Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Any Concern for Classified Material?

Well, it took a while, but I finally agree with something French President Jacques Chirac did last week. The leak of a classified document from within the French government concerning the possible death of Usama bin Laden brought the appropriate response. His immediate concern was the fact that a classified document had been leaked. His public statements addressed that issue first and foremost, exactly as they should have.

But, it doesn’t appear we seem to have the same concern in this country for handling classified material. The illegal release of at least part of the National Intelligence Estimate from April is yet another breach of what Americans should expect to be an airtight system for securing our country’s classified information.

Our administration’s first response to yet another illegal disclosure, as well as the public’s first response, should have been one of fury at the leak and the impact a porous intelligence community has on our national security. Concern for the political implications of the document should have been a distant second.

After the leaks concerning the NSA surveillance program, CIA prisons in other countries, financial tracking of terrorist activities, and other classified information and programs, a pattern has developed which is obviously not simple criminal carelessness at the highest levels. This is either extreme negligence or deliberate breaches of the law, both of which should be strenuously investigated and prosecuted.

My own experience with classified material makes all of these high-level illegal disclosures even more baffling. Both in terms of how anyone could be so careless or intentional in breaking the law and why there isn’t a dragnet and very public prosecution of the criminals involved.

Like all young Lieutenants, I was given a host of what we like to call “crummy little odd jobs” in addition to my usual duties. I drew the job of Classified Material Control Center Officer for the first two units I was with. I think I’d have rather been the Voting Officer or something else much less intimidating. As I endorsed the orders assigning me to this duty, the “pucker factor” increased exponentially. I was now responsible for handling and accounting for the battalion’s classified material. I could see the butter bars never turning silver if I screwed this one up. It was after all “Secret” stuff I was responsible for. To say I had a heightened sense of accountability and attention to detail when performing this duty is an understatement.

So, I really can’t understand how anyone could then be so reckless, or worse yet, intentional in their mishandling of our country’s high level intelligence. Nor can I comprehend the indifference we seem to have for the crimes committed.

The potential damage and consequences to our nation from what is becoming an increasingly transparent intelligence community are immeasurable. But they are not intangible. Predicting the worst case scenario because our nation’s secrets can’t be kept is suddenly not just something that has to be done as a matter of planning and war gaming preparation. It becomes a necessary exercise because the possibility of some one using our own information to harm us has gotten one step closer to reality.

A passionate concern for our nation’s top secrets should apply regardless of administration or political party in charge. America’s classified material needs to be kept classified and only published for public consumption under the laws and through the processes established for doing so. Acceptance or indifference of anything less than strict adherence to these laws sets a dangerous precedent all future administrations and generations will suffer from.

With regard to the litany of infractions over the course of the last year, those on the left have essentially taken the stand that “we need to know these things as part of our open society.” They’re wrong and I’m sure they’d be singing a different song if this were a Democratic administration. Arguments about an “open society” and “need to know” only go so far and should not include public access to top secret information as if it were the latest and greatest on Brad and Angelina.

Many on the right are discussing the timing of this latest leak in relation to the Democrat’s hearings on Iraq, pointing political fingers at political motivations. They’re wrong too. The only thing that should be happening right now is trying to find out why our intelligence community seems to have turned into a sieve.

Since we seem to have a group of people who no longer care about our laws for handling and securing the nation’s classified material, maybe we should just turn the entire process over to a bunch of Corporal’s and young Lieutenants. I know they’d be committed to getting the job done right. After all, if they mishandled classified information in a similar fashion they’d surely face the fire and brimstone, as well as the loss of the coveted eagle, globe, and anchor they’d just recently worked so hard to earn.

Or better yet, why don’t those responsible for handling our nation’s highest levels of intelligence simply do their job correctly and those responsible for investigating and prosecuting these infractions do theirs.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Agriculture Instead of Military

Although I commit much of my time to research and writing in support our troops, their mission, and our national security, my involvement with agriculture commands most of my time. That commitment to agriculture afforded me the opportunity to work with Pete Ricketts and his staff to develop Pete’s platform on ag related issues.

I am an agronomist, a Certified Crop Adviser who has the privilege of providing consulting services to over 30 Nebraska farmers, all with different farm sizes, needs, and challenges, both for the short term and long term. It’s a very personal job that often transitions from business into friendship. To me, it’s not just the success of my customers I care for, it’s the success and prosperity of my friends I care about.

That’s the approach I take when providing Pete with input as he develops his agricultural platform. Several Nebraska farmers and other ag professionals have also been working with Pete from the beginning of his campaign, giving him direct input and providing feedback from our communities. Pete also solicited input from Nebraska growers associations. I’ve seen Pete and his staff approach agriculture, and all other issues important to Nebraskans, with the appropriate personal care.

I have been and continue to be involved with the development of his ag policy positions. That’s why I know the radio commercial Ben Nelson released last week about Pete’s ag policy is absolute rubbish.

Ben weaves his lie this way “Pete Ricketts proposes to phase out farm subsidies. Ricketts supports a risky plan of farm savings accounts that ends farm support payments and jeopardizes our rural way of life. It’s a clever way to boost income for mega farms and their investors while short changing family farms and main street Nebraska.”

When I heard these accusations, I found them so absurd I went right past being angry to being openly amused.

For starters, Pete does not propose phasing out farm subsidies or ending farm support payments. I’ve never detected that position in any of his published material, during the many conversations I’ve had with Pete, from his debates, or listening to him answer questions from groups of voters.

Pete does not believe in dumping farm support payments. He does support farm savings accounts, but not as a means to end farm support payments as Ben is trying to scare everyone into believing. Pete has proposed farm savings accounts as a complement to farm support payments, but not to act in lieu of those payments.

What Pete supports are ag savings accounts that would allow farmers to save money tax-free as an additional risk management tool. Nelson supported this approach in 2001 and 2003 when he co-sponsored Senator Grassley's bills on this topic, but Pete's approach is better because it also calls for federal matching funds for money contributed to these accounts. But, he does not propose elimination of support payments and replacement with these ag savings accounts. Ben Nelson is not dealing with the truth by stating otherwise.

When giving Pete input for his ag platform, I felt I was representing my customers, my friends, and their future; they are not mega farmers or their investors. As such, I gave advice and input based on farm sizes from 400 to 4000 acres with potential for growth amongst all. Pete did not move forward with a plan to specifically benefit only mega farmers, their investors, or anyone on Wall Street. Ben Nelson’s accusations in this arena are also unfounded and invented.

Pete’s positions on agriculture are highlighted by ideas and philosophies for free and fair trade, opening up markets for our crops and livestock, bio-based fuels, as well as value added opportunities for agricultural products. Pete’s vision also provides insight into comprehensive rural development including benefits the Conservation Security Program can have for both producers and Nebraska communities. He details how increased funding for university research can find new uses and markets for commodities while sparking job creation and bringing people back to Nebraska.

Pete understands the importance of agriculture to our state and its significance to our rural communities. He understands the impact year to year variable income has on farmers and the communities in which they live. That’s why he’s proposed continuing support payments, ag savings accounts, and expansion of insurance programs to include revenue coverage for livestock. Pete also supports expanded crop insurance and increased disaster assistance in the next Farm Bill. All programs designed to take risk out of the process and decrease the impact year to year variability has on farm income.

As a businessman, Pete understands the impact all internal and external factors can have on the business of farming and is genuinely committed to making things better for Nebraska farmers and our rural communities, not putting them in jeopardy.

It takes someone with sound ideas and courage to lead. While Ben Nelson continues to focus on negative campaigning, Pete Ricketts is sharing the ideas and showing the courage we need to move our state and this nation forward. Agriculture is just another arena where the difference between the leadership abilities of each has become evident.

Monday, September 11, 2006

From the Islamists' Perspective

Although the life of jihad is a hard one, it is only momentary compared to the eternal rewards awaiting us in heaven. Meanwhile, we find many things to encourage us now during our fight against America.

We are thankful Allah has not allowed our enemy to throw the full weight of their nation against us. Had they done so, the overwhelming force may have prevented us from pursuing their slow, methodical demise. We are happy to hear their government talking of budget cuts for their military. We know from our experiences you can not do more with less, you can only do less. Otherwise we would be doing much more to defeat them.

It was a joyous time when their newspapers revealed the secret programs they were using against us. We were blessed by Allah. We were able to change our phone numbers, other means of communication, business transactions, and our infiltration plans. Some of their politicians made our joy complete when they argued those programs and their Patriot Act should be very limited, controlled in a public forum, or not exist at all. This will make the task ahead so much easier for us.

We read their newspapers and watch their news channels to see the hand of Allah at work. When they count the death of 500 of our Taliban brothers at the cost of 2 Americans as a loss for America, we know that god’s will is being done. When their leaders like Howard Dean come on television shows and publicly state the same thing, we are sure that victory is Allah’s will for us.

We are grateful to their politicians like Murtha and Hagel who argue for running away from us. That is the life blood of our cause – to break their will. And while breaking their will, it gives us the propaganda to recruit others, to show potential recruits America’s leaders won’t fight, we are winning. We use the words of their politicians to debate and attempt to demoralize their soldiers. We may lack the means to defeat them militarily, but we don’t need to defeat their military. When America’s leaders give their people reasons not to fight we are accomplishing our objectives and inching closer to the victory we wait patiently for Allah to deliver.

It is especially heartening to know so many Americans do not consider Iraq to be part of the war we wage against them. We have declared it so, but when Americans refuse to acknowledge Iraq as part of our fight against them, we know they will be too blind to see us until the sword of our cause is being held to their throat, god willing.

We do not fear capture by the Americans. Their laws prevent them from torturing us, we will suffer no pain. In fact, Allah has willed that we not even be allowed discomfort under their laws. We will have the rights of an American and protection of the Geneva Conventions even though we represent no country, only Allah. What is there to fear? We may live our lives in their prisons, but will die as martyrs, if Allah wills it.

We are not Al Qaeda, but we are thankful to Sheik Usama and our Al Qaeda brothers for their jihad and their endurance. We know there are many Americans who are solely focused on Usama bin Laden. Their words betray their belief that he is the only threat, defining success or failure by his capture or death. That ignorance allows all other warriors for Islam to operate without fear from America. If they think Usama and Al Qaeda are the only threat, then the rest of us are free to flourish under the blessings and protection of Allah, undisturbed, growing in strength and number. We are grateful for such foolish Americans who believe that Sheik Usama is our inspiration. We are not inspired by him we are inspired by Islam, Allah, and his prophet.

Although we are angered by America’s policies toward Israel, and they help us recruit others, it is still Allah who inspires us to fight, not those policies. The same holds true for the deaths of our Muslim brothers at the hands of America throughout the world. If American’s want to believe those things to be the root cause of our jihad, let them. That is yet another blind path upon which they will stumble until the day of their destruction. We wage holy war against them, not because of their policies, but because Islam mandates we destroy them. America and Israel are the Satan’s to be crushed, but all infidels throughout the whole world must bow before Allah or perish.

We watch the politics of America with much anticipation. We cheer those who say that George Bush is the cause of our hatred and without him America will be safe. We are thankful that Allah has given them short memories, that they’ve forgotten the history of our jihad and all the Americans we killed long before Bush. There is much rejoicing as the predictions show potential victory in their elections for those who want to run and hide from us. If they succeed we will face an even softer opponent, an America led by people who have so often argued against fighting us, and believe America’s policies are a bigger threat than we are. We pray to god their blindness will prevail so we can wage unchallenged jihad against them, disable their ability to operate in the world, and eventually slip right into their houses to destroy them.

We are happy that Americans have not turned to religion for the answer to their troubles. Our solid belief in Allah gives us the strength to persevere against an enemy much stronger than ourselves. Because so many Americans lack true religious faith they are unable to comprehend the depth of our faith or strength of our convictions, and are thus blind to the reasons for our fight and ignorant about how to fight us.

Our only fear is the momentary pain we will suffer if the American forces come knocking on our door. But we do not fear America. Why should we? It is a country divided by those who don’t want to fight us unless we’re on their doorstep. But that will be too late for them. And right now they are much louder than those who are willing to hunt and fight us wherever we may be. By god’s will, they are defeating America from within. So why should we fear?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Do We Still Have The Will to Win?

Do you feel an impending angst as 9/11 approaches, especially knowing we’ll relive that day through a deluge of 5th anniversary TV coverage? Or has it all passed you by and become just another calloused memory, no worse than any other you’d care not to revisit?

Will you relive that day and wonder why it happened and then wonder how we’ve come to this day? Or do the concrete realities and reasons for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan escape your daily concerns?

How much sorrow do you feel with each funeral notice for a serviceman or woman who stepped forward to fight the Global War On Terror? Does it barely register or does it affect you deeply, if even for only a moment? Do you pause and say a prayer for the family in mourning? Or do you shrug it off and carry on with your daily routine?

Do you wonder at the courage and commitment of that man or woman which ultimately led to their sacrifice? Or do you simply wonder how they still had the tenacity to fight so many years after the catalyzing events of 9/11.

Do you still feel the fire from that day? The fire, determination, and will to bring harm to those who exacted such a terrible toll upon us, and all who think exactly as they do. The same fire and will that spurred you to pledge publicly or personally, “Never again!” Or is the will gone? Or was it ever there?

Some lacked the spirit to take on Al Qaeda, even after 9/11. A few more lacked the strength to take on Iraq and the similar threat Saddam posed. Now, a growing number lack the resolve to win this war, to see it through to victory. This, in and of itself, is a chilling predicament, considering our enemy draws upon the pool of their fanatical religious beliefs for a seemingly infinite supply of will and resolve to defeat us.

And when stripped bare, it all comes down to that. Do we possess the will to defeat Islamic extremists whose stated, unequivocal goal is our conversion or destruction? Do we possess the strength of character, as individuals, and as a nation to defeat this clear and present danger?

We need to ask those questions because that’s who we continue to fight, and will continue to face into the foreseeable future, worldwide, including in Iraq.

As violence in Baghdad increased, the picture portrayed was one of civil strife only, of neighbor fighting neighbor, sect against sect. But, at the source, the pot was still being stirred by Al Qaeda and it was still they, as much as any others, our combined Iraqi and American forces were still successfully hunting.

Gradually, more and more of that country moves forward into what critics still call an impossible future. In the last month we’ve seen the infrastructure advancements, a military milestone with 5 of 10 Iraqi divisions being fully operational and one of them now completely independent of our forces, the establishment of the full Iraqi civilian and military chain of command, the destruction of many terror cells by our combined forces, and the capture of Al Qaeda’s number two man in Iraq.

Yet, the facts and success we enjoy against this enemy go unreported or are quickly overwhelmed by a tsunami of rhetoric from those who lack the will to fight or seem to pursue our surrender and defeat against them.

The recent airline terror plots by like-minded extremists were forgotten in a flash, quickly hushed by those who, for no more than political reasons, would like all of us to forget the danger they posed, and from where that danger came.

The defeat of Joe Lieberman, who possesses the intestinal fortitude to fight this enemy to the finish, simply because he has that strength of character, is growing evidence of Americans who lack the will to fight a tough enemy.

In simple, yet very realistic terms, this is a tough war, and sure to be a long war against a nondescript enemy we have to fight wherever they may be.

There are those who understand this and those who do not. There are those who understand the consequences of defeat in Iraq (or any other front in the war against Islamofascists) and those who do not, and there are those who choose not to. There are those who never had or no longer have the will to fight. And there are those who advocate positions which are tantamount to our defeat.

There are a growing number of people who now question the patriotism of those who advocate positions for our defeat and loss in Iraq. I’m not there, but I do have to question their motives and their will to win the war.

So then I have to ask, do we still feel the fire? The same fire, determination, and will to stop those whose violent ideology includes our destruction; the same fire and will that should have spurred our country to pledge “Never again!” Or is the will gone? Or was it ever really there?