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Archive for the ‘September 11th’ Category

Today is September 11th.  9/11 still bring a lot of raw emotions even after 17 years.  As I mentioned over the years on this blog I felt 9/11 has changed my adult years.

Here’s a video that Ray Comfort’s ministry Living Waters made on a survivor of 9/11 and how she came to God

I hope if you don’t know Jesus as Savior you repent and trust in Christ.

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Even after 15 years it is emotional seeing video clips of that day on 9/11.

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objective-troy-a-terrorist-a-president-and-the-rise-of-the-drone

Scott Shane. Objective Troy: A Terrorist, a President, and the Rise of the Drone.  New York, New York: Tim Duggan Books, September 15th, 2015. 416 pp.

This book tells the story of radical Islamists imam Anwar al-Awlaki and the US government war against him in the backdrop of the larger issue of President Obama’s war on terror using drones for targeted killing of Al Qaeda members.  The author Scott Shane is a New York Times reporter who specializes in issues of national security.  Shane does a masterful job in his research for this book and his work really shows.  I don’t think there’s any other book length treatment that is as detailed concerning al-Awlaki like this book thus far.  Other than passing news headlines most American don’t really know about al-Awlaki and the shadowy war the US pursued against him.  The subject of this book is already interesting enough to be picked up and read.

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Counterstrike by Eric Schmitt Thom Shanker

 

Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker. Counterstrike.  New York, NY: Times Books, 2011. 336 pp.

Radical Islam isn’t going away anytime soon so this book definitely has its place.  This is the story of the United States’ effort in Counter-Terrorism following September 11th.  It is the incredible story of how various parts of the Government matured in their fight against Al Qaeda.  The book focuses not only the frontline agencies against terrorism such as the State Department, the CIA, the FBI and the military but also certain key individuals that have shaped the policies in their respective agencies.  We read in the book the story of the early days after September 11th in which the government was struggling to know who their enemy was.  The book does not cover up the embarrassing extent of the ignorance of various officials in the government concerning Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden.  But as the government kept moving forward in its war against Al Qaeda we find that certain men eventually shaped institutional changes to their agency in order to adapt to the stateless terrorist threat of Al Qaeda.  For example, the book talks about how the intelligence community at first collected everything as potential data but this led to an ineffective process of sorting out and producing good intelligence analysis.  Soon “intelligence triage” was developed in order to better handle incoming potential intelligence data along with directing it at the right analysts.  The academic world also had a place in the war on terror in which the intelligence community wisely saw that the academic world can better analyze certain data especially those that weren’t urgent actionable intelligence; this led to the founding of the Combating Terrorism Center based at West Point.

I appreciated how the authors described various elements of the government starting to work together in order to defeat Al Qaeda.  This was dramatically different compared to the pre-9/11 world where government agencies’ jealousy meant an agency become territorial with what they were willing to share and do.  Before 9/11 communications between the FBI and CIA faced many difficulties; the FBI’s computer network system was out of date and incompatible with the other government agencies.  That would eventually change.  We also read in the book of how the military and the intelligence community grew to become better reliant with each other.  The military improved their ways of gathering information and intelligence and also improved on how this was shared to the intelligence community.  In turn the intelligence community enhanced their evaluation and analysis in order to hand over to the military “actionable intelligence.”  I love the example of how a platoon of US Army soldiers unknowingly stumbled upon an intelligence treasure trove in Sinjar, Iraq that was then properly exploited by the intelligence community that helped the military to operationally downgrade Al Qaeda in Iraq.  There is also the story of the book of how the NSA would also have people sent to Iraq to better assist the military.

The book also had a discussion throughout the book about deterrence theory against Al Qaeda.  We see a whole chapter devoted to the discussion about Cold War deterrence theory and the problem with it in relations to Al Qaeda.  Obviously, it is difficult to get someone to back down when they are willing to martyr themselves in the attempt to destroy the West.  However I think the book makes a good point that there is a role of deterrence as a tool against Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists once we understand the network nature of Al Qaeda and other radical terrorist groups.  This new deterrence theory recognizes that in order for Al Qaeda to function there is the need for a terrorist network that is able to provide logistical needs.  Not everyone in this network is a suicide bomber since a suicide bomber himself would need someone who is a recruiter, a financier, trainer, etc.  This new deterrence theory is not necessarily directed towards the bombers and fighters themselves but towards those supporters who have much more to lose since they are still committed to being of the world (so to speak) and attached to certain things that allow the US leverage.  Recognition of this also means that our tools against Al Qaeda isn’t just military but also other means such as legal, financial and cyber capabilities.  As the book mentioned, “it takes a network to fight a network.”

The book also talked about the problematic and at times ironic relationship the US has with Pakistan in the War on Terror.  I also found it informative that the authors discussed the threat of the loan wolf home grown terrorists inspired by Al Qaeda.

While the book was published before the current geopolitical threat of ISIS, I think readers will find this book informative as to the historical development in the long war against Islamic terrorism.  Highly recommended work.

Purchase: Amazon

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The Secrets of the FBI

Ronald Kessler. The Secrets of the FBI. New York: Crown Forum, 2012. 304 pp.

I started reading this book after I first read the author’s book on the Secret Service which made a passing comment on how the FBI holds itself to a higher standard than the Secret Service in terms of leadership structure and accountability.  The book is written in a journalistic style and filled with interesting information about the FBI and fascinating stories, some of which has been told publicly for the first time in this book.  Prior to the book I have never heard of the FBI’s TacOps, which is the group that does a lot of secretive break-ins and planting of bugs.  I was surprised with how much the book revealed in terms of the methodology of TacOps from staying on elevators for hours, customize sleeping pills for pets and taking photos of everything so that they would be able to put everything back in place.  The book shares stories of close-calls and quicking thinking on the feet by agents.  Beginning with the book’s first chapter on TacOps I was hooked!

The book was more than a collection of stories and gossip of the FBI—I really appreciated the serious discussion about the FBI’s leadership.  The author discusses how different the old FBI was under J. Edgar Hoover and today’s FBI.  The author pulls no punch in describing the bad leadership that the FBI had in their history; in particular, the book zooms in on William Sessions and Louis Freeh.  Sessions was a former judge whom many felt was arrogant and incompetent.  He was the director of the FBI during Ruby Ridge and was strongly disliked by agents below him and the Attorney Generals above him.  He was also accused of abusing his privilege as Director, taking FBI plane rides to visit family and friends, allowing his wife to access floors in FBI headquarters that was suppose to be for agents with clearance, etc.  Sessions never learned his job and was eventually dismissed by Bill Clinton.  The book revealed that Sessions was in denial that he was fired and even delayed leaving his office.  The other incompetent director that the book focuses on was Freeh, whom the author described more as self-serving for his reputation at the risk of the FBI’s own reputation.  Freeh was against modernizing the FBI technologically during his stint which hampered the agency when the FBI’s own computer system was out of date and so slow that agents used their own personal computers and even developed their own system instead.  This was later identified as being a problem that contributed to the inability of the US to process intelligence efficiently prior to 9/11.  The author wasn’t just out to slam bad leadership; he also focused on the good leadership of FBI director Robert Mueller.  Like Sessions, Mueller’s background wasn’t as an agent but in law; however, this is where the similarities end for Mueller was willing to learn about the agency while Sessions wasn’t and simply thought he knew it all.  Mueller was also a no nonsense leader, being a decorated former Marine officer who knows how to lead from the front and set the example.  Mueller helped modernized the FBI technologically and was able to know how to manage people.  Under his leadership the FBI’s morale improved and had a better sense of direction.

The most fascinating part of the book for me was the discussion of how the FBI changed in the Post 9/11 world.  Counter-terrorism has become a big part of the FBI and now there is an exponential growth of joint-counter terrorism centers working in coordination with other Federal and local agencies all across.  In today’s FBI the goalpost have shifted from investigating a terrorist activity to preventing a terrorist activity from happening in the first place.  Prior to 9/11 the FBI would have been happy with the objective of capturing and preventing a terrorist from carrying out his mission but today the goal is not just to go after one terrorist but to know everything else about that terrorist’s network.  This means that the FBI isn’t just only about going after one terrorist and arresting them but to the point that it is safe it means that the FBI will not move right away to arrest a suspect but will continue to monitor him to find others and any other support structures for the terrorist.

I also appreciated the fact that the author was not blind towards the concern for civil liberties and in the discussion of the FBI’s future the author attacked the idea that some push for the FBI to be less about law enforcement and more about intelligence along the lines of the British MI5.  The problem the author pointed out is that the lack of law enforcement capability will hinder counter-terrorism in a day and age that recognize the problem of multi-agencies being unable to coordinate a meaningful response.  The British MI5 is severely hindered because they are now a law enforcement agency who can make arrests, etc.  Furthermore, critics of this model also note that with a law enforcement background those agents involved with counter-terrorism would easily abuse civil liberties, something that is still important for those whose mentality is driven by law enforcement and investigations rather than mere paramilitary or intelligence background.

I think people will enjoy this book.  I do recommend it!

 

Purchase: Amazon

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fighting-atr-the-fort

Today marks another anniversary of 9/11.  Yesterday President Obama gave his Prime Time speech concerning his strategy towards ISIS and I can’t help but to think of the current existence of the Islamic State paralleling Afghanistan under the Taliban thirteen years ago.  Every year on the anniversary of 9/11 I reflect back on this day and this year I started to look up more information on America’s first response to Al Qaeda and the Taliban–the beginnings of which involved a lot of air power and Special Operation Forces.  One battle stuck out: the Battle of Qala-i-Jangi.  It is the battle that led to the first American killed in Afghanistan and also the capture of the American Taliban, John Walker Lindh.

There are three documentaries concerning this battle–each of which provides different details and angles that together gives us a more complete picture.

1.) Taliban Uprising – The Battle of Qala-i-Jangi (House of War)

This is documentary by National Geographic that gives the summary of what happened.  It has more description of what was going on militarily than the other documentaries.  It can be seen on Liveleak in 4 parts here, here, here and here.

2.) Qala-e-Jangi

The three journalists and their translator shares their account of the battle.  There are some amazing contexts to the clips we see and also exclusive footage that was not in the above documentary.

3.) Good Morning, Afghanistan

One of the French Journalist gives his account of reporting on this battle.  It gives a lot more context than the previous documentary to some of the shots and footage.

4.) SAS in Action

This is a clip by an Afghan recording British and American SOF in action

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On a Saturday before Veteran’s Day, what better read for our country’s latest military veterans than a work that relates to our decade plus war–Osama Bin Laden.

Manhunt Bin Laden

This a thoroughly well researched book by a CNN journalist who was able to interview Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan during the 1990s.  Despite the raid to kill Osama being perhaps the biggest news of our decade, much of the back story is still little known by the general public.  The author did a good job telling the story of the ten year search for the world’s most wanted man, focusing mainly on the characters of politicians, high ranking military officers and senior level intelligence officials.  Unfortunately, you won’t be able to find a “grunt’s view” of the SEALs who did the actual operation, and to date No Easy Day is the only raiders’ account.  But the story of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden goes further back in time, before the first SEAL step on Osama’s compound that fateful day in 2011.  What this book did well was describing the difficulties, personalities and dedication of those involved in the hunt of Bin Laden.

Prior to this book I was not aware that the infamous event of the biggest loss of CIA officers and contractors a few years back in Aghanistan was part of the team hunting Osama.  The author captured the determination of the team after this incident, making the hunt very personal with the deaths of their colleagues:  Some even decided not to move on to other tasks in the CIA, forgoing advancement in their careers in order to be part of the mission.

Of course the telling of the 10 year hunt for Osama also has some of its disappointment and frustration such as Bin Laden’s escape in Tora Bora, with much of what we know about it coming from the Delta Force commander on the ground name “Dalton Fury.”

From this book I also changed my view of General McChrystal, which I had a rather negative view of in the past.  Through the book, I got to appreciate McChrystal’s contribution in enhancing the capabilities of our country’s special operation forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, which indirectly contributed to the success during the operation to raid Osama’s compound.

The book also captures the political aftermath of the raid, in particular the relationship with Pakistan.  You don’t have to like Obama as president to appreciate the incredible difficulty the man has to face and the responsibility before him.

If there is a criticism I have with the book it is with with the author’s epilogue and his confidence that Al Qaeda is dying down.  While I believe Al Qaeda has suffered much strategic defeat in the last few years, I think it’s also evolving to become a more dangerous, de-centralized entity that makes it harder to track and combat.  And we’re not even beginning to consider copy cats, lone wolves and other like minded terrorists groups such as the Taliban.  Think of Major Hasan, Boston Marathon bombing and Bengazi.

Radical Islam is a threat and the author thinks that it can’t be compared to the threat of the Nazis and Communism since it doesn’t effect Europe like the way both ideologies have in the past.  My question is, why is what is going on in Europe the measure of what is dangerous?  September 11th itself was an attack on America.  My second question to the author would be whether or not he has considered the incredible growth rates of Islam in Europe already and it’s growing problems with the West’s multiculturalism?

I did get emotional reading about the day Americans found out about the raid, how CIA director left the White House surprised to hear the cheers of a spontaneous American crowd celebrating the news.  Since 2001, for over a decade America has been at war since 9/11.  It’s not only Afghanistan and Iraq but all around the globe from the Philippines to Africa.  Some of those lives lost or injured are those I served with or have known.  Like many people, it’s the memory of that day watching the news on September 11th, 2001 that the death of Bin Laden has brought some closure.  Of course complete justice will be with God one day but sometimes he allows “poetic justice” to take place this side of eternity in this case.

Definitely a worthwhile book.

Order it on Amazon!

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Purchase: Amazon

2012 will be remembered as the year of Navy SEALs autobiogrpahies. In January there was “American Sniper,” the story of Chris Kyle who is America’s sniper with the most confirmed kill in military history. Then there is “Seal of God” about a West Coast SEAL who became a Christian. But no SEAL autobiography has been able to generate so much interests and controversy in a short amount of time as this book, the story from one of the SEALs in DEVGRU (more better known with it’s old name, SEAL TEAM 6) that was involved in the Operation to get Osama Bin Laden. There’s no need to rehearse every detail of that controversy (which is still ongoing and brewing) and surely by writing this book the author has taken a lot of risks. Even as I read other reviews, there is no doubt controversies continues even with how people read and appreciated it (or not appreciate it). I thought some of the reviews of the book tells more about the reviewer’s background and values more than the book itself–no doubt my review will reflect a bit of who I am too, but I hope this review will also cause us to reflect more deeply about the last decade of warfare since 9/11, and about our society/culture and perhaps also the question of God and faith too even if you disagree with me.
I think to fully appreciate a book at times require one to ask how does it relate and fill a niche in relations to other books of the same subject or genre. So I suppose my review will keep that in consideration and from this angle, “No Easy Day” was definitely a different yet fascinating book. For starters, typically in SEALs biography, everyone gives an account of BUD/S (for the “lay” reader, we can call this SEAL boot camp of six months). This book does not, breaking the mold of the canon of SEALs autobiography. That’s because the book goes deeper and further into another world that is rarely mentioned or understood among all the SEALs books out there–the world of DEVGRU, the Navy SEALs highly secretive counter-terrorist group. Sure there is Richard Marcinko’s books, who was the founder of DEVGRU back in the 1980s when it was still known as SEAL TEAM 6. But there is little published in book form from an insider about the 21st Century, post 9/11 DEVGRU. The author describes in one of the early chapters of the book his unexpected physical try-out for DEVGRU, his acceptance into Green Squadron (the selection training in order to enter into DEVGRU’s command) and his acceptance into the team. His description of the selection and elimination process in Green Squadron is fascinating such as how candidates are required to write down whom they think are the five best candidates and five weakest candidates.
Though the author has been deployed around a dozen times this last decade of warfare suprisingly the book does not go into all the blood and gore details of most of his operation prior to the mission to get Osama. You would expect more–but then no doubt that would take away from the main story about the Bin Laden Raid–not to mention that he had to do it all in 336 pages. Readers who have been in the military would have appreciated his account of OIF 1–and things going array in their first mission. It reminds the rest of us in the military that did not serve in a SOF capacity that Navy SEALs are humans also. His account of working with DELTA was also a great insight into the other TIER 1 unit, though I suppose one might get a fuller account with Dalton Fury’s book. Going back to this book, the author also revealed his involvement in the Maersk Alabama hijacking rescue operation and his account of it indicate that this kind of operation was welcomed by the SEALs since it was a break from the routine of deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan. What I found most intriguing in the author’s account of this operation was the fact that he parachuted into the Ocean with a Navy communication guy attached to him who has never done a parachute jump before. One can imagine how frightening that is–and the thought, “No one back home is going to believe this…” I’ve seen some reviews that complained about all these back story leading up to the Bin Laden raid in the book–you can tell they are pure civilians with no grasp of operational history or biography. But for the readers who are willing to look long and reflect harder, the first half of the book should make you appreciate the incredible amount of sacrifice, skill and dedication of people like Mark Owens who worked so hard to be the best of the best in their job in order to protect us. The account of the amount of sleeping pills these guys take and the weird hours they operate during deployment (what the author calls “Vampire hours”) should make us appreciate the toll it takes on these guys–and we are not even yet discussing about the lives and injury involved in what they do.
Of course, most of the book was devoted to the raid itself. I learn from this account that it was not any one of the existing four squadrons in DEVGRU take took part in the raid but rather a special gathering of different guys who have been around the block that was gathered. From the standpoint of a military biography with an operational history bent, I thought it was good (but not good to those reviewers who are looking for some existentialists need for “feelings” to be described). Here is where I could not put the book down. The description of him being on the helicopter that crash and the amazing description of him almost falling out since he was hanging out with his legs outside the crammed blackhawk. The amazing miracle of the helicopter handing on it’s strongest point on the wall which ended up not causing the rotars to hit the dirt and chaos that would have followed. The raid itself was incredible. Here is where I suppose this review tells more about me than perhaps the author or the book itself. I couldn’t help but to note all the things that went wrong or could have went wrong but turned out to have worked miraculously as something amazing enough to provoke in me an awareness of God’s providence throughout the raid. It’s a reminder that sometimes the bad guys do get their justice here on earth right now–and that skill isn’t enough but the providence of God as well.
Just as interesting as the raid itself is the author’s story of the raid afterwards. His account of Obama and Joe Biden is worth the read. To read of a real member of “Team Six” laughing at the silly things that has been said about them is quite entertaining; he even take on some misconception the ROUGE WARRIOR and the founder of SEAL TEAM 6 himself has said to the media, revealing that Richard Marcinko’s comment about DEVGRU being the most arrogant SEALs might be a little out of touch with contemporary DEVGRU.
Overall this is a good book. It is a historical account of an important part of history–not just the Navy SEALs, the U.S. military, but to close a chapter for so many Americans who have lost loved one since that fateful day on 9/11 and from the two wars stemming from it. If you ever had shed tears on 9/11 or if you have lost people in this long war–I think this book ought to be on your shelf.

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It seems that 9/11 sooner or later will pop up in any discussion about Islam.  No event in the recent history of the West have sparked more curiosity and questions about Islam than what that dreadful day and the bloody decade that followed afterwards.

Can there be a just war theory that can justify responses to terrorists within a Christian worldview?

For those interested in this philosophical/ethical discussion from a Christian worldview, I thought this was a good hidden/open treasure available online for those who want to have a serious reading on this topic.

The following is a 2003 thesis by a student at the Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) name Dale Courtney.  The thesis is titled, “A Just War Response To The 11 September 2001 Terrorist Attack.”

A PDF file of it is available by clicking HERE.

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All over the world people remember that tragic day.  Lest people think 9/11 is all about community service and the US coming together, don’t forget 9/11 is about a religion that is bent on imposing Sharia on everyone.  Watch this video below.

Note the double standard.

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I thought this was the most tragic minute on live television that fateful day on September 11th, 2001.

It was his first day on the job with CNN.  It was also September 11th, 2001.  News Anchor Aaron Brown reporting on the terrorist attack and has a scenic view of the two towers…and also witnessing the first tower’s collapse beginning at 8:08 in the clip above.

Then the second tower in the following clip 6:12 into the clip below:

Grieve with those who grieve.

As I said before on this blog, I can’t believe it has been 10 years.  I can’t believe what happen that day.  I think what made the 2000s different than the previous decade in the 90s was 9/11.  It was a defining moment.  It has also been an event that has indirectly and directly influence many more events after it–Iraq and Afghanistan.  What a bloody decade it has been.

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I can’t believe 9/11 was 10 years ago.  For some of us, it has been a very bloody decade after 9/11.  Iraq.  Afghanistan.  War on Terror.  I think of all those who have died or gotten injured since 9/11.

I still get the chills watching youtube clips from that day.  I think it’s the one event that will shape the Millennial Generation.

Perhaps the most chilling of all youtube clip is of the 911 calls by Kevin Cosgrove, Melissa Doi and Betty Ong.  These were there last living calls.

No matter how many times I’ve heard Kevin Cosgrove’s audio it still gives me the shivers, thinking about how helpless we are with our destiny with death.  The terror and helplessness of the voice of those dying…makes me tears p everytime.

It also makes me think about what matters the most and the priority of every ministry oppourtunity…the gospel must be the most important thing because death is real and eternal fate of heaven and hell lies in the balance.  Jesus Christ came and died for sinners so that we can be made right with Him.  Don’t wait to repent.  Turn to Him as your Lord and Savior today.  We never know when our end would come.  Be right with God through God’s Grace.

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