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Beginning in early August 2001, I started a month-long conversation with a pilot of Middle Eastern origin flying a business jet out of Nashville, Tennessee.

Man-Silhouette

I was assisting him with plans for a Nashville-to-Saudi Arabia trip to be made sometime in September. He required what I considered to be standard materials – a trip kit – a one-time purchase – guaranteed to be current (legal) for a relatively short period of time, say, 14 days. He needed this because he was not a regular subscriber to “Jepps”, Jeppesen instrument flight charts, in simplest terms. He would also require electronic NavData for his GPS – Global Positioning System. The trip kit would be in paper, and would be quite a stack.

I’ll call him “Faruq”.

Every “plate” – essentially overhead views and profile views, technical “drawings” – somewhat akin to architectural blueprints – of how to fly an approach into an airport, how to depart from one, and how to fly in between, all with the intent of not hitting or even getting close to anybody else. When printed, they are on what I would call “Bible paper”; a half sheet and of the same type and feel. Electronically, they are displayed through a device on the cockpit instrument panel. Any ten-year-old kid would these days recognize it.

JeppsKBHM122_Not For Nav

Faruq would need the charts for the Eastern United States, Eastern Canada, HI and LO altitude, crossing the Atlantic, Western Europe, and finally the Middle East. His “NavData” would consist of two separate data cards each of which looked like a super-thick plain, black credit card with gold contacts on one end. Then add in the flight planning software. Pretty expensive package, all told; say, four-to-five figures, in the low-several thousands of dollars. As much as it costs, it’s pretty routine for private and business jet operators.

Now, it’s done in a much more integrated, even higher-tech fashion, with more electronics and less paper and other objects to worry about, but the costs are still about the same – high.

– – –

Private Jets: A Guy I Know

A brief interlude, and a bit lighter view of the subject for a moment.

– – –

Guys (they are usually guys…) who own the jets they fly, as many do, or at least fly on, may be  different than most of us, but in many ways, are not so different. It’s that thing about putting your pants on one leg at a time.

I know a guy in Casey, Illinois (about 30 minutes west of my hometown in Indiana) who owns a manufacturing business with a few locations around the country, so, for many reasons, he chooses to own a jet. It’s a Lear 25-something-or-other (I can’t remember exactly now, it’s been too many years) that he keeps in Bloomington, up-state. First, he can afford it. Second, it’s a practical matter for him.

Lear25B_rev1

Who wouldathunk, right there in Casey, of all places, where my aunt Mildred was nurse at the high school for 50 gazillion years. Well, you gotta be from somewhere, and you gotta live somewhere. Might as well be there. I appreciate that he chooses to remain living in his hometown (something I have not done).

I know another guy, I’ll call him “Viktor.” He is a Russian art collector (ancient religious iconography is one of his keenest interests), investor, and philanthropist. He lives in a few places, to include London. So, he also has a jet – A Gulfstream V, if I recall correctly. Huge, expensive, beautiful, yaduh, yaduh, yaduh.

He (and quite a few others) reminds me that immense personal wealth is (or at least can be) a very good thing.

Statistics demonstrate that such people, their trusts and foundations, their direct personal giving and so on contribute with enormous impact. Viktor does. By-and-large, it seems to be their nature. While they can certainly live the way they want (which is by the way, what most people aspire to achieve), they tend to be the financial drivers of positive change in most communities, and they do it freely. I am surely glad for what they are able to do and choose to do.

Viktor once called me to continue working on arrangments for a ’round the world trip.

It was to be partly with his wife and the plan was to mix business and pleasure: Donations and lending of art to various galleries and other philanthropic engagements and some sightseeing, some aircraft business and so on.

It would start in London and on to the heart of Europe then east to Moscow, down to the Persian Gulf, back to several cities in Africa (charitable foundation and art world stuff there), then Brazil, then Dallas or Savannah (again foggy memory) for some extended refresher training in a G5 simulator and an A&P course (Airframe and Powerplant mechanic certification stuff), then New York and finally home to London.

Gulfstream_Aerospace_G-V-SP_Gulfstream_G550_MEL_Vabre

Partly with his wife because he did not want to put her through the solo time while he was getting trained and recertified. That would be sorta like asking your wife to stand in the back yard and watch while you try to assemble then try to use a new weed-whacker. She’s got better stuff to do.

So when he called, he was in Africa – for pure personal fun this time.

He was on safari somewhere, but he was feeling nervous about getting prepared for the Big Trip. So he briefly interrupted his adventure to call and confirm a few details with me. In his thick but (like the British) very intelligent-sounding English, sort of yelling because he didn’t trust his cellphone, he said, “Michael, I am sitting in a jeep looking at an elephant!”

I swear, I pictured nutty old uncle Ernest Hemingway, phone in one hand, Winchester .458 in the other, multitasking with life itself, oblivious to what could happen next – to himself or anyone near him – and having a good time doing it. If I had heard a huge KaBoom! right then and there and a bunch of panicked yelling I wouldn’t have been a bit surprised.

I liked his Russian English, but he was often frustrated by it. Many times he put his very proper English wife on the phone with me to sort out what he really wanted to say. She replaced his heavily accented and numerous “I’m sorry Michael”‘s with that intoxicating and wonderfully flowing Queen’s English. I truly didn’t care what the words actually were; they could have been made up for all I cared. I just listened in a sort of trance. At that point it was just 8-year-old me lying in bed and Mary Poppins singing something about about tuppens and cough syrup, lulling me to baby-sleep. I could have had her translate Viktor for me for the rest of my life and been pretty happy about it.

Anyway, during that global trip, he ended up calling me from Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix. He was in the midst of his wealthy, luxuriant frustration, agonizing over a very expensive broken gadget-thingy, and needing another trip kit because now his jaunt was going to be extended by a week or so… IF he could get the very expensive gadget-thingy fixed. He would say his immense wealth was rapidly depleting with his questionable decision to some wear some of his multiple hats.

I asked a simple but rotten question: “How is it?”

His response was pretty down-to-earth and relatable.

“Michael, I am the mechanic, the pilot, the janitor, the caterer, the electronics technician, and sadly, the owner.”

I guess crap feels the same for everyone, regardless of where it comes from.

– – –

That “Faruq” was in need of a Jeppesen Trip Kit was in itself somewhat odd in that virtually every business jet on the planet that regularly flies internationally – which this one did – requires Jeppesen procedures, whether paper or electronic, and Jeppesen electronic NavData for their on-board navigation systems.

Jeppesen is (or at least was at that time) the only producer of such information and electronic data on a worldwide scale. (Other businesses, such as SwissAir, and some governments produce regional information for internal consumption, but nothing on the scale of Jepp). If someone is to fly globally, they have to use Jeppesen.

My memory of all the fine details of this event is not as clear as it was ten years ago; I think my conclusion must have been that this was a newly acquired aircraft and perhaps flying “home” so did not yet require any subscriptions. A trip kit would suffice. So our conversations continued. We spoke regularly – two to three times each week. Eventually, what became the most outstanding aspect of those conversations was the thing that led to a standstill: money.

Normally – routinely – Jepp takes this type call all day long, every day. These people pay right now. If they can afford this aircraft, or if their company deems it necessary to have it, they can pay, and they do. The people who fly on a company aircraft from Seattle to a meeting in Minneapolis or from Teterboro to London, or the guy who flies a family-owned G-4 to the Kamchatka Peninsula to go salmon fishing, or the small but very hard-working, very successful factory owner – say, a foundry or electronic components, or wiring harnesses, or industrial hydraulic pumps – and he’s the guy from Casey.

He owns his Lear because it’s what’s needed and not because it’s fun – and flies from Bloomington to Columbus to Little Rock to Dayton and back home all in two days – they all have established themselves and their businesses financially enough to pay for their flying.

– – –

But not my guy, Faruq.

What first stood out about him was how exceptionally polite and articulate he was. Not that he got the Queen’s English exactly right. Lord knows that we Hoosiers (or maybe just we Hoosiers south of I-70) rarely do that. He had his grammatical foibles, but he handled his english a lot better than I would have handled my Arabic.

It was his presentation that stood out more than anything. And it developed into an upward spiral. The more polite and appreciative he was, the more I enjoyed speaking with him and helping, then, in return, the more pleasant he continued to be. And so it went. But somewhere after our second or third conversation, the calls began to end with projections and anticipations of when and precisely how payment would be wired or a company credit card would be provided.

The plans were clearly stalling for want of “show me the money.”

– – –

By early September the calls were coming almost daily.

He became very apologetic and began searching me for alternative ways to get the materials shipped on time; he had a hard deadline he had to meet. He would say, “We’ve got to go by . . .” or “The boss needs to depart no later than . . ” and he became more and more animated in his expressions over the phone, making it clear this was extremely important and he was becoming desperate, caught in the middle.

But invariably we would end up rehashing the fact that I could not ship anything without full payment. It had arrived at a place that was entirely uncharacteristic of business jet operators.

It was then that again he would apologize profusely and assure me he was doing everything he could to arrange payment but it was difficult. It was clear to me that moving payment from “Saudi to here” would continue to be fraught with snags. For whatever reasons, a credit card couldn’t do it. Cash converted to a cashier’s check couldn’t either. Neither could a wire. So the order never went.

– – –

Our last phone conversation was sometime during the week of September 3-7; I do not recall exactly which day. Faruq expressed the slightest bit of hope that a wire transfer could be made, but he also spoke with what stood out to me as an undertone of resignation, as if he knew the trip he needed to take so badly – or the trip he was under such pressure to complete – would not take place. He was friendly and polite all the while. He thanked me and I thanked him and wished him the best.

Over the weekend, as he occurred to me only as an after-thought, I expected to hear from him Monday, September 10th, but didn’t.

Then of course, it was Tuesday.

– – –

Next week: Part V – Gone and Forever

Logo-Boeing-Company

– – –

Jeppesen “plate” image credit Jeppesen and courtesy The Professional Pilots Rumour Network

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CO F-16 2002

In those weeks following the September 11th attacks, it was only the serious, angry sounds of fighters, F-16s from Buckley Air Force Base, screaming straight west over our house, flying CAP – Combat Air Patrols; practicing to attack something with a vengeance; they would quickly reign death on anything that would even think about making a malevolent move on Denver.

colorado front range

Ironically, and in a twist that would churn up yet another sad day in our memories, as my wife and I would look west from that window to view the empty sky, so strange, devoid of any airplanes, we were forced to look toward and beyond Columbine High School to take in our view of the mountains. Another place where “it” was no accident.

– – –

We had gone to the school three days after the murderous rampage there in April of 1999.

I think we felt as so many did, compelled in some way to be close to the now sacred site, close to the kids and teacher who were gone now, and to be part of the support for their families and friends left. We walked in the snow up a trail and across the school grounds to see Rachel Scott’s car, a small maroon import, covered with flowers and notes and snow, this place now full of people congregating mostly in stunned silence, and sadness. It was as if it were now frozen in time and place – and it literally was.

Rachel Scott’s car

– – –

Now in the last weeks of September and first week of October 2001 that familiar stillness enveloped everything again. It was only those planes – the fighters – in our skies in the weeks after; a strange yet comforting phenomenon, every other kind of flying being grounded. We were reassured to see them, or at least to hear them.

Many of those F-16 pilots were friends of mine. I had worked at the 120th Fighter Squadron in the first couple years I was in Denver. I had also traveled to Alaska with them and briefed them daily after the shoot-down of Capt Scott O’Grady in Bosnia.

The Serbs had used the Soviet-built SA-6 in an unconventional way, and the result was devastating. Outside the strict bounds of Soviet-era Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) employment doctrine, one system was connected via fiber optic cable to a second SA-6; one operating only as the Shooter, the other providing the Radar for search and track, target acquisition, and fire control. The effect was that the F-16s only “saw” the SA-6 Radar, and did not know of the Shooter several miles away. It nearly proved fatal.

It seemed to be the human drama of O’Grady’s shoot-down – his Falcon was hit just behind the cockpit at the rear of the canopy, and fortunately, as the fuselage disintegrated into two large pieces the cockpit fell away fully intact – that played out so well on television and grabbed everyone. It was this and his subsequent evasion of the hostile forces in the Bosnian forest that were preeminent with the news media and drama-seeking general public.

(Fortunately for O’Grady the ACES-II ejection system worked as advertised. Even from what little remained of his F-16, it fired and he got out.)

But it was the technical and tactical aspects of how the SA-6s were employed that concerned the Redeyes of the 120th, not the human drama. Except that there was a brief flurry accusing O’Grady of ineptitude – one of the pilots had gone to flight school with him and derisively claimed, “The guy didn’t know what he was doing anyway.” As is oft times the case, fighter pilots are ready with jokes and quips to cover and deal with the terrifying underlying truth that they could never escape: “It could have been me.” These kept their interest in my daily Technical Intelligence Briefings and situation updates.

aab

They were not the only ones I had a close connection with. The Racers of the 113th Fighter Squadron in Terre Haute were my home unit, where I first joined.

I retained a keen impression from childhood of the thrill and power of fighter jets when I had gone to air shows with my father in the late 1960s and early ’70s. They were flying F-84s then and later F-100s. I was small when I knew I wanted to be part of it, and as with several of my close friends, joined the Indiana Air National Guard soon after college. And it was with them that I shared my first encounter with the dark, painful side of that life.

AGB and MEC, Mather AFB, CA, 1987

I had gone to flight school – SUNT, or “Sun T” – Specialized Undergraduate Navigator Training – at Mather AFB in California with my close friend, Andy Baer and it was just five years later that he and another squadron mate and friend Ralph Miller were killed in the crash of their F-4E in the Nevada desert while flying intercepts on September 19th, 1990, training for a war in Iraq we were all sure was coming.

– – –

Next week: Part III – Friends

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The following is an excerpt from Indiana-born Nick Popaditch’s book, Once a Marine.

We are grateful to Nick and his publisher, Savas Beatie, LLC for his contribution at AAH.

But far more than that, we are grateful for his service to our country.

– – –

Carnivore

The Cigar Marine

April 8, 2003

Central Baghdad

A wide boulevard with landscaped islands in the middle, lined with nice urban-type mid-rises in surprisingly fine shape. A very attractive and peaceful-seeming city, especially compared to the suburbs we just went through, where looting of government buildings has already broken out—it’s like a combo carnival and open-air Wal-Mart where everything is free.

But here, deep in Baghdad, we don’t see a soul.

I keep thinking of the old Charlton Heston sci-fi flick Omega Man, where the last non-zombie human male on earth speeds up and down the streets of a major metropolis in his car. I’m part of a column comprising two tank platoons and our infantry platoon in three amtracs, but still the silence and sense of isolation closes in. Very eerie.

In the distance, straight up our boulevard, stands an enormous statue that can’t be anybody but Saddam Hussein. His likeness is everywhere, to the point that guys make up funny names for some of the images—in a white suit and hat he’s Fantasy Island Saddam.

Photograph by Alexandra Boulat

The statue, flanked by shorter commemorative columns, stands in a round mini-park within a traffic circle where our boulevard ends. The big open area is nothing but round, but for some reason they call it Firdos Square. The tallest building on the square is the Palestine Hotel, in front of which we see a growing crowd. Westerners one and all, it turns out, most of them media types loaded down with journalistic weaponry. As our tanks pull in, the crowd crosses toward us like iron filings drawn to magnets. We follow the circle and take up positions at points where streets lead away from the square. It turns out to be a perfect set-up for a defensive perimeter. I park my tank next to the Palestine Hotel, orienting down a street that stops at the banks of the Tigris River just a block away.

People now pour out of the hotel, mostly really happy to see us and shooting bazillions of pictures. But then—can you believe it?—the first person to talk to me is a truly repulsive British woman belonging to a small flock of anti-war protestors. They call themselves Human Shields and carry a big banner that reads, “Go Home U.S. Wankers.”

Great, I’m thinking, I get the —holes. The battleaxe, who seems to be trying to bring back the Sixties, stands next to the tank and shouts up abuse like “You f—ing murderer!” while I crack up, which drives her more wild. With the banner in front of my tank, facing away, her group obviously wants international photo and video coverage, heroes in front of heavy armor like in Tiananmen Square. Of course my tank ain’t moving, much less shooting, and nobody buys their bull—-. The reporters totally ignore these clowns.

I lean down and say to my new girlfriend, “This is just grandstanding. If you really want to be a Human Shield, you should go across the river. They’re bombing over there right now. Listen, you can hear it.”

“F— you,” she says.

Great comeback. After a little more total indifference from the press, the group, disheartened, wanders away.

About this time, Capt. Lewis, puffing on a stogie, comes by and asks to use my radios. As he takes the handset he gives me the cigar.

Cigar_Marine

I look at it a few seconds.

Why not?

I take a few puffs. Can’t call myself a connoisseur, but it tastes damn fine to me.

While I am puffing on the captain’s cigar, a French journalist takes a still shot of me. Little do I know it, but my smiling mug, with Saddam’s statue in the background, will run on front pages all over the world. It’s Black Six’s cigar and only a loaner, but I become known as The Cigar Marine.

All the while, Iraqis arrive. At first they come by ones and twos, acting very cautious. After nothing bad happens, word gets out and people pour into the square until we’ve got a happy mob, an anti-Saddam Woodstock. Locals love abusing the statue, gesturing and throwing stuff. Many pitch shoes, which shows particular disrespect because to them the bottom of the foot is lower than low. Every good hit on the statue gets wild cheers.

I give passing thought to the security implications of the mob scene. Could be die-hard Baathists all around, guys checking out our defensive positions and firepower. Who cares? We can take all comers and attack in any direction at battalion strength. And who could deny the people their party? Until the loyalists hauled ass this morning, nobody would have dared to flip off Saddam’s image. A banged-up Portugese reporter shows us video footage taken by a friend. In it one of Hussein’s henchmen clubs the reporter repeatedly with the butt of an AK-47. That happened right here, just yesterday. The guy’s a mess but deliriously happy to see us. The joy and gratitude of the Iraqis beats all, though. People shout out their thanks and try to hand up flowers and other gifts. I can’t help but get caught up in the celebration and what it means, both to them and to me.

Three weeks back, I thought about nothing but defeating the enemy’s military and knocking off their regime. Now that defeat looks like a victory beyond anything I imagined. This is what I fought for. It’s why I put heart and soul into the Marine Corps way back when. A pure, one hundred percent Marine mission, setting people free from a tyrant they couldn’t get rid of on their own. Forty years, they knuckled under to this murderous son of a bitch because they had no choice. Now, with our help, he’s on the run and they’re dancing in the streets, literally, because he will oppress them no more.

The crowd goes especially wild when a big, burly Iraqi whales away at the statue’s pedestal with a sledge hammer. This guy is huge, like a circus strong man, and he attacks the statue’s base so it will fall over. Not such a bad idea if he had a jackhammer, but it’ll take forever with his hand tool.

Kadom al-Jabouri attacks Saddam Hussein's statue 2003

I don’t know who should get credit, but the Marines come to the strong man’s aid. People go beyond wild hearing the V-12 diesel on our M88, our maintenance vehicle, fire up and then seeing its long boom swing up and out in front like an arm. Here’s our statue killer. It’s a miracle nobody gets run over or hurt climbing on the vehicle’s deck while it creeps through the crowd toward the statue.

Now all eyes are on the M88 guys. After the driver, Lance Corporal Riley, positions the machine, a mechanic, Corporal Chin, climbs up to throw a loop around Saddam’s neck and hook it up to the winch cables that run out the boom. Our corpsman, Doc Rose, also rides the M88, the reasoning being that broken tanks will likely have broken Marines on board. He assists Chin. Pictures of Chin and Doc Rose will go out all over the world, great for them because they usually labor in obscurity. After one good pull on a heavy rope loop around Saddam’s neck breaks the rope, the guys rig a towing chain.

Later rehashes by unfriendly press aside, nobody in the square takes the least bit of offense when an American flag goes over Saddam Hussein’s head. The Iraqis cheer like crazy. The flag doesn’t mean we conquered anybody—just “Saddam, you’re through.” Obviously, though, it doesn’t play so well politically, because an order comes down from on high to remove the Stars and Stripes. So an Iraqi flag goes up, and people cheer for that, too. The McDonald’s flag would do the trick, or a giant bedspread. I like both flags fine and dig the image of Saddam with his head covered by cloth and a noose around his neck, like he’s about to be hanged.

The M88 commander, Gunnery Sergeant Lambert, a famously methodical and fastidious individual, makes a major production out of pulling the statue down. He does it by inches, backing up and winching out cable bit by bit, retrograding to where the statue won’t fall on his vehicle. “Come on, Gunny, yank that f—er down already, you’re killing us.” Though we expect the statue to topple over, it does something cooler, buckling and breaking at the shins so two feet still stand. Not only is the guy down, we can see inside his statue. He’s hollow.

My crewmen ask if they can dismount and mingle. Sure guys, you earned it. They come back looking starry-eyed, and then it’s my turn to get down and be amongst the crowd, one happy Moe among many. One man and I actually show each other our kids’ pictures. The more I get to know the locals, the more I see they’re just like me, and the more I want them to have a shot at a life as good as mine. Glad to help, more than glad, and proud.

Inadvertently, I’m a huge help to that Frenchman who took the cigar picture. A couple hours after he took the picture, he finds me in the crowd, shakes my hand and says, “You have made me a lot of money, my friend.” As I understand, his shot got picked up by the Associated Press and made a big hit worldwide.

After some back and forth, I say to him, “Since I did this for you, I want to ask you to do me a favor.”

“It will be my pleasure,” he says.

“I will write down my home phone number. Could you please call it and tell the woman who answers to watch what’s happening here on TV? I want her to see this.”

“Call her yourself, my friend,” he says and flips me a satt phone. After April picks up, I tell her to turn on the news, and she laughs and says she and other wives have been watching together and taping everything, having their own Firdos Square in Twentynine Palms.

“We haven’t missed a thing,” she says, “We’re so proud of our guys.”

Can it get any better than this?

Well, yes, it can. We were married twelve years ago today.

“Happy Anniversary, Beautiful Woman,” I say.

* * *

NickPopaditch

Firdos Square was an incredible moment, as anybody lucky enough to have been there will tell you. I was fortunate to spend a few more weeks mopping up and keeping the peace on the streets of Baghdad. When I think of that city during those times, I think of people I liked, kids, smiling faces, laughs, and happiness. The promise of freedom was pure and real.

However the situation in Iraq comes out, I’m proud that I fought to give those people a shot at a better life.

MJHPhotography

– – –

You can read more about Nick including his biography and those of AAH’s other contributors here.

You may read more about Nick here, too, at Cigar Marine.com.

For you Kindle users, an audio version of Once a Marine is available as well:

OAM Paperback (LR)

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Oops.

It appears the people running the government’s new healthcare website were furloughed yesterday.

. . . . . And somehow Jay Carney thinks signing up for government healthcare is comparable to the MLB play-offs . . . not quite.

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They’re going up all around us . . .

Red Flags

. . . and they mean something – something we should take note of, something that should give us pause.

Here are some Red Flags that tell us there’s a problem.

– – –

1. Everyone’s divided, and it’s right down the middle. Virtually everyone – every group, every sub-group (i.e., US Republicans are split; Dems are split), every country, every individual opinion, falls to either side of the debate (any demonstration on any street has lots of either and any side of the debate; multitudes of opinions as to what to do; whether to punish or further prevent Syria or not. We’re all stuck. The US Congress (even after a classified briefing), parliaments and administrations around the world, the White House, Conservatives and Liberals, pundits and wonks, military leaders.

The Red Flag? There is no consensus. Anywhere, on any level.

– – –

2. President Obama’s Red Lines, indecision and inaction. We should hold our president (and those who aspire to that office) to a higher standard. And all too often some, many, respond that it’s not right to do that. He is human after all, just like the rest of us. But we want, and we should want someone who is not ordinary, but extraordinary. Consider the fact that out of roughly 350 million people, only one person rises to the top of the list as our choice. That by definition is extraordinary.

Barack Obama

And really, admit it: if we wanted just an ordinary person, just a regular guy, you could have me. But you don’t want me. I am a regular, ordinary guy. You want someone is extraordinary. I don’t want me, the ordinary; I want extraordinary.

So if we wanted someone who will do what many of us might do; that is, hesitate, be indecisive, hell . . . I can do that.

But we don’t want that. And we shouldn’t. We expect more; we expect our president to step up and be more.

He says he is confident, but President Obama cannot get himself to step up, whatever the decision, to go or not go; rather he has handed the primary decision-making responsibility for that to someone else (Congress). And even that decision – most are divided on.

. . . And I haven’t even brought up the concern over plan and strategy. Well, that is a military matter. Leave it to the experts. It is not something that should be publicly discussed. To purposefully compromise military advantage is insanity. It exposes ineptitude. Oh, never mind. That’s already happened anyway.

The Red Flag? President Obama’s indecisiveness and inaction.

– – –

3. Neighbors are not stepping up. Where is the Arab League? Governments in closer physical proximity to Syria are hesitant; some are nearly silent; some are vocal. But none, and in particular Syria’s immediate neighbors, have said they would step up and handle it “internally”, that is, within the region, say, the Arab League, for example.

The Red Flag? No Arab League. If it’s not important enough to them to step up, then perhaps we shouldn’t, either.

Photo credit Yossi Zamir-Flash90

– – –

4. Israel assumes we’ll take care of it, and expects us to, like it’s our responsibility. President Shimon Peres confidently states he believes the US will in fact attack Syria. Why doesn’t he hold such an apparent, automatic expectation of say, France, or Italy, or Greece, or the UK, or Germany? Why the US? We are, after all, rather removed, physically, relatively speaking, from the region. In contrast to the long list of other countries, why is it the US’ thing to do? Well, we know why.

We are certainly aware of the sensitivity of the fundamental issues between the Jewish State and . . . well, everyone else in the Middle East, and the history and everything else that goes into it. But there are many other possibilities. In my mind, they begin with the Arab league (so-called) and others in the immediate region.

The Red Flag? It’s too easy to expect someone else to take on another’s responsibility.

– – –

5. Russia and China apparently don’t see it. At least they don’t see it the way half the world sees it. Only issuing warning that intervention should not take place is not a solution. It’s not even helpful. Can they not find a way to be actively helpful? When there is joint Russian-Chinese involvement and a solution proposed, we’ll know how important it really is.

The Red Flag? There is no Russian or Chinese leadership
(not that the world has ever been able to count on it) and specifically, no joint Russian-Chinese inspection team on-site.

– – –

6. Timing and Timeline. Is this urgent or not? Two-year’s worth, watching and bloviating from afar. How is it so important now? After all, it seems that 1,400 people killed in a few days is nothing compared to 100,000 over two years, regardless of how they occurred.

As for the US view of the civil war in Syria, apparently as far as the President has been concerned, watching the body count steadily, rapidly rise to 100,000 (by way of mostly conventional means) is not nearly as concerning and immediate as 1% of that total number added via chemical weapons. Apparently some deaths are more equal than others.

Imagine the possibilities if the US or a broad coalition, to include all the regional players had come together in the beginning. Was there any chance at all the death toll could have been much lower? Even a chance?

And recall Obama’s Red Line declaration a year ago, so confident and strong; so forceful and inspiring and humanitarian-like, in those critical months, then weeks, then days leading up to the election. Among all the other miraculous qualities we attributed to him was also his ability to save the world from despotism. Except in this case. And we were convinced. The only thing he saved was his presidency. His Red Lines have turned out to be dotted lines.

The Red Flag? If it’s not so important to respond to the deaths of 100,000, then perhaps 1,400 is no big deal.

AP photo - 130821_angela_merkel_ap_605

– – –

7. Germany: the true Leader from Behind. Angela Merkel stated that action should be taken but that her country will not participate. Before her comments on Sunday, her Foreign Minister had already made it clear: they’re not discussing it and they’ve not been asked. Maybe we should ask them. Or maybe we should handle our foreign policy that way: we only act if we’re asked. Looks like that’s where the Israeli Rule applies: Yes it’s important enough that someone else ought to take care of it.

The Red Flag? If it’s not important enough for Germany, then perhaps it’s not important enough for us . . . or anyone else.

– – –

8. The Final Red Flag: It harkens back to the Gulf War of 1991, the campaign to evict Iraq from Kuwait. An overwhelming military coalition massed against the atrocities of Saddam Hussein and his regime’s terror.

The Telegraph - UK - syria_2129826b

Israel was not involved in any way, shape, or form. But that did not stop Hussein from exposing further and reconfirming to the world his illegitimacy by attacking a country that was not involved. On our firm and reassuring urging, Israel chose restraint and let us handle it. They certainly didn’t have to. But they understood the broader implications and trusted a friend. Such is the case here.

The Syrian government of course, has no legitimate reason to threaten or attack Israel (let alone their own people with chemical weapons). But the fact that they have speaks to a broader, deeper problem. At the very least it further delegitimizes Bashar al Assad. The time for the world to respond to another call for rescue in the Middle East has long passed.

Still, the rest of the world, our president and government included, is hesitant and in disagreement. It may seem these Red Flags contradict each other with respect to what ought to do be done by whom, if at all, and where does responsibility lie. Not so. It all speaks to the profound complexity of the matter.

The Final Red Flag? Syria’s threat to attack Israel.

AP-acquired photo

– – –

Ultimately there is really just a single Red Flag that stands squarely on Syria’s soil. It proclaims something must be done, and it is the blood of 100,000 Syrians that stains it red.

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We hear Elbert Guillory as a rare voice in the wilderness.

Maybe not the Indiana wilderness, but a much greater one. The wilderness of present-day American politics.

Elbert-Guillory - Frontiers of Freedom photo

His is also a clear and challenging voice; bucking the status quo and convention. We like that.

– – –

We’re concentrating on Key Words – those that represent the way these extraordinary individuals think and conduct themselves.

– – –

Yea, we know; he’s not . . . it’s not . . . Indiana anything, but we love this guy.

Guillory Key Words:

“Freedom . . .

. . .is the idea that the economy must remain free of government persuasion . . .”

“It’s the idea that that the press must operate without government intrusion . . .”

“It’s the idea that [American’s personal communications] should remain free from government search and seizure . . .”

“It’s the idea that parents must be the decision-makers in regards to their children’s education . . .”

“It is the idea that the individual must be free to pursue his or her own happiness, free from government dependence, and free from government control, because to be truly free is to be reliant on no one other than the author of our destiny.”

– – –

Although he remains in the Louisiana state legislature, we hope to see him run for Congress, and then . . .!

Check out his video, making the Youtube rounds like wildfire, Why I Am a Republican.

. . . and his new Political Action Committee, Free at Last. . .

. . .and his website, here.

Senator Guillory is elected to September’s Top Five. Guillory for President. Boom. Done.

– – –

BONUS and Postscript:

It is interesting to note that Sen. Guillory identifies Rev Martin Luther King, Jr as a Republican. There are differing (some slightly, some starkly) accounts of this “fact”, so it is a good study, worth exploring.

Here are a few sources we can provide to support your heated but fair discussions with family and friends:

Why Martin Luther King Was Republican, 2006, Human Events by Frances Rice, Chair, National Black Republican Association

Frances%20Rice(1)

Snopes has their answer, too – here.

Billboard Claiming Martin Luther King Was Republican Angers Black Activists in Houston, 2009, FoxNews.com, by Joseph Abrams

WikiAnswers.com has their answer, too – read here.

The religion and political views of Martin Luther King, Jr. , The Hollowverse.com

Martin Luther King Jr. Republican Billboard Courts Controversy in Texas As Election Looms, 2012, Huffington Post Black Voices, by Meredith Bennett-Smith

071409_mlkbillboard

– – –

Each of the individuals in this month’s Top Five is a person who acts on their inspiration and in turn is an inspiration to others. You can select this link to see who the others are in the AAH September Top Five list: http://wp.me/pwfad-13O

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Fox News spent all week, virtually all day every day reporting on Benghazi. By contrast, CNN’s attention to it this week is virtually immeasurable.

pic_giant_050813_Benghazi-Eight-Months-Later

Why is that?

– – –

It’s Friday and so now it is safe to say that CNN has placed absolutely no import on Benghazi, whether the hearings on Capitol Hill on Wednesday and Thursday, or any other discussion all week. As we have monitored the present Big Two: Fox News and CNN, we have observed nothing from CNN throughout the week. By incredibly stark contrast, Fox has kept it front and center daily; most notably their exclusive broadcast of the Capitol Hill hearings of Wednesday and Thursday.

Of course, we know the murder case in Arizona really is more… well…everything, and that is clearly why CNN has focused on it almost exclusively throughout 09 and 10 May. No question: supporters of either forum would say it is typical and predictable.

This week Rush Limbaugh had some pretty ugly commentary as to why most of the media doesn’t care. Ugly, but he made a solid point: sex is what sells. By comparison to so many other issues in the news today, Benghazi is not sexy. Fox promotes their news coverage as “Fair and Balanced”. If they have been unfair and out of balance covering Benghazi so intensively, then what of CNN?

AP Photo/Cliff Owen

Oh, sorry. CNN did devote other non-Jodi Arias time to the Michael Jackson death case resurgence. Fox covered that too, but much less so. Negligence, in a word. And slackers, too.

But viewed in a serious perspective – and in all seriousness – CNN appears to believe Benghazi is not worthy of serious treatment, having neglected even a one-minute update – any minute – during any prime viewing hour any day this week. It did not happen, as best we can find. It is a stunning and alarming journalistic violation. This was Charles Krauthammer’s accusation last October. Scandalous is just the right word.

Turns out CNN did cover it – off-prime and only briefly, once, maybe twice this week. Off-prime, and other major media outlets such as CBS and ABC gave Benghazi plus-or-minus four minutes or so each occasionally over the course of the week.

Hillary Rodham Clinton - photo AP-Pablo Martinez Monsivais

So an interesting and revealing phenomenon has occurred: One cannot report on lack of journalistic integrity – as any and all of the national outlets ought to subscribe to doing as part of their charter to serve the public good – when one is, by the sin of omission, the very one who has violated the rule of integrity. Seems that this is telling, the declarations we can make by our silence.

We’ve got one word for you: It’s ugly and it’s going to get uglier.

So that’s the question: Why?

– – –

Internet and/or print references in support of these observations:

The Christian Science Monitor, Hicks testimony, 08 May, 2013

The Media Research Center, 09 May 2013

National Review Online, Ted Cruz, eight months later, 08 May 2013

WBUR-Boston, Clinton testimony, 23 Jan 2013

Mediaite, Limbaugh, media don’t care, 09 May 2013

FoxNews Insider, Megyn Kelly, 09 May 2013

FoxNews Insider, story ranks third, 10 May 2013

Business Insider.com, Jon Stewart criticism of FoxNews, 08 May 2013

New York Times, editorial, 09 May 2013

FoxNews Insider, O’Reilly responds to Stewart, 10 May 2013

Red Alert Politics.com, US Rep Stockman criticism, 09 May 2013

The Daily Caller, Krauthammer criticism, 25 Oct 2012

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