Dead or Alive Redux

Just a little mini-post today while I’m working on the next post for National Short Story Month.

I’m still reflecting on the death of Osama bin Laden. Really, I have no choice. Almost two weeks into the aftermath, it is still often the lead topic on a news cast.

After an initial, albeit reluctant, show of support for the President’s authorization of the mission and its parameters, the extreme right and extreme left have twisted themselves around on this until they somewhat agree. The right is in high dudgeon because they feel W didn’t get enough credit. Excuse me, but how can a person who has been out of office for more than two years get any credit for instructing the CIA to recommence its search for bin Laden and then authorizing a mission that requires the go-ahead from a sitting President? Oh, it was the enhanced interrogation techniques which W, who’d never fought in a war and who perhaps had the barest minimum of SERE training in his air guard days, insisted we use? Wrong again. As interrogation professionals (if there is such a term, and if there is, god help us) iterated then and now, putting someone in extreme pain or in fear of his or her life only gains you “white noise,” bogus intelligence given only to make the threat go away. Khalid Sheik Mohammed, whom the right asserted, incorrectly, was the source of the tip that let us to the compound in Abbotabad, was waterboarded 183 times and never gave up the courier’s name. It was another detainee in a CIA rendition center who gave it up after his interrogator “made friends” with him. My eroded respect for Sen. John McCain (R.-AZ) is somewhat rebuilt after his recent Post op-ed and his Senate speech setting the record straight about the use of torture and also for the fact he calls it what it is–torture, not the harmless-sounding euphemism “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

And, excuse me, we near-drowned someone 183 times in a three-month period, just about twice a day. Let’s not forget that. Khalid Sheik Mohammed is a despicable person, yes. He videotaped himself beheading reporter Daniel Pearl, but we should not have lowered ourselves to his level.

On the left, we have Michael Moore, whom I adore, and Rosie O’Donnell, whom I can’t abide because she doesn’t bother to get her facts straight, questioning the legally of hunting and killing bin Laden. “Double-tapped an old man in his pajamas” is about how Moore referred to it. First of all, bin Laden was a few years younger than I, and I’m not old. He was in his mid-50’s, not old and apparently not as infirm as we were led to believe. He was of an age where he still could have mounted resistance with any of the weaponry found nearby. Yes, he was in his nightgown-like sleeping attire, but when a Seal says, “Don’t move,” and you do, you accept the consequences. As I said in an earlier post, bin Laden would have shown that Seal no mercy had the roles been reversed, and the Seal’s death would not have been quick as bin Laden’s was. Again, as I said before, it would have been preferable to take bin Laden into custody and provide him the unique kind of American justice which has no equal in the world, and I’m not talking about a midnight raid with high-tech stealth and silenced guns. Though a trial would have offered its own problems, it was a desirable outcome, but we train our Special Forces quite well to make on-the-spot decisions and changes in tactics. Because I’ve never been trained that way and my research only gives me a theoretical perspective, I’m going to give the Special Forces the benefit of the doubt and accept they made the right call under the circumstances. And the President did, too.

I wish this incident would pass into history, already. It’s over and done with. We can’t, nor should we, change anything; however, as altruistic human beings we need to accept that bin Laden’s family can mourn the loss of their brother, uncle, father, husband, a death he brought to his own door, unlike the thousands of deaths he ordered then sat back and relished.

What Really Motivates the Birthers?

Just coincidentally a week or so ago, I was looking for something in my desk and came across an envelope with my mother’s handwriting on it. Just one word–“Important.” I had a vague memory of seeing it when I was going through papers after her death, so I decided to open it. Guess what I discovered? A Certificate of Live Birth.

For some reason I needed a copy of my certificate of live birth in 1990 and sent for it. The certificate itself is a Xerox on elaborately bordered, special paper (manufactured by the American Bank Note Company, no less), which bears the words, “Certification of Vital Record.” It was produced by the Commonwealth of Virginia, Department of Health, Division of Vital Records. At the bottom right is the seal of the Virginia Department of Health. At the bottom left is a raised version of that same seal. In tiny print at the bottom, it reads, “This is to certify that this is a true and correct reproduction or abstract of the official record filed with the Virginia Department of Health, Richmond, Virginia.” That’s followed by the photocopied signature of the then State Registrar.

It has a birth number and all sorts of interesting statistical information. Of particular note is box 15 “Birthplace (State or foreign country)”. Typed in is the word, “Virginia.” Not, Virginia, USA; just Virginia. As certified by the doctor attending, a Dr. Jones–hmm, that sounds like a made-up name, doesn’t it–it even includes the time of birth: 2:20 a.m.

All of this bureaucratic information, the birth number, the raised seal, even the facsimile of the original record, etc., is reminiscent of the Certificate of Live Birth for Barack Hussein Obama, which I’ve viewed at, a 2009 Pulitzer Prize winner, by the way. However, according to Donald Trump and other birthers, there is a question as to whether I was really born in Virginia, because for them, a certificate of live birth doesn’t cut it.

I guess my mother and father conspired before my birth to make me a bureaucrat in a Federal agency, so they submitted false information to the Commonwealth of Virginia so it would appear I was born there. How devious is that?

Then, deeper in the envelope, I found a 1976 version of my certificate of live birth. Though the middle portion of this version is the exact same record as the 1990 version, the whole certificate is a Xerox. Uh, oh. I now have two versions of my certificate of live birth. Highly questionable. The information on both versions match to every letter and comma, but two versions? I better not run for office–I have my own conspiracy in the making.

Then, there’s the whole matter of one citizen verbally abusing another citizen over the production of a “long form” birth certificate. I went to Virginia’s state government Web site and searched for “long form birth certificate.” No hits. Apparently, either of my two versions of my certificate of live birth is a long form birth certificate because it’s the only birth certificate Virginia issues.

I am still amazed that we’re discussing this in America. I’ve written before about how my mother and her family came to America when she was very young and how a town in Virginia “adopted” them, got them SSN’s, and any other government form a citizen would need. So, yes, I’m an anchor baby, apparently. The fact that my mother wasn’t a citizen didn’t come to light until the late 1970’s when she and my father were supposed to go to the Soviet Union at the request of the U.S. Department of Agriculture for an agricultural expo. She simply refused to apply for a passport, and my father finally figured it out and decided it would be way too complicated to get her “established” as a citizen. They didn’t go. Several flags got raised, but my mother was never investigated. She even served several times on juries. The difference, of course, was my mother looked like the majority of people in the country at the time she immigrated. She was European and white, not of African descent and dark, like our President.

And that, my dear Watson, is the crux of the matter and the answer to the question I posed in the title of this post. Would anyone be questioning the validity of President Obama’s certificate of live birth if he were as white as Sen. John McCain? Of course not. McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone when his father, on active duty in the military, was stationed there. That should hold the same concern for the ignorant Tea Baggers who raise the issue of the President’s birth, but it doesn’t. (By the way, children born overseas to American citizens, whether on active duty in the military or not, are U.S. citizens, but you have to dig into the law to know that, and we all know the Tea Baggers only go for the superficial.)

Most people and the media, as usual, have tried to overlook the overt racism in Trump’s and the other birthers’ claims, saying it’s just politics as usual. No, it’s not. Every time Trump or Bachmann or the half-governor of Alaska or any of the other self-aggrandizing publicity hogs mentions that the President may not have been born here or questions why he doesn’t produce that elusive long form birth certificate, call them on their racism. Point out exactly what they are–so insecure we have a President who doesn’t look like them that they have to resort to childish finger-pointing and bullying. They are racists, plain and simple. That, not patriotism, is their sole motivation.