in Egypt and Libya pushed back into view the nefarious purposes to which black flags are most commonly deployed. Having scaled the walls of the American embassy compound in Cairo on September 11, protesters ripped down Old Glory, set fire to it, and managed to replace it temporarily with their own pennant. At the consulate in Benghazi, marauders put up their flag, murdered the ambassador and three other Americans, and caused as much damage as they could. The unrest has not yet stopped, with U.S. citizens and property being targeted in Lebanon, Yemen, Tunisia, and Syria.
The British Independent today delivered the inside story on the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi and the murder of Ambassador Stevens.
According to senior diplomatic sources, the US State Department had credible information 48 hours before mobs charged the consulate in Benghazi, and the embassy in Cairo, that American missions may be targeted, but no warnings were given for diplomats to go on high alert and “lockdown”, under which movement is severely restricted. ...
Eight Americans, some from the military, were wounded in the attack which claimed the lives of Mr Stevens, Sean Smith, an information officer, and two US Marines. ...
Senior officials are increasingly convinced, however, that the ferocious nature of the Benghazi attack, in which rocket-propelled grenades were used, indicated it was not the result of spontaneous anger due to the video, called Innocence of Muslims. Patrick Kennedy, Under-Secretary at the State Department, said he was convinced the assault was planned due to its extensive nature and the proliferation of weapons.
There is growing belief that the attack was in revenge for the killing in a drone strike in Pakistan of Mohammed Hassan Qaed, an al-Qa’ida operative who was, as his nom-de-guerre Abu Yahya al-Libi suggests, from Libya, and timed for the anniversary of the 11 September attacks. ...
According to security sources the consulate had been given a “health check” in preparation for any violence connected to the 9/11 anniversary. In the event, the perimeter was breached within 15 minutes of an angry crowd starting to attack it at around 10pm on Tuesday night. There was, according to witnesses, little defence put up by the 30 or more local guards meant to protect the staff. Ali Fetori, a 59-year-old accountant who lives near by, said: “The security people just all ran away and the people in charge were the young men with guns and bombs.”
Wissam Buhmeid, the commander of the Tripoli government-sanctioned Libya’s Shield Brigade, effectively a police force for Benghazi, maintained that it was anger over the Mohamed video which made the guards abandon their post. “There were definitely people from the security forces who let the attack happen because they were themselves offended by the film; they would absolutely put their loyalty to the Prophet over the consulate. The deaths are all nothing compared to insulting the Prophet.”
Mr Stevens, it is believed, was left in the building by the rest of the staff after they failed to find him in dense smoke caused by a blaze which had engulfed the building. He was discovered lying unconscious by local people and taken to a hospital, the Benghazi Medical Centre, where, according to a doctor, Ziad Abu Ziad, he died from smoke inhalation.
An eight-strong American rescue team was sent from Tripoli and taken by troops under Captain Fathi al- Obeidi, of the February 17 Brigade, to the secret safe house to extract around 40 US staff. The building then came under fire from heavy weapons. “I don’t know how they found the place to carry out the attack. It was planned, the accuracy with which the mortars hit us was too good for any ordinary revolutionaries,” said Captain Obeidi. “It began to rain down on us, about six mortars fell directly on the path to the villa.”
Libyan reinforcements eventually arrived, and the attack ended. News had arrived of Mr Stevens, and his body was picked up from the hospital and taken back to Tripoli with the other dead and the survivors.
Debkafile’s counter-terror sources report exclusively that far from being a spontaneous raid by angry Islamists, it was a professionally executed terrorist operation by a professional Al Qaeda assassination team, whose 20 members acted under the orders of their leader Ayman al Zawahri after special training. They were all Libyans, freed last year from prisons where they were serving sentences for terrorism passed during the late Muammar Qaddafi’s rule.
In a video tape released a few hours before the attack, Zawahri called on the faithful to take revenge on the United States for liquidating one of the organization’s top operatives, Libyan-born Abu Yahya al-Libi in June by a US drone in northwestern Pakistan.
Its release was the “go” signal for the hit team to attack the US diplomats in Benghazi. ...
The operation is rated by terror experts as the most ambitious outrage al Qaeda has pulled off in the last decade. According to our sources, the gunmen split into two groups of 10 each and struck in two stages:
1. They first fired rockets at the consulate building on the assumption that the ambassador’s bodyguards would grab him, race him out of the building and drive him to a safe place under the protection of the US secret service;
2. The second group was able to identify the getaway vehicle and the ambassador’s armed escort and lay in wait to ambush them. The gunmen then closed in and killed the ambassador and his bodyguards at point blank range.
Debkafile’s intelligence sources report that the investigation launched by US counter-terror and clandestine services is focusing on finding out why no clue was picked up of the coming attack by any intelligence body and how al Qaeda’s preparations for the attack which took place inside Libya went unnoticed by any surveillance authority.
Eleven years after 9/11, al Qaeda clearly retains the ability to plan and execute international operations striking at American citizens and officials.
The success of the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, and the obviously coordinated embassy attacks in Cairo and Yemen, do seem to confirm the validity of complaints from critics of the Obama Administration that the administration’s rush to cash in on the PR results of the success of the raid that killed Osama bin Ladin wasted priceless opportunities to exploit captured intelligence, and leaks from somewhere in the Obama Administration really did do serious harm to American interests.
Now we also learn that, despite specific known threats and with the anniversary date of 9/11 looming, the Obama Administration and its State Department failed to warn Ambassador Stevens and failed to take steps to protect embassies and American diplomatic personnel.
Captain Rescorla in action at Ia Drang, Republic of Vietnam, 15 November 1965. photograph: Peter Arnett/AP.
Born in Hayle, Cornwall, May 27, 1939, to a working-class family, Rescorla joined the British Army in 1957, serving three years in Cyprus. Still eager for adventure, after army service, Rescorla enlisted in the Northern Rhodesia Police.
Ultimately finding few prospects for advancement in Britain or her few remaining colonies, Rescorla moved to the United States, and joined the US Army in 1963. After graduating from Officers’ Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia in 1964, he was assigned as a platoon leader to Bravo Company of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry, Third Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). Rescorla’s serious approach to training and his commitment to excellence led to his men to apply to him the nickname “Hard Corps.”
The 2nd Battalion of the 7th Cavalry was sent to Vietnam in 1965, where it soon engaged in the first major battle between American forces and the North Vietnamese Army at Ia Drang.
The photograph above was used on the cover of Colonel Harold Moore’s 1992 memoir We Were Soldiers Once… and Young, made into a film starring Mel Gibson in 2002. Rescorla was omitted from the cast of characters in the film, which nonetheless made prominent use of his actual exploits, including the capture of the French bugle and the elimination of a North Vietnamese machine gun using a grenade.
Rick Rescorla became a US citizen in 1967. He subsequently earned bachelor’s, master’s, and law degrees from the University of Oklahoma, and proceeded to teach criminal law at the University of South Carolina from 1972-1976, before he moved to Chicago to become Director of Security for Continental Illinois Bank and Trust.
In 1985, Rescorla moved to New York to become Director of Security for Dean Witter, supervising a staff of 200 protecting 40 floors in the South Tower of the World Trade Center. (Morgan Stanley and Dean Witter merged in 1997.) Rescorla produced a report addressed to New York’s Port Authority identifying the vulnerability of the Tower’s central load-bearing columns to attacks from the complex’s insecure underground levels, used for parking and deliveries. It was ignored.
On February 26, 1993, Islamic terrorists detonated a car bomb in the underground garage located below the North Tower. Six people were killed, and over a thousand injured. Rescorla took personal charge of the evacuation, and got everyone out of the building. After a final sweep to make certain that no one was left behind, Rick Rescorla was the last to step outside.
Directing the evacuation on September 11th.
Security Guards Jorge Velasquez and Godwin Forde are on the right. photograph: Eileen Mayer Hillock.
Rescorla was 62 years old, and suffering from prostate cancer on September 11, 2001. Nonetheless, he successfully evacuated all but 6 of Morgan Stanley’s 2800 employees. (Four of the six lost included Rescorla himself and three members of his own security staff, including both the two security guards who appear in the above photo and Vice President of Corporate Security Wesley Mercer, Rescorla’s deputy.) Rescorla travelled personally, bullhorn in hand, as low as the 10th floor and as high as the 78th floor, encouraging people to stay calm and make their way down the stairs in an orderly fashion. He is reported by many witnesses to have sung “God Bless America,” “Men of Harlech, ” and favorites from Gilbert & Sullivan operettas. “Today is a day to be proud to be an American,” he told evacuees.
A substantial portion of the South Tower’s workforce had already gotten out, thanks to Rescorla’s efforts, by the time the second plane, United Airlines Flight 175, struck the South Tower at 9:02:59 AM. Just under an hour later, as the stream of evacuees came to an end, Rescorla called his best friend Daniel Hill on his cell phone, and told him that he was going to make a final sweep. Then the South Tower collapsed.
Rescorla had observed a few months earlier to Hill, “Men like us shouldn’t go out like this.” (Referring to his cancer.) “We’re supposed to die in some desperate battle performing great deeds.” And he did.
His hometown of Hayle in Cornwall has erected a memorial.
———————————————————— 2,996 was a project put together by blogger Dale Roe to honor each victim of the September 11, 2001 attacks. 3,061 blogs committed to posting tributes to each victim. Never Yet Melted’s tribute was to Rick Rescorla, and is republished annually.
At the urging of Valerie Jarrett, President Barack Obama canceled the operation to kill Osama bin Laden on three separate occasions before finally approving the May 2, 2011 Navy SEAL mission, according to an explosive new book scheduled for release August 21. ...
Miniter, a two-time New York Times best-selling author, cites an unnamed source with Joint Special Operations Command who had direct knowledge of the operation and its planning.
Obama administration officials also said after the raid that the president had delayed giving the order to kill the arch-terrorist the day before the operation was carried out, in what turned out to be his fourth moment of indecision. At the time, the White House blamed the delay on unfavorable weather conditions near bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
But when Miniter obtained that day’s weather reports from the U.S. Air Force Combat Meteorological Center, he said, they showed ideal conditions for the SEALs to carry out their orders.
“President Obama’s greatest success was actually his greatest failure,” Miniter told The Daily Caller Friday. ”Leading From Behind,“ he said, traces the arc of six key Obama administration decisions, and shows how the president made them — and, often, failed to make them.
When I tried to open the Daily Caller link this morning, Firefox initially blocked access, warning that this site had been reported as a site distributing malware.
It is evident that someone on the left was sufficiently angry and alarmed by the Daily Caller’s scoop that a false malware complaint was filed to deter traffic.
Narco Polo reports that, in Afghanistan, motivated seekers of intoxication will resort to smoking the stingers of local scorpions.
[I]n Afghanistan even the ubiquitous scorpions can be used for intoxication. Tartars in Bamiyan province prepare scorpions by smashing them between stones and letting them dry. The main part of the tail, with the sting, is then crushed into a powder and smoked with tobacco and/or hashish (marijuana).
[A witness] in the Afghan town of Peshawar described the reaction:
The effect was instantaneous with the man’s face and eyes becoming very red, “much more than a hashish smoker” …. He also seemed very intoxicated but awake and alert, although he stumbled and fell over when he tried to rise from a sitting position …. the smoke tasted “sweeter” than that of hashish, although … it smelled foul, and the intoxicating effect lasted much longer. (1, p. 247)
As with most drugs, anecdotal reports of scorpion’s effects vary widely. It is likely that the numerous Afghan scorpion species have divergent psychoactive properties. Scorpion has been reported to keep one awake, cause severe headaches, and rival the effects of a “strong mescaline trip.” (1, p. 248) One Kabul man who had smoked between 20 and 30 times reported the effects to last three days. During these periods he had difficulty opening his eyes, his head spun, and he had constant visual hallucinations.
Globally, scorpion smoking is still rare. The failure of the war on other drugs has not driven people to seek it out … yet. If drug war success sparking scorpion use sounds unbelievable, in India’s Western states police crackdowns on mainstream illicit drugs have already led to “sting sellers.” A police officer in the city of Bharuch said:
Because of our successful drives against the sellers and addicts of alcohol, opium, cough syrup, and heroin in urban areas, young people are flocking on the highways to try the new craze of scorpion sting.
The same practice was described as occurring in Pakistan in 2001. Reuters via Wired:
When they’re in season, Ghulam Raza smokes scorpions.
He says he dries their stingers in the sun and grinds them, then lights the powdery venom and sucks the smoke deep into his lungs.
“Oh yes,” he said when asked if the scorpions make him high. “When I smoke scorpion, then the heroin is like nothing to me.”
The place where Raza and other Pakistani junkies smoke dope or shoot up in the southwestern city of Quetta is a good place to find scorpions. It is the main cemetery, a dust-filled field of tombstones and corpse-sized mounds of rocks. ...
In the cemetery, sometimes one of them will get very stoned and drop into an open grave.
This is the deathbed portrait of an unknown man with the hairstyle of the 1640s, commonly described as being the portrait of James, Duke of Monmouth, executed in 1685.
The Telegraph informs us that art historians are proposing to employ facial recognition software developed for Counter-Terrorism to identify the unknown subjects in some well-known works of art.
Software developed to recognise terrorist faces is being adapted to solve the mystery of portraits of unidentified people. ...
A feasibility study is being conducted by two art historians and an electronic engineer at the University of California. They describe FACES (Faces, Art and Computerised Evaluation Systems) as a “new tool for art historians”. The project has received a $25,000 government grant.
Conrad Rudolph, professor of art history at the university, said: “Before the advent of photography, portraits were, almost by definition, depictions of people who were important in their own worlds. But, as a walk through almost any major museum will show, a large number of these unidentified portraits from before the 19th century have lost the identities of their subjects.”
Retired General Jack Keane tells Mike Huckabee that the US knew the location of Osama bin Ladin’s hideout by the summer of 2010, and the Obama Administration dithered for nearly a year before authorizing the mission to eliminate him.
Barack Obama’s reelection campaign of 2012 is increasingly looking like Michael Dukakis’s campaign of 1988, in which the conspicuously Dove-ish Massachusetts liberal governor tried bolstering his commander-in-chief creds by being photographed wearing a helmet and riding in the turret of an M1 Abrams tank.
First, there was the attempt to portray Mitt Romney as mean to dogs for taking his Irish setter along on a vacation trip in a rooftop carrier which exploded in a nationwide gale of jokes after Jim Treacher pointed out that Barack Obama had referred, in his famous autobiography, to eating dog as a child in Indonesia.
Then, there was the short-lived attempt to push voters’ buttons by having various democrats note that Mitt Romney was a descendant of Mormon polygamists. This one also failed when Republicans responded that it was true that, like many Mormons, Mitt Romney had fairly remote polygamous ancestry, a great-grandfather, but Barack Obama’s father was also a polygamist.
The latest attempt on the part of the Obama campaign to gain advantage involved putting Bill Clinton in a video to praise Barack Obama for making the oh-so-very-difficult decision to send in the Navy SEALs to take out Bin Ladin.
The response to what is being referred to as the Obama campaign “spiking the football” has been a combination of criticism of the president for exploiting the bravery of members of the US military and ridicule.
Mitt Romney retorted that even Jimmy Carter would have made the same decision.
John McCain, in a follow-up rejoinder, delivered a withering response.
I’ve had the great honor of serving in the company of heroes. And, you know the thing about heroes, they don’t brag.”
And, worst news of all for the Obama team, this particular campaign ploy provoked pushback from former SEALs.
Serving and former US Navy SEALs have slammed President Barack Obama for taking the credit for killing Osama bin Laden and accused him of using Special Forces operators as ‘ammunition’ for his re-election campaign. ...
Ryan Zinke, a former Commander in the US Navy who spent 23 years as a SEAL and led a SEAL Team 6 assault unit, said: ‘The decision was a no brainer. I applaud him for making it but I would not overly pat myself on the back for making the right call.
‘I think every president would have done the same. He is justified in saying it was his decision but the preparation, the sacrifice – it was a broader team effort.’
Mr Zinke, who is now a Republican state senator in Montana, added that MR Obama was exploiting bin Laden’s death for his re-election bid. ‘The President and his administration are positioning him as a war president using the SEALs as ammunition.
Some political observers think many SEALs are so infuriated by the Obama Administration’s exploitation of their valor for political gain that they are bitterly angry. SEALs commonly believe that, from the time of the actual operation, the White House has shamelessly used the Abbottabad raid, hastily and irresponsibly making details public, and placing its own interests above the safety and security of SEAL team members and American long-term strategic goals.
There is active speculation that an organized group of SEALs may play an active role later in the campaign to “Swift Boat” Barack Obama.
The website WikiLeaks has continued releasing for a fourth day what it says will eventually be 5 million e-mails sent between July 2004 and late December 2011 by the private intelligence company Stratfor. ...
Wikileaks claims that Osama bin Laden’s body was transferred to Dover, Delaware on a CIA plane. An email dated May 2, 2011 states the body will then be moved “…to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Bethesda.” Two US Air Force Airlift Wings are based at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware. In another email dated May 2, 2011 a Stratfor staff member expresses doubt that Bin Laden’s corpse was buried at sea and mentions, “We would want to photograph, DNA, fingerprint, etc. His body is a crime scene and I don’t see the FBI nor DOJ letting that happen.”
According to leaked secret files of Statfor, a US security agency, Osama was not buried at sea in an Islamic ceremony but his body was shifted to the military mortuary in Dover, DE, on a CIA plane.
Then it was shifted to the medical institute of US armed forces in Maryland for examination.
At 5:26 a.m. on May 2, the morning after Barack Obama announced the successful raid on Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound, Stratfor CEO George Friedman sent an email that said: “Reportedly, we took the body with us. Thank goodness.”
Fred Burton, Stratfor’s vice president for intelligence, followed that up at 5:51 a.m. with an email titled “[alpha] Body bound for Dover, DE on CIA plane” that said: “Than [sic] onward to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Bethesda.”
At 1:36 p.m. Burton replied to a thread named “Re: OBL’s corpse” with the message: “Body is Dover bound, should be here by now.”
That contradicts the official story that bin Laden’s body was handled in accordance with Islamic tradition and released into the sea from a U.S. Navy vessel.
If this is true, we need to elect another president from Yale who can see to it that Osama’s skull winds up (along with those of other enemies of the United States like Geronimo) preserved for long-term private appreciation and ridicule inside a certain windowless building on High Street in New Haven, Connecticut.