Wednesday, May 19, 2010

PJ "Spinner" Crowley - who is this guy?

by Rick Francona

If you have been watching the news lately, no doubt you have seen the clip of State Department spokesman PJ Crowley defending some off-the-reservation remarks of Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Michael Posner to Chinese officials.

Posner's remarks - some characterize them as apologizing - are indefensible in and of themselves. He should be fired, but given President Obama's views on foreign policy, I seriously doubt Posner will be held accountable. Even more telling, spokesman Crowley went on several news outlets to defend Posner's remarks.

Look up "political spin" in the dictionary and you may see this as an example:

It is hard to believe that is the official position of the State Department - well, with this State Department (see Does the State Department have any competent Russian linguists? as an indicator), maybe not.

That said, PJ Crowley is a master at the craft. Why shouldn't he be - that's been his whole life. You would not know that unless you read between the lines of his biography. He's basically a retired U.S. Air Force public affairs officer - what we in the Air Force referred to as a "talking dog." Yes, that's a derogatory term - along with "they only lie when they move their lips."

Surprisingly, Crowley did not even read the Arizona law that Psoner referred to in his remarks, yet he tries to spin Posner's remarks as somehow an illustration of American law and order. Who is this guy?

biography contains technically correct phrases like "Special Assistant to the President of the United States for National Security Affairs and served on the staff of the National Security Council." What it doesn't say is that he was their public affairs officer - you know, press releases and arranging interviews. After he retired from the Air Force, he pretty much did the same thing for the Insurance Institute. He describes that job as addressing issues arising from the "World Trade Center tragedy." Tragedy - more spinning?

Crowley is a nice enough guy - I've been on the air with him on at least one occasion. He's just caught up in the Obama spin machine, but don't blame him for his spinning ways. He can't help it - that's all he's ever done.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Holder and Brennan - the "no-clue two"

by Rick Francona

These guys are an embarrassment.

Watch President Obama's advisor on homeland security and terrorism spin a homeland security failure, an intelligence failure and shoddy airport security into a victory.

"We're not lucky, we're good." Did he really say that? What arrogance. The only reason we did not have a catastrophe in the skies over Michigan in December, and a mass murder event in Times Square earlier this month was the failure of the detonators on both of the improvised explosive devices to function properly. It had everything to do with luck and absolutely nothing to do with being "good."

Brennan's attempt to cite the patriotism of the American military as part of the "good" job that happened in Detroit and Times Square is an insult to the men and women of the armed forces. They're doing their jobs; I'm not so sure about Brennan.

Then we have our illustrious Attorney General who just this weekend appears to have awakened from an almost ten-year nap with this brilliant assessment:

"We're now dealing with international terrorists, and I think that we have to think about perhaps modifying the rules that interrogators have and somehow coming up with something that is flexible and is more consistent with the threat that we now face."

I'm glad we got that resolved. We're "now" dealing with international terrorists? There have been numerous plots since 9/11 - most of them have involved persons trained in the Middle East or South Asia, or those influenced by advisors in those regions. At least we are no longer citing Zazi, Abdulmutallab, Hasan and Shazad as "lone wolves."

This is the same Eric Holder that wants to have federal court trials for Khalid Sheikh Muhammad and the other 9/11 plotters - when a military commission would actually serve justice better - the same Eric Holder that was so anxious to have Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab read his Miranda rights so he could access to a lawyer.

Now the attorney general thinks we need to "modify the rules that interrogators have."

Mr. Holder, you've already done that - our interrogators are liable to face criminal sanctions if they so much as yell at a detainee, thanks to your decision to investigate CIA officers who used enhanced interrogations techniques during the Bush Administration. Having second thoughts, are we? When faced with the reality of two recent almost successful international terrorist attacks on the United States, it's a little different. The fact that we need intelligence from these terrorists demands that we treat them as captured enemy combatants, not criminal defendants.

I am reminded of a quote, and I am using as the opposite of its original context, "Where do we find such men?"

I don't know, but send them back.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Contessa Brewer disappointed terrorist is a Muslim?

By Rick Francona

Contessa with Rick at MSNBC - 2007

First, by way of full disclosure, I know Contessa Brewer both professionally and personally. I worked with her on air at MNSBC hundreds of times when I was an NBC News military analyst between 2003 and 2008, and I have also been to her home on several occasions - she is a charming hostess.

With that as background, I admit that I was a bit taken aback by her recent remarks on a talk show program expressing her dismay that accused terrorist Faisal Shahzad is a Muslim. Here is the clip of the show:

Immediately, there was a backlash asking which religion or from which country she hoped the perpetrator would be. Although I am sure Contessa did not want the accused to be of a specific religion or from a particular country, the question raises a valid point.

Why should a news reporter/anchor care what religion or nationality an alleged terrorist is? In a journalistic sense, it should not - the job of a reporter is to report the facts. The facts are that Faisal Shahzad is a Muslim, he is from an Islamic country - Pakistan is officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan - and he has admitted to attempting to detonate an vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBEID, or what we used to call a "ca bomb") in New York's Times Square.

Let's assume Contessa was speaking as a commentator or an analyst - believable since she was speaking on a radio talk show, not a news broadcast. Here is where I have a problem with many journalists. Many of them have terrific journalistic skills, some honed by education at some of our best schools and years of experience ferreting out sources and stories. However, most of them are not subject matter experts - that's why they hire people like me, for example, to provide the military analysis based on expertise they do not possess.

I would prefer that journalists stick to reporting, leaving the analysis to subject matter specialists and leaving the commentary to the pundits (many of which are not well-versed in the issues they address, but that's a different issue). It is when journalists venture beyond reporting that they get themselves in trouble.

Clearly, Contessa has been influenced by the noticeable MSNBC (and NBC News across the board) shift to the left over the past two years. When I worked there analyzing military operations in the Middle East, I thought that NBC News did a credible job of reporting fairly - I did my best to make sure our military analysis was unbiased. That changed dramatically during the 2008 Presidential campaign. The network has obviously made the editorial decision to support the Obama Administration.

That said, you would think that when it comes to a subject like terrorism, why should a journalist/reporter/anchor be "frustrated" that a terrorist who attempted to kill or maim hundreds of innocent people in Time Square be a Muslim or from an Islamic country? There should be a sense of outrage that some lowlife has attempted to kill people in the name of God, not concern that the perpetrator is of one religion as opposed to another.

Contessa, you're a friend and former colleague. The vast majority of terrorist attacks against Americans are executed by young Muslim men either from the Middle East/South Asia or trained there. That's a fact - let's support our efforts to stop terrorism and worry less about perceived racial profiling or whatever it is that frustrates you until it actually happens.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Defining Loyalty to America

How does a new American citizen define his loyalty to his chosen country? Should we question his loyalty based on origin or actions? How long does it take to prove loyalty? These and similar questions are brought once again to the attention of the country in the wake of the most recent terrorism attempt in Time Square by Faisal Shahzad, a newly naturalized American citizen of Pakistani origin. His act was nothing less than treason against his chosen country and a clear forfeiture of his citizenship.
Loyalty questions are entirely reasonable and will resurface with regularity during times of crisis. Our World War II experience logically led us to view Germans and Japanese with suspicion. During the Cold War we viewed with justifiable suspicion newly arrived immigrant from communist countries. After all, the Soviet Block had amply demonstrated its intentions and capabilities to launch sleeper cells for the purpose of penetrating American society and harming the country. And now during this era of continuing terrorism, we have good reasons to view Americans of Middle Eastern and south Asian origin with suspicion. America is an open society and largely welcoming to new citizens, but that is no reason to disregard reasonable caution for the sake of political correctness or misguided aversion to offending someone. The government’s primary responsibility is to defend and protect its citizens.

As a would-be American citizen, I experienced such suspicions and cautions first-hand. Upon my immigration to the US in the early 1970s I found it entirely reasonable and prudent for my adopted country to check me out and demand certain conditions in exchange for the highly sought-after and much-appreciated US citizenship. I gladly complied with the conditions of citizenship: a working knowledge of the English language, a basic understanding of civics, the promise not to become a burden to the state, and above all, loyalty to my chosen homeland. This was and still is accomplished with the
oath of allegiance. The most important aspect of qualifying for naturalization as an American citizen, the oath requires the new citizen to renounce any foreign allegiances and to support and defend the constitution. This oath is quite clear and unambiguous and taken voluntarily by a new citizen.

These citizenship requirements were a small price to pay for the freedom I enjoyed, the ability to shape my own destiny, the unlimited potential I could pursue with perseverance and drive. Although lengthy, I never resented the thorough background investigations to which I was subjected before being granted a commission in the US Air Force and eventually giving me access to Top Secret intelligence information. To me it was the embodiment of limitless opportunities offered by my adopted country - a country I considered my own many years before ever setting foot on American soil.

At the core of American values is freedom of choice - we chose to live here because we identify with the American way of life. We also have the right to leave anytime we no longer feel comfortable here, unlike many other countries that lack of this option in. Not coincidentally, many of our immigrants are from just those countries. But the oath of allegiance should guide all of us -- native-born and naturalized citizens!