Wednesday, December 23, 2015

When Orientation is Normal in the Military

The following obituary was announced by the Department of Defense for this past week. May her memory be a blessing for those who knew and loved her, and may we all take pride in both her service and her sacrifice.  This is the support and love that an open policy on orientation makes possible in the U.S. Military today.

Maj. Adrianna M. Vorderbruggen, USAF, 36 of Minnesota died December 21 in Afghanistan
Maj. Vorderbruggen was a 1998 graduate of Wayzata High School in Minnesota where she was a talented athlete and a three year starter on the women's soccer team. She graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2002 and later earned a Master's degree in forensic sciences at George Washington University. Her father, Joseph Vorderbruggen said that his daughter "loved life" and "loved the military. "Whatever goal she had, she found a way. "Maj. Vorderbruggen was assigned to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, 9th Field Investigations Squadron, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.

 Maj. Vorderbruggen is survived by her wife, Heather Lamb, her four year old son Jacob and her father Joseph Voderbruggen.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Jewish Groups Universally Defend Muslim's Rights against Donald Trump

From the JTA.

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Jewish groups blasted Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for his proposal to block all Muslims from entering the United States.
“A plan that singles out Muslims and denies them entry to the U.S. based on their religion is deeply offensive and runs contrary to our nation’s deepest values,” the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement Monday evening hours after Trump, a real estate billionaire and reality TV star, issued his call.
“In the Jewish community, we know all too well what can happen when a particular religious group is singled out for stereotyping and scapegoating,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL’s CEO. “We also know that this country must not give into fear by turning its back on its fundamental values, even at a time of great crisis.”
The American Jewish Committee’s director of policy, Jason Isaacson,noted the timing of Trump’s statement, which called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” coincident with the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.
“As Jews who are now observing Hanukkah, a holiday that celebrates a small religious minority’s right to live unmolested, we are deeply disturbed by the nativist racism inherent in the candidate’s latest remarks,” Isaacson said. “You don’t need to go back to the Hanukkah story to see the horrific results of religious persecution; religious stereotyping of this sort has been tried often, inevitably with disastrous results.”
Trump in his news release alluded to the massacre in San Bernardino, California, last week of 14 people by a couple apparently radicalized by the Islamic State terrorist group.
“Without looking at the various polling data, it is obvious to anybody the hatred is beyond comprehension,” he said. “Where this hatred comes from and why we will have to determine. Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life.”
Other Jewish groups condemning the comments included J Street, Bend the Arc, the National Jewish Democratic Council, the Israel Policy Forum, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and JAC, a Jewish political action committee.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Patience in the Face of Terror

With the attack on a county program center in San Bernadino this week, we have been shown the combination of a "sleeper" terrorist and a "soft" target.  It is devastating.  With 14 dead and more wounded, the professionals are now working on identifying the circle around the dead terrorists. But there are many lessons to be learned.

First, there were immediate attempts to react to the attack and label it. Was it a disgruntled employee?  Was it domestic terrorism? Was it international terrorism? It had elements of each.

The first question was, is this a disgruntled employee, and therefore "just" a violent mass murder?  Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, fired as many as 150 bullets inside the San Bernadino County Inland Regional Center where he had worked. In retrospect, his employee status was merely part of the long play to identify a target and its weakest moment - the holiday party. He was not disgruntled, in conflict, or identified as a threat in any way.

The second thought was, is this an "anti government" domestic terror attack, like Oklahoma City?  After all, it was a county building.  But this also didn't make sense, as it was not a "government" office, and its purpose was to provide services to the special needs community.  Hardly a focal point for anti-government sentiment.

Finally, the truth starts to emerge.  They had thousands of rounds stockpiled at home. They had built pipe bombs and purchased military equipment and clothing. They had been deleting their computers and destroying their phones in the last few days before the attack. They purposefully dropped off their six month old baby (!) with her grandmother.  They attended the holiday party to case the location one last time, and then returned armed for war and began shooting.

At some point in the last few years, Syed made a change in his understanding of Islam and of America.  Born and raised in Chicago as a first generation American, he had no criminal record.  He had the right to travel to the Middle East, which he did.  He had the right to apply for immigration for his fiancee and co-terrorist.  And he did.  He had the right to pass a criminal background check and screening in California to purchase guns, which he did.  He had all of the rights and privileges that you and I have.  They were employed, and welcomed in their neighborhood.  America had done nothing wrong, and until they pulled the trigger neither had they.

This is the most difficult form of terrorism to prevent.  At best, you hope to stumble across them as they slowly stockpile materials to be used in bombs.  If you are lucky, someone will become aware and turn them in, but they were perfect in how they laid low. But this is a country of freedoms, and Syed was a born citizen like you or me.  What level of government intrusion into personal freedoms would have revealed this plot in advance? Certainly not one that you or I would tolerate.

The only way to stop them would have been to have had secured doors at the facility, and trained armed people in the building to respond during the shooting.  The truth is that only armed guards, or trained and armed citizens, can stop a shooter like this.  They are not on watch lists, no-fly lists, nor are they persons of interest in any crime.  They were known in the building and had the right to enter.  People like this can always start the shooting.  The question is, how fast can we stop it once it starts?

Once again, the response to the shooting by some has been to try to ban guns on the one side, or to scapegoat Islam on the other.  

Terrorists and criminals will always have access to guns, and will always be able to make bombs. The more pragmatic answer to these scenarios, though many are afraid of its stark reality, is to allow regular folks to become trained and licensed in the handling of firearms for defense. In Paris, in San Bernadino, in Charleston... no one in the room had a chance. The training should be a high bar and the vetting for a public concealed carry should be a high standard, but the only other solution is to hide and hope that the shooter misses you for the next 10-15 minutes while the police scramble to get to you.

And yes, there is a strong and determined voice in Islam to murder the enemies of their brand of Islam.  The enemies of ISIS include other muslims, westerners, Jews and whoever gets in their way. Those of us on the outside of Islam looking in continue to assert that Islam itself has to reject the terror and the truth is most of Islam does, unless you start talking about Israel.  

The FBI and Homeland Security are on the case.  The back story will be known, and new leads in the war on terror will be found and followed. The Islamic community in this country will continue to be supportive and cooperative to pursue and prevent this kind of murder, as they have proven to be since 9/11.

In the meantime, patience. No new stereotypes.  No new legislation.  Let the professionals do their job, and know that on a day to day basis in this country you really are entirely safe (unless you drive on I-95 in rush hour!).