Monday, March 15, 2004
Now I don't approve of this kind of 20/20 hindsight finger pointing. But... I do have to say that this should neutralize any criticism of the Administration from the Kerry supporters on the pre-9/11 security issues. I think Kerry handled it badly but so did plenty of others.
"THE WARNING KERRY IGNORED
By PAUL SPERRY
March 15, 2004 -- SEN. John Kerry boasts how he "sounded the alarm on terrorism years before 9/ 11," referring to his 1997 book "The New War." Too bad he didn't blast it when it really counted - four months before the hijackings, when he was hand-delivered evidence of serious security breaches at Logan International Airport, with specific warnings that terrorists could exploit them.
Former FAA security officials say the Massachusetts senator had the power to prevent at least the Boston hijackings and save the World Trade Center and thousands of lives, yet he failed to take effective action after they gave him a prophetic warning that his state's main airport was vulnerable to multiple hijackings.
"He just did the Pontius Pilate thing and passed the buck" on back through the federal bureaucracy, said Brian Sullivan, a retired FAA special agent from the Boston area who in May 2001 personally warned Kerry that Logan was ripe for a "jihad" suicide operation possibly involving "a coordinated attack."
Rewind to May 6, 2001. That night, a Boston TV station (Fox-25) aired reporter Deborah Sherman's story on an undercover investigation at Logan that Sullivan and another retired agent helped set up. In nine of 10 tries, a crew got knives and other weapons through security checkpoints - including the very ones the 9/11 hijackers would later exploit.
The next day, Sullivan fired off a two-page letter to Kerry highlighting the systemic failures.
"With the concept of jihad, do you think it would be difficult for a determined terrorist to get on a plane and destroy himself and all other passengers?" he warned. "Think what the result would be of a coordinated attack which took down several domestic flights on the same day. With our current screening, this is more than possible. It is almost likely." The toll from such an attack would be economic, as well as human, he predicted with chilling accuracy.
Sullivan followed up by having the undercover videotape hand-delivered to Kerry's office.
More than 11 weeks later, Kerry finally replied to his well-informed and anxious constituent. "I have forwarded your tape to the Department of Transportation's Office of Inspector General [DOT OIG]," he said in a brief July 24, 2001, letter, a copy of which I've obtained.
Yet Sullivan had made it clear in his letter that going to his old agency was a dead end. He and other agents had complained about security lapses for years and got nowhere. "The DOT OIG has become an ineffective overseer of the FAA," he told Kerry. Sullivan suggested he show the tape to peers on committees with FAA oversight. He even volunteered to testify before them.
But he never heard from Kerry again.
At that point, Steve Elson, the other agent who'd teamed up on the TV sting, decided to take a crack at the junior senator.
A fiery ex-Navy Seal, Elson spent three years as part of an elite FAA unit called the Red Team, which did covert testing of airport security across the country, before retiring as a field agent in Houston. He offered to fly to Washington at his own expense to give Kerry a document-backed presentation about the "facade of security" at Logan and other major airports.
But a Kerry aide said not to bother. "You're not a constituent," Elson was told just a few weeks before the hijackings. He went ballistic, warning that if Kerry didn't act soon he'd risk the lives of planeloads of his actual constituents. That warning now looks like prophecy: At least 82 Kerry constituents were murdered aboard American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175.
"Enhanced security would have prevented the hijackings, virtually without question," Elson now insists. If nothing else, it might have discouraged ringleader Mohamed Atta, who monitored security procedures at Logan weeks before the hijackings.
Yet the warnings apparently did stick in Kerry's mind: In the days after 9/11, Kerry told the Boston Globe that he'd triggered an undercover probe of Logan security by the General Accounting Office in June 2001.
But he wrote Sullivan no such thing in his July letter, stating only that he passed his warning and tape on to Transportation, not GAO. And GAO, though it is the investigative arm of Congress, didn't seem to know what the senator was talking about. The agency had tested security at two airports before 9/11, but neither one was Logan. And Kerry confessed he didn't know the outcome of the probe he says he triggered.
Some follow-up, senator.
Sullivan and Elson, joined by aviation-security experts David Forbes and Andrew Thomas, want to see Kerry hauled before the 9/11 Commission to answer questions about what he knew about Logan's lapses, and specifically what he did about them, before that fateful day. It's a reasonable request - especially since Kerry has complained that President Bush will only give the panel an hour of his time.
Where was Kerry's sense of urgency? Where was his leadership? These are fair questions to ask of someone vying for Bush's job.
"We don't have to wait for a tragedy to occur to act," Sullivan urged Kerry in his letter. But tragically, that's exactly what happened - at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, and on both sides of the aisle."
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Well now we know who one of them is.
"Spain's New Prime Minister: 'I Want Kerry to Win'
Socialist leader Jose Luis Rodriquez Zapatero, who won an upset election victory over Spain's Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar on Sunday on a platform of withdrawing Spain's troops from Iraq, has endorsed Sen. John Kerry in the upcoming presidential election.
"I think Kerry will win. I want Kerry to win," Zapatero told Britain's Guardian newspaper, just four days before he swept to victory riding a wave of anti-U.S. feeling sparked by the al Qaeda train bombings in Madrid.
Two days earlier Zapatero had blasted Aznar's alliance with the U.S., calling the Bush administration "the most reactionary American administration in recent times."
"We're aligning ourselves with Kerry," Zapatero proclaimed to the International Herald Tribune. "Our alliance will be for peace, against war, no more deaths for oil, and for a dialogue between the government of Spain and the new Kerry administration."
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Do you see what I mean when I say that a lot of people feel that they have a stake in the outcome of the election?
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Oh you idiots. Don't you see you're playing into their hands?
"Zapatero firmly aligned himself with France and Germany, which opposed the war from the start, in calling the invasion an "error".Contrast that with this.
Spain's contingent, the sixth-largest in Iraq, has suffered 11 deaths, including those of seven intelligence agents ambushed in November.
Bush and Blair, both of whom are facing elections in coming months, need to engage in "self-criticism," Zapatero said.
"You can't bomb a people" over a perceived threat, Zapatero said in comments coming five days before the first anniversary of the March 20 start of the war.
"You can't organise a war on the basis of lies," he said, alluding to Bush's and Blair's insistence the war was justified by their belief -- so far unfounded -- that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that posed an imminent threat.
"Wars such as that which has occurred in Iraq only allow hatred, violence and terror to proliferate," he said.
The head of the EU executive arm, European Commission chief Romano Prodi, agreed, in an interview published by Italy's La Stampa newspaper Monday.
"It is clear that using force is not the answer to resolving the conflict with terrorists," Prodi said. "Terrorism is infinitely more powerful than a year ago," and all of Europe now feels threatened, he told the paper."
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Andrew Sullivan exposes the fools who thought that we aren't at war.
"VON HOFFMAN AWARD NOMINEE I: "Sensible British citizens offer the police support in protecting lives and property. Whether this justifies a thousand body-armoured police with automatic weapons in London's streets I doubt. Bombs kill and panic the panicky. But they do not undermine civilised society unless that society wants to be undermined. The destructive potential of these bombs is not remotely 'mass', nor is the threat comparable with that of the Blitz or nuclear weapons... My doubts over Mr Blair boil down to a question of common sense. His speeches and actions on foreign policy are not those of a wise man or one with any sense of historical judgment. Like Margaret Thatcher, he relies on a small coterie of aides rather than the official machine. But unlike her he cannot engage with that machine intellectually. Anyone with a knowledge of history would not equate Hitler's threat with that of al-Qaeda. Anyone who respects Western civilisation would not think it 'in mortal danger' from gangs of Islamic fanatics."
- Simon Jenkins, in the Spectator, arguing "that Tony Blair's Sedgefield speech was just another attempt by the Prime Minister to scare us into believing that we are all in mortal danger. We are not." A day after the article went to press around 200 people were murdered and over a thousand injured in an al Qaeda attack in Madrid.
VON HOFFMAN AWARD NOMINEE II: "Blair and Bush ultimately build their case on their personal intuitions, provoked by the Sept. 11 attacks, that something new had appeared in the world. They both concluded, as Bush was to put it, that they had to "rid the world of evil." But their argument that Islamic extremism is a "global threat" is indefensible. The Islamists can make spectacular attacks on Britain or the United States, but neither country, nor any of the other democracies, is in the slightest danger of being "engulfed" by terrorism, or shaken from its democratic foundations.
The Islamists are a challenge to Islamic society itself, but a limited one. Their doctrine will run its course, and eventually be rejected by Muslims as a futile strategy for dealing with the modern world."
- William Pfaff, in an article called "Blair overstates the threat of terrorism," in the International Herald Tribune, the day before the Madrid massacre."
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Well I can't say that this surprises me. Look for a lot more dirt to get thrown about Kerry's Vietnam service. I don't have the background to know for sure but several people who I find credible have said that there are several aspects to his story that just don't sound right. The fact that he has too many medals for his length of service is one. The fact that according to his account of the 1968 incident he violated procedures and endangered his crew.
"US SENATOR John Kerry last night fought off accusations he was a coward and had made strategic mistakes in battle during the Vietnam War. It seems like every time Kerry opens his mouth he has to backpedal furiously. Is this true? I don't know. I'd certainly like to see Kerry make his service record public as Bush did. Then we could look into all those medals and all those other heroic accounts.
The Democratic challenger for the White House was embroiled in fresh controversy after one of his former crew members accused him of being someone "who ran from the enemy".
It was reported last night that Steven Gardner, a gunnerís mate on the first patrol boat commanded by Kerry in the Mekong Delta, contradicts accounts of the senatorís military career that depict him as a brave and aggressive lieutenant who won three Purple Hearts, which are a key element of his campaign against George Bush.
He personally killed a Viet Cong fighter in one action and was wounded three times, though not seriously.
However, in an interview with the Boston Globe, which contacted him about the presidential candidate, Gardner claimed: [Kerry] did not want to engage the enemy"He [Kerry] absolutely did not want to engage the enemy when I was with him.
"He wouldnít go in there and search. That is why I have a negative viewpoint of John Kerry.
"His initial patterns of behaviour when I met him and served under him were of somebody who ran from the enemy, rather than engaged it."
Gardner also claimed that in an incident in 1968 in which he was slightly wounded, causing Kerry to abort the boatís mission, he said: "Lt Kerry, Iím fine, nothingís wrong. I got a little flesh wound here.
"But Kerry was already backing out of the canal, getting ready to run for it."
Gardner has refused to join the tight-knit group of Vietnam veterans who are staunch supporters of their former comradesí White House bid.
However, Kerry has described his the former crewmanís version of events as "made-up".
"Itís sad," he told his biographer, Douglas Brinkley, "but thatís the way it goes in war, and especially in politics."
Gardnerís portrayal of a timid Kerry are at odds with the accounts of other crew members.
John Hurley, the national director of the Vietnam Veterans for Kerry, said: "John was shocked by this. They all think heís way off base."
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Instapundit has more on Kerry.
"KERRY'S TEMPER, CONTINUED
Howard Dean seemed to be on top of his game when he confronted Iowan Dale Ungerer during a town meeting, and told him to "sit down."† That moment, as Paul Boutin noted in Slate, seemed to mark the beginning of the end for him.
I don't think that John Kerry's confrontation with Pennsylvanian Cedric Brown will do the same, but it certainly sounds similar, and underscores issues of temperament that I've mentioned before.††The Philadelphia NBC station describes the scene:
The town meeting was contentious at times, with 52-year-old Cedric Brown repeatedly pressing the candidate to name the foreign leaders whom Kerry has said are backing his campaign.
"I'm not going to betray a private conversation with anybody," Kerry said. As the crowd of several hundred people began to mutter and boo, Kerry said, "That's none of your business."
If it's none of our business, why did Kerry bring it up in the first place?
The election is too far away, and the nomination too clearly in hand for Kerry, for this put-down to mark the beginning of the end.† But once again Kerry is displaying the peculiar blend of pandering and arrogance that seems to constitute his biggest character flaw.
The pandering part appeared in Florida, as the Miami Heraldreports:
What will you do about Cuba?
As the presumptive Democratic nominee, Kerry was ready with the bravado appropriate for a challenger who knows that every answer carries magnified importance in the state that put President Bush into office by just 537 votes.
''I'm pretty tough on Castro, because I think he's running one of the last vestiges of a Stalinist secret police government in the world,'' Kerry told WPLG-ABC 10 reporter Michael Putney in an interview to be aired at 11:30 this morning.
Then, reaching back eight years to one of the more significant efforts to toughen sanctions on the communist island, Kerry volunteered: "And I voted for the Helms-Burton legislation to be tough on companies that deal with him.''
It seemed the correct answer in a year in which Democratic strategists think they can make a play for at least a portion of the important Cuban-American vote -- as they did in 1996 when more than three in 10 backed President Clinton's reelection after he signed the sanctions measure written by Sen. Jesse Helms and Rep. Dan Burton.
There is only one problem: Kerry voted against it.
Ouch.† Kerry had voted for an earlier version, but I don't think that Florida voters will be impressed by the sophistry of voting for a bill, then voting to kill it, then claiming that you supported it.
This sort of thing is going to be a problem for Kerry in the general election.† The question is, will he be able to get over it before things heat up further?
MORE ON THE ADS
I wrote about the inflated response to Bush's TV ads earlier, but now it looks as if the entire thing was basically manufactured.† As Matthew Continetti reports, the "families" who communicated their outrage over the (brief) use of 9/11 references in Bush's ads seemed to be connected to an antiwar group called "Peaceful Tomorrows":
Sifting through the news coverage of the controversy over Bush's ads, one finds the same individuals--Schaitberger, Potorti, and Kelly--quoted again and again. Schaitberger and Kelly are both quoted in a Boston Globe story that ran on March 5. Schaitberger and Kelly Campbell, a spokeswoman for September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, were the sources for the Washington Post's account. Kelly, Potorti, and Jeff Zack, a spokesman for the International Association of Fire Fighters, are quoted in the AP dispatch on the Bush ads. Potorti is quoted in USA Today's story.
In fact, members of Peaceful Tomorrows are often quoted without any mention of their group affiliation. In what looks like an egregious case of lazy reporting, multiple news outlets treated members of Peaceful Tomorrows as if they were nonaffiliated people-on-the-street in order to make the controversy over the Bush ads seem widespread.
Read the whole thing.† As I've mentioned before, the press seems all too willing to give left-wing groups a pass on this sort of thing, and to overlook connections that make clear just how manufactured many stories are.†
And, of course, the whole notion that Bush shouldn't invoke his record after 9/11 represents a preemptive strike of its own:† an effort to take the most important issue -- and the weakest one for the Democrats -- off the table.
But Democrats haven't always felt that way, as this "Remember Pearl Harbor" poster for FDR illustrates.† Too bad the party seems to have lost that fighting spirit today."
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Oh good grief.
"My distress has two sources. The first is my anxiety that it will have the effect of fanning the flames of a growing worldwide anti-Semitism. I accept Mr. Gibson's assertion that he didn't mean to make an anti-Semitic film, but he has to be aware of the Passion story's role in the history of the persecution of the Jews, a story whose very power to move the human spirit has been a vehicle for both transcendence and murder. To be a Christian is to face the responsibility for one's own most treasured sacred texts being used to justify the deaths of innocents. [Emphasis mine.]Ahem. Jesus was a Jew. Mary was a Jew. Joseph was a Jew. Only stupid people see the story as anti-semitic. THERE WERE NO CHRISTIANS OR MUSLIMS at the time of this story. It's not a story about Jews. It's a story about people. Enough said.
What, then, is one to do with that knowledge? I believe that one bears witness to it, in one's life and in one's work. Certainly one does not take the risk that one's life or work might contribute to the continuation of a horror.
Can this be read as political correctness with a theological twist? As a writer, I am certainly sensitive to the specter of censorship. But as one who has made a life's work of studying narrative, I wonder why Mel Gibson's vision of the Passion ó its importance to him, he says, is that it shows exactly what Jesus did for us ó must depend on a portrayal of Jews as a bloodthirsty mob headed by a sadistic and politically manipulative leadership?"
My main point was that you would never see the Times print this:
"To be a Muslim is to face the responsibility for one's own most treasured sacred texts being used to justify the deaths of innocents."
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