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The Collective
Sunday, October 12, 2008
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via Time, In Battleground Virginia, a Tale of Two Ground Game:

With so much at stake, and time running short, Frederick did not feel he had the luxury of subtlety. He climbed atop a folding chair to give 30 campaign volunteers who were about to go canvassing door to door their talking points — for instance, the connection between Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden: “Both have friends that bombed the Pentagon,” he said. “That is scary.”

Frederick is GOP Chairman Jeffrey M. Frederick, so we aren’t talking about just a random campaigner.

This of stuff really is indefensible. While I am no fan of Bill Ayers and find his past actions to be reprehensible, there is no comparison to be made between al Qaeda’s attacks and those of the Weather Underground’s. While I am not condoning the attacks, it is nonetheless noteworthy that the WU’s attacks were designed to damage property, which is a far cry from the mass murder of al Qaeda. And while it is true that members Weather Underground did murder three persons (two policemen and a security guard) in 1981, that was a year after Ayers and his wife had surrendered to authorities.

There simply is no legitimate comparison between the Weather Underground and al Qaeda. It is an utterly fallacious comparison. That does not, I will reiterate, absolve the WU of its crimes, but any fair-minded person has to admit that not all crimes are utterly equal.

Further, the notion that Obama and Ayer are friends in any way that tells us anything about how Obama will govern is likewise problematic. Ayers and his wife hosted a fund-raiser, contributed $200 to one of Obama’s campaigns and Ayers served on a board with Ayers. This is hardly the stuff of legendary friendships. One would think that Obama had promised to make Ayers the Secretary of Education or something to hear people talk.

Even beyond any of the above: I still maintain that if this is the McCain camp’s best line of attack less than a month before we vote, then this race is over.

For some background, here are some useful sources:

  • The Chicago Sun-Times: Who is Bill Ayers?
  • The Chicago Sun-Times: 10 things to know about Bill Ayers
  • WaPo: Obama’s ‘Weatherman’ Connection
Sphere: Related Content

Filed under: 2008 Campaign, US Politics | |

8 Comments »

  1. I agree that the Weather Underground and Al Qaida are apples and oranges as terrorist organizations go; but just like apples and oranges are both fruit, the WU and AQ are both terrorist organizations. They’re different in their organization, goals, MO, and strategy, but make no mistake, they are both terrorist organizations.

    I agree that the manner in which McCain is going after the Ayers libnk is probably ineffective. But I don’t think it’s unfair. If this man (Obama) is going to be our president, we should know what sort of people he has had dealings with in the past. It is important. It’s a loose connection, sure - but I’ll tell you something, Dr. Taylor - I would sooner be dead than be loosely affiliated with Ayers or anyone like him. I swore my life to protect our country against men like him (all enemies, foreign and domestic). I would not get within 100 meters of him, much less sit on a board with him or in any other way approach him; and I don’t understand why it’s unfair for me or others to question the character of a person who would.

    If the shoe was on the other foot - let’s say McCain had sat on a board for a few months with a guy who bombed an abortion clinic, would the media be making light of it, brushing it aside as something that happened 15 years ago, saying the connection was loose and tenuous and barely existed? You know as well as I do that we’d be seeing it round the clock, night and day, on every news network but Fox.

    I would throw a flag on the play against McCain for using an ineffective strategy and wasting his campaign dollars going down this path. But I absolutely think that it’s fair to look at the connection and to make an issue of it.

    Late in my military career I started to learn more about intelligence, because as an SF officer I sometimes did things to directly contribute to our intelligence picture. Sometimes this was strategic intelligence, and sometimes it was what we called IPB (Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield), which is more tactical in nature and usually its purpose was obvious.

    The data of the former type that we were sent to collect was often bizarre to me as a commander. I had no idea how it was useful. Sometimes all we came up with in weeks of work was a superficial, weak, or circumstantial link of a person, persons, place, or organization to a terrorist or insurgent group.

    Someone else, either in military intelligence, the CIA, or both, however, was looking at that and putting it with a lot of other bits and pieces about that intelligence object. They were conducting what the intelligence community refers to as “net assessment”. Sometimes when you do this, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s not just this guy being at this place at this time; it’s when you put that together with other bits and pieces that were collected by other teams, or through other means (electronic, arial, or sattellite surveillance, for exampe) that a whole lot of loose connections and circumstantial evidences add up into a very damning picture.

    I know I’m going to sound like I just eat republican talking points for breakfast by saying this, but it’s been my experience in life that you can tell a lot about a man by the company he has kept. It’s not just the loose connection to Ayers; Obama has loose connections to all kinds of problematic groups and individuals. There’s ACORN, Jeremiah Wright and some other religious radicals in Chicago; and a spattering of loose connections to a half dozen other people who are really pretty awful.

    I’m not sure if the number of loose connections Obama has to known terrorists and radicals would get him put on our tag and bag list (the people we were sent to grab, label, and ship to Guantanamo or some other interrogation facility), but it would definitely be enough to get him on a “watch carefully” list, if circumstances were very different.

    If it was just the Ayers thing, I’d not have issue with Obama’s character; I’d think he was just suffering from the delusion of believing he is Zaphod Beeblebrox. But it’s just one of many tenuous connections that he has to radical groups; and the whole that those things make when added together is greater than the sum of the parts.

    Tell me if I’m being unfair here. I’d really like to know.

    Comment by Captain D — Sunday, October 12, 2008 @ 7:02 pm

  2. I would find Obama’s ties to Ayers to be a tad more problematic had Obama not been a toddler at the time of Ayers’ crimes.

    Politicians of both parties often find themselves in association with persons of questionable bios.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Sunday, October 12, 2008 @ 7:08 pm

  3. McCain’s lame attempt of imitating the success of the Swift Boat ads in 2004 is a joke.

    Comment by Talmadge East — Sunday, October 12, 2008 @ 7:30 pm

  4. Do McCain’s efforts to have the United States arm the KLA count as “supporting terrorism”? Just curious…

    Comment by Alex Knapp — Sunday, October 12, 2008 @ 9:11 pm

  5. Tell me if I’m being unfair here. I’d really like to know.

    Yes, Cap’n, you are being unfair.

    Let’s look at McCain-this is a guy who was one of Ahmad Chalabi’s greatest defenders in Washington. He called Chalabi a “patriot” and helped him get money from both Clinton and Bush as he set up his “government in exile.”

    Of course, we now know that Chalabi was responsible for purposively feeding fabricated intelligence to the US on WMDs in the run-up to the war and was accused by the US military of spying for Iran.

    Unlike Ayers, Chalabi is directly responsible for thousands of American lives and McCain’s top campaign advisor, Charlie Black, has lobbied for Chalabi for years.

    McCain-as far as I know-has never condemned Chalabi or explained his longtime, intimate association with someone who has caused so much harm to the country.

    It is truly bizarre that the media hasn’t discussed this troubling association which is much more damaging than Obama’s casual acquaintances.

    Comment by Ratoe — Sunday, October 12, 2008 @ 9:19 pm

  6. I don’t have a problem with anyone going after McCain about Chalabi. Chalabi is a controversial character. Sure, he’s fair game.

    So now that I said that, why is it not fair for me to talk about Ayers? I give you Chalabi, you give me Ayers. Isn’t that fair? I mean, seriously. Go ahead, link McCain to Chalabi. Fine. Why does that have anything to do with whether or not it’s fair to assess Obama on his peers? After all, I’m doing it to McCain, too. Is that your gripe? You think I’m not assessing McCain with the same metric? I’ll happily do so. I have no problem with that at all.

    NOW - that said - am I being unfair in looking at Ayers and Obama’s other associates and drawing some conclusions?

    And though it’s off the topic you got me mad because you clearly don’t know much about Afghanistan, a cause that is near and dear to my heart. Chalabi is not as big a rat as he is being made out to be. I have actually met the man; I’m also familiar with the rest of the pool of contenders for leadership in Afghanistan. I speak two dialects of Persian. I served there for more than two years and was privy to a lot of information that most people are not. Chalabi is not a good man by our standards, but of the choices we had, he was by far the best. Thinking otherwise means you don’t know who else was in contention. Maybe if you can cough up a name or two - someone who would make sense as a head of state for Afghanistan (at the time) - I can take you seriously. But if all you can say is Chalabi = bad, you don’t know enough to talk about the situation. There were some seriously bad people lined up to take over Afghanistan. Chalabi was the least of them. None of the contenders who were more - how shall I put it - “democratic” (though I cringe to use the term here) were viable. Chalabi was all we had.

    As far as him being responsible for what you call the “run-up”, i.e. intelligence on WMD’s, that is simply not true. And I’m really mad about the lies that are being propagated about this. If you want I can point you to the statements the man made about them. They are pretty much the same thing that the rest of the world was saying; most of the credible intelligence agencies in the world were pretty sure that Hussein was tinkering with NBC weapons. No one was 100% sure, but no one with a functional intelligence agency had it off the table. You always play with probabilities in intel, and almost everyone thought it was more probable that he did have weapons than did not. How probable it was varied from country to country, but every NATO agency had it better than 50%. Some were much higher.

    It’s only been in hindsight that some agencies have said otherwise. They have basically changed their positions in order to not look bad. Some of us call it lying, but that’s just how the intel community works. In order to maintain credibility, they don’t ever admit they were wrong.

    About those WMD’s - don’t hang your hat on your position. Having spent time in Iraq looking for them, I’m pretty sure that in spite of what you have been reading, there were indeed weapons in production in Iraq during the “run-up” to war. Where they went is a good question; he had plenty of time to move them. I am betting that they were either sent to Syria, or dumped somewhere in the desert. If you simply pour most nerve agents out on the ground, even the most persistent of them will degrade in a matter of days, or in the case of Iraq’s climate, weeks. Short of taking soil samples of every square foot of Iraq, there is no way to know that this didn’t happen. Most agents, if spread out, break down under UV radiation. Daylight destroys them very quickly. They could also be dumped in a river slowly over a period of time - as a trickle - and would become diluted and undetectable.

    Even if we assume that the evidence we had during the run-up was anecdotal, you can’t argue with what we found when we got there. We didn’t find much in terms of actual weapons.

    But we did find a lot of evidence that large pieces of machinery were moved from chemical plants in the weeks before we arrived. As an example, a sight we inspected had gray paint on the floor. . . except in areas where equipment had previously stood. The outlines of the equipment that had been there were right there, staring at us - vats, separators, differential distilling equipment. If you just look at a picture of the stuff, and look at the footprint left fresh on the floor of a now-empty factory, it becomes very clear what happened. My Alpha team alone found 3 sights like this. Altogether, we found 47 of them.

    There was also evidence of activity around some of Iraq’s rivers that could have been easily explained by tanker trucks having been backed into soft earth near the banks.

    Now, you can argue that Saddam Hussein decided to move his lawn fertilizer machines a few weeks before we invaded if you want to - but then again, you weren’t there, were you? You didn’t see the scrape marks on the ground, or the indentations made in the soil by heavy vehicles that had been there recently and left with a very heavy burden.

    And, strangely, though the government made those pictures available to the media, they never ended up being printed. It seems that by the time we found these sights, the media had already reported that there were no WMD’s. They didn’t print the information because a) it gave credibility to a president they hate, and b) it would have meant that they had to admit they were wrong in their previous reporting. Since they are a “free press” they were “free” to not report all the information, and that’s exactly what they did.

    You want to talk about anger - I risked my life to make that information available, and those hacks at the Times, the WaPo, CBS, CNN - they just turned and looked the other way.

    It was so obvious to us what had happened that it became a running joke. We spray painted buildings that we had searched a certain color (the door) to denote that they had been covered; some of my guys took to scawling “Gone to Syria - be back later” on the wall.

    But go ahead. Tell me my own eyes lied to me. I could use a laugh at this stage in the game; my psychiatrist would probably be grateful to you for that.

    You want to talk about the media reporting selectively, boy, have I got some stories for you. I’m mad that they have not printed the photos we took in Iraq in the newspapers. I’m mad that they were given the opportunity to report on what I risked my life to discover, and because they had made up their minds that there were no weapons in Iraq, decided not to present the public with the information. They decided what they wanted the public to think, presented that information, and burned the rest. And people like you ate it up for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with an extra helping of blog reading as a snack before bed. The free press is a joke. They’re no better than North Korea’s state media; they’re just anti-state to the same degree.

    Go spend close to four years of your life in Afghanistan and Iraq, and I’ll think of you as a peer in conversation about those things. We are not peers on that subject; me talking to you about them is akin to Stephen Hawking explaining string theory to a 1st grade math class.

    Don’t you try to tell me about Iraq and Afghanistan, kid. I’ve been there and have the scars to show for it.

    Comment by Captain D — Sunday, October 12, 2008 @ 10:42 pm

  7. And please -

    If you’re going to abbreviate Captain, do it thus:

    CPT - or just spell it out.

    I’m not a breakfast cereal; I’m a retired army officer.

    Comment by Captain D — Sunday, October 12, 2008 @ 11:36 pm

  8. Here’s an interesting thought about William Ayers… In a roundabout way (and using the same reasoning that some of these attacks are using), John McCain also seems to have some ties to Ayers.

    Here’s the thing: The Annenberg Foundation (named for founder Walter H. Annenberg) funds several projects. Among those is Annenberg Fact Check, Annenberg Public Policy Center, and the now notorious Chicago Annenberg Challenge. The Chicago Annenberg Challenge is the group where Ayers and Obama “worked together.” This “radical organization” was also highly supported by Gov. Jim Edgar, a Republican. Anyway, The Annenberg Foundation is currently chaired by its president Leonore Annenberg, the founder’s widow. On October 8, Annenberg announced her endorsement of John McCain for president. She’s also donated to his campaign. This was an endorsement that McCain highly trumpeted.

    So I suppose that if you make the Obama/Ayers connection through this group, you might also be inclined to make the McCain/Ayers connection through this same group. (Yes, I know it’s completely ridiculous, but then so is the original assertion.)

    Comment by ALmod — Monday, October 13, 2008 @ 10:07 am

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