Afghanistan: A New Definition of Victory

We can never win a war in Afghanistan. Not in the sense of V-E Day or JAPAN SURRENDERS!

Can you imagine a headline: RADICAL ISLAMICISTS SURRENDER?

No way!

Instead, they just produce more suicide fighters and dispatch them off to kill “infidels.”

So, we cannot—and will not—win in the traditional sense.

But we can accomplish our original reason for invading Afghanistan back on October 8th, 2001: prevent another 9/11 attack.

This should be our sole goal from now on. To prevent another 9/11 does not mean to re-build a nation that does not want us there, or to build a centralized government that they do not want. This whole COIN (counter-insurgency) style of fighting a war is a total sham. Not killing people while we throw billions of dollars at them is a fruitless endeavor.

Instead we need to do just enough to prevent Afghanistan from being used—again—as a training ground for future massive attacks on the US and our allies.

Disruption is a much easier goal than occupation and nation-building.

President Obama has made this war his war by doubling the troop contingent and massively spending to double the size of our three already-enormous bases there. Clearly there is a larger strategy at work: these three bases are meant to be permanent American hubs from which to project American military force throughout the region into Iran and Syria and anywhere else we so choose. The problem is that the American people have not been told of this plan—nor have they voted for it.

General Petreus’ ascension to be the Allied Commander in Afghanistan (actually a demotion of sorts for him which he accepted to save the mission) will only deepen American involvement in Afghanistan. Why? Because in one year—the summer of 2011–when Obama and Biden have said they want to start removing the recently surged US troops–if Petreus asks for more troops, which he did in Iraq and which the Pentagon has already indicated, then who will deny him? Who will dare oppose our only heroic general? Just look at the out-poring if support for his appointment on both sides of the aisle.

Conclusion: we are in an ill-chosen fight against an un-defined enemy (Taliban or Al-Qaeda, Afghans or Pakistanis?) with an un-focused Commander-in-Chief following an un-clear objective using a certain-to-fail strategy.

And that is a prescription for a disaster.

How the Media Has Ignored the Truth About Our POW's Still Being Held Alive Against Their Will

(I was asked to write the following article for the current edition of THE AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE. It is a companion piece to a series of articles about the POW issue. It is recommended that you either buy the magazine or read it online as this series of POW articles reveals how evil all the governments involved are.)

The POW issue was born during the Watergate scandal. Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger knew Hanoi was secretly keeping American prisoners, but in the spring of 1973, they were in no position to get a Democratic Congress to pay ransom to North Vietnam.

Watergate was exposed because two Washington Post reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, defied the unspoken agreement between media and government that remains in effect—in exchange for protecting government secrets, the press gets privileged access to official sources. That tacit pact is the single biggest reason the POW puzzle has never been solved.

My own experience provides a vivid—and exasperating—example of this incestuous relationship between the press and the powerful.

In October 1985, Rowland Evans and Robert Novak held their semi-annual Evans & Novak Political Forum in Washington, D.C. for their newsletter subscribers. Each of us—I had been a subscriber since 1974—paid $450 for a full day of talks from “D.C. political insiders.” The line-up featured Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, White House Chief of Staff Don Regan, New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, and President Reagan’s national security adviser, Robert McFarlane.

After the morning introduction, I walked up to Novak and asked him, “Is what is said in here today on the record?”

He smiled, shrugged his shoulders, and said, “You paid to attend this conference, and you are not a member of the media, so those press rules do not apply to you.”

I returned to my seat at a long table where I had a cassette tape recorder clearly visible on top of the white tablecloth. When McFarlane began talking, I turned on the recorder. In the Q&A period afterward, I asked McFarlane—a retired Marine who had been on Kissinger’s staff during the Nixon administration and had been secretly dispatched to negotiate with Hanoi for the remaining 600 POWs—“Do you believe there are still U.S. POWs held against their will in Vietnam and Laos?”

McFarlane took a long time before he began his answer: “I do think there has to be—have to be—live Americans there.” He paused. The room grew silent as we watched this clearly conflicted man struggle to continue. We knew we were hearing a rare unscripted answer. He began talking about the thousands of live sighting reports coming into the Pentagon and Defense Intelligence Agency from Vietnam and Laos. Of those Southeast Asians who claimed to have seen American POWs, McFarlane said, “They have no reason to lie, and they are telling things they have seen.”

A follow-up question centered on whether the U.S. government had done everything it could to pinpoint and recover these POWs. Admitting that it had not, he said, “And that’s bad, and that’s a failure.”

I gave the tape to Wall Street Journal reporter Bill Paul, who was based in New York. He listened to it and knew he had a big story in his hands. He called National Security Council spokeswoman Karna Small, who had attended McFarlane’s talk. She denied that McFarlane ever said the words we had heard from him that very day. Paul said, “But the Journal has a transcript.” Her reply: “The transcript is wrong.”

At that point Paul knew his story was even bigger—he had McFarlane’s spokeswoman lying about her boss’s answers just hours earlier. So he called her back and said, “The transcript is not wrong. In fact, we have it all on tape.”


She said, “I have to get back to you.”

Minutes later the Wall Street Journal’s D.C. bureau chief, Al Hunt, called Paul and took over the editing of the story. Meanwhile, Evans and Novak tracked me down and accused me of violating protocol by exposing “off-the-record remarks by McFarlane.” They had suddenly forgotten that I specifically asked Novak whether the session was on or off the record.

In other words, the media—Al Hunt and Rowland Evans and Robert Novak—banded together to protect McFarlane and their access to him at the expense of a dynamite story. A watered-down version eventually ran and garnered some national attention, but never the continual front-page coverage it deserved.

A few months later, at a private meeting of the House Special Task Force on POWs/MIAs, I delivered a talk about a recent report of POWs being held at a specific location in Laos. Rep. John McCain was sitting in the front row of the tiered hearing room. Until that day, he and I had always had a cordial relationship. But upon seeing me, he sneered and asked if I was “secretly taping this meeting, too?”

McCain should have been incensed that the national security adviser knew that U.S. POWs were still being held and that the press was suppressing the story. Instead he was furious at me for daring to reveal McFarlane’s statements.

The Vietnam War was brought to an end in large part by a healthy, skeptical, adversarial relationship between the media and government. Reporters’ suspicions that they were being deceived by military briefers every afternoon in Saigon at the Five O’Clock Follies were the precursor to serious critical coverage of the war. Yet somehow this skeptical media has always believed the very same Pentagon when it comes to POWs.

The incident from 1985 is but one example of many. In my 30 years fighting for the truth about the POWs knowingly abandoned by the Nixon administration, I have repeatedly witnessed an eager partnership between the officials who make national policy and the media that is supposed to cover them—not to cover-up for them.

John LeBoutillier (R-N.Y.) was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1981-1983, where he served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Special House Task Force on U.S. POWs in SE Asia. He is the author of Vietnam Now: A Case for Normalizing Relations with Hanoi.

The Trouble with Obama's Skin

Ever since Barack Obama burst onto the national political scene in 2004, the conventional wisdom has been to rave about and focus on the color of his skin.

But the real issue is the thinness of Obama’s skin.

He is the most sensitive, thin-skinned President–ever–and it is now shaping his leadership decisions.

He hates criticism, rails against those who dare critique him, and thus goes into this “blame Bush, the Republicans and anyone else but me” syndrome.

This is un-Presidential–and it is hurting him, even among his supporters.

Politics “ain’t beanbag” and you have to have a thick skin to survive. That is not to say you ever have to like the criticism; you don’t ever like it. But you cannot show your critics that their criticism is getting to you. President Obama often invoked the “transitional” presidency of Ronald Reagan during his own 2008 campaign. Mr. Obama was and is right to use Reagan as an example on many levels. Coming off LBJ and Vietnam, followed by Nixon and Watergate and the growth of the Imperial Presidency and then the failed presidency of Jimmy Carter, the office of the President of the United States was itself under assault when Dutch Reagan arrived in the Oval Office on the afternoon of January 20, 1981.

The White House Press Corps, led by the hype-aggressive, always-shouting Sam Donaldson, was in the habit of swallowing and then gleefully spitting out presidents. They loved tearing presidencies down. Reporters became millionaires if they could bring a president down, i.e. Woodward and Bernstein.

But Ronald Reagan was old, had been in the public eye for five decades and knew how to handle criticism. He just chuckled and said, “Gee, Sam, you don’t really believe that, do you?” All done with a twinkle in his eye and a gentle smile–and performed in a way to disarm the critic.

No Nixonian anger or pledge to “get” the critic. No promise of retribution. And no blame, either. Instead, a healthy dose of self-deprecating humor.

Obama should watch some video tapes of President Reagan (what a shame we have a President who has to learn so much on the job as he was clearly not ready for prime time when the Left picked him.) But in order for him to survive for the next 2 ½ years, he needs to toughen up and learn how to be President. And Lesson Number One is to grow a new, tougher, less-sensitive skin.

John Podhoretz Dumps on the Boot

Yesterday, COMMENTARY editor John Podhoretz wrote a column which appeared in the NEW YORK POST. His thrust was that in big “change” elections—1980, 1994 and this year—some “weirdos” who are unfit to hold public office are inadvertently swept into office.

He listed a few examples and then he wrote this: “In the House, there was John LeBoutillier, who was Glenn Beck before Glenn Beck even existed—the author of an incendiary book called ‘Harvard Hates America’ who spent his two years in Congress calling Democratic House Speaker Tip O‘Neill fat and declaring that a Republican senator from Illinois named Chuck Percy was "a living disaster with no redeeming features.”

Mr. Podhoretz had a column to write, had a pre-ordained theory to prove and thus took me and shoe-horned me into that theory—regardless of facts or the truth.

In fact, the most “incendiary” thing about my first book, HARVARD HATES AMERICA, was the title.

Secondly, I did not spend my time in Congress calling Tip O‘Neill “fat.” What I did say was. “Tip O‘Neill and the federal budget are both the same: big, fat and out-of-control.”

Who today would not agree with that characterization of decades of federal spending? Is that not the genesis of most of the Tea Party Movement?

As for my criticisms of then-Illinois Senator Charles Percy, I was the first one out-of-the-box to go after him for his desire to recognize the PLO and Yasser Arafat while the PLO was happily slaughtering Israelis.

And do you know what? I haven't changed any of the above beliefs one bit in the intervening 30 years.

Harvard still hates mainstream, middle-class America. The Federal Government is way, way too fat—under both Republicans and Democrats. And anyone who is afraid to stand up to radical murdering Palestinian extremists is indeed a disgrace.

G.O.D. and Obama’s Rapid Deterioration

President Barack Obama–and his Presidency–are disappearing right in front of our eyes.

The Gulf Oil Disaster (Hey, the acronym for that would be G.O.D.–and it’s almost as if God created this oil leak to show how mistaken the nation was to elect a man so unprepared to be president)–combined with his ham-handed way of dismissing the majority public opinion on Health Care, immigration and the economy have taken this once Golden Child and reduced him to a polarizing incompetent scrambling to defend himself.

The Matt Lauer TODAY SHOW interview is yet the latest example of Obama trying to be someone he is not. The kicking “ass” statement was so contrived and scripted as to be laughable. Here was No Drama Obama under fire for being his usual too-passive self. And he is so thin-skinned that he reacts to this criticism by pretending to be Clint Eastwood! Talk about no knowing yourself.

This comes after two trips to the Gulf and a self-centered press conference in which the President tried to convince the country that he cares about the G.O.D.. Well, the best way to convince us is not by telling us you care but by doing things which prove it - such as treating this like a deadly amphibious invasion and marshalling all our military and Coast Guard assets to repel the invaders. (The leak is up to BP to stop; but the USG can take over the clean-up–with BP paying for ALL of it –because we have enormous military manpower and ships and equipment which ought to be mobilized.)

Obama should move himself and his White House high command down to the Gulf for the summer–until this thing in under control.

In the meantime, the ongoing American Political Revolution is continuing. Tuesday’s primaries–with the exception of Blanche Lincoln’s surprising survival in Arkansas – show that the electorate wants to throw out Establishment figures. The people are not dumb; they know the political establishment of both parties has almost bankrupted our nation. So, if you’ve been around a while, you’re automatically in Big Trouble.

This is a wonderful development.

I have been on this kick for 30 years. When I was a Congressman I saw it up close and personally: the leadership class of our country is corrupt. Period. Politics, media, business, academia. All of it has been infected with corruption, greed, selfishness, P.C.-ism and lack of good character.

The new American Revolution is aimed at that corruption.

Let us all hope it succeeds. And let us all help it succeed.

Imus' Producer Comments on LeBoutillier

Here is Julie Kanfer's take on this AM's appearance on Imus in the Morning:

John LeBoutillier is No Longer a Congressman, Which is Probably Why We Like Him So Much

Former United States Congressman John LeBoutillier assured Imus that New York Republicans were not kidding yesterday when they nominated Rick Lazio to run for Governor against the Democrat, and current Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo.

“All Republicans know, unfortunately, that he is not going to win,” said LeBoutillier, himself a Republican. “The Tea Party fervor that’s sweeping the country hasn’t caught hold, I don’t think, here in New York.”

Engaging in some Imus-approved name-calling, LeBoutillier called Lazio, who ran for U.S. Senate in 2000 against Hillary Clinton, “a has-been,” and assured his defeat by the “arrogant,” “cocky” Cuomo.

In the I-Man’s view, the only way to describe Cuomo was to say that he “doesn’t seem like his dad,” former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, who Imus liked a lot. “I think I still like him,” Imus said, and hoped the elder Cuomo was still alive. (He is.)

When prosecutors like Cuomo run for office, LeBoutillier gets nervous. “You wonder if they aren’t getting headlines to help their campaigns, and in the process mowing over innocent people,” he said, pointing out that Rudy Giuliani often engaged in that sort of behavior when he was a U.S. Attorney. “He indicted a lot of people, got headlines, had big arrests, dragged them out of their houses, and then the charges were dropped.”

He was critical of Obama’s “aloof” and “distant” reaction to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but took a tougher stance on overall energy policy in this country. “We need oil,” he said. “Either we buy it from the Saudis, the Nigerians, the Venezuelans, or the Russians, all of which are not friends of the United States, and we put our money in their products. Or, we produce more oil here at home.”

But producing more oil at home is difficult, because the environmental lobby forbids drilling for oil off the shores of New Jersey, Florida, California, or Alaska. “Instead, companies are forced to do this most risky and difficult deep-sea drilling,” said LeBoutillier, adding, “And now we’re seeing the downside of these risks.”

Obama, he thinks, should bring the entire fleet of the U.S. Navy down to the Gulf of Mexico, and live on a naval ship while commanding the clean up operation, “It’s the United States versus the oil slick, to prevent it from reaching the shore of five states down there,” said LeBoutillier.

When Imus commented that Israel’s raid of ships carrying humanitarian aid to Hamas-controlled Gaza seemed “poorly-planned,” LeBoutillier highlighted the quiet but definite softening of the Israeli military over the last 20 years.

“We saw it three years ago, when rocket-launching started from Southern Lebanon by Hezbollah, and the Israeli military’s response was very poor,” he said. On top of that, a recent investigation found that weapons caches around the country were old and rotting, leading LeBoutillier to conclude that while Israel has prospered economically in the last two decades, they’ve diminished militarily.

Now, a little LeBoutillier trivia: What world leader was a high school classmate of Reggie Jackson?

Hint: He and the I-Man are “very close.”

-Julie Kanfer

John LeBoutillier on Imus 6:30 AM Tomorrow

John LeBoutillier will be on “Imus in the Morning” Thursday—tomorrow—at 6:30 AM Eastern. Please listen and/or watch.