February 27th, 2013


Today as the pilots of American Airlines and US Airways look toward the merger of the two airlines and the pending exit from bankruptcy we are hopeful, but not naive.  One key factor that will ultimately determine the success of this endeavor is rarely spoken of – that factor is leadership.  Since deregulation of the airline business in the early 1970’s most of the visionary airline builders were culled from the industry replaced by the “bean counters” (finance majors), business managers (MBA’s) and the jackals (those who want to break unions for the sake of breaking them and drain assets and liquidity for their own purposes).  Very few airline visionaries remained into the 1980’s (Bob Crandall and Herb Kelleher stand out).  The fact of the matter is that the US airline industry has been managed to death, but it has not been led to success.  In conversations with airline insiders and at least one visionary (David Neeleman) it is apparent that current executives feel that the only way for senior executives to make money after an airline “matures” (i.e. after ten years for a startup when the actual costs of running an airline begin to take effect) is to either sustain 5 to 6% annual growth or restructure through mergers, acquisitions and/or bankruptcy.  The new team set to run the “new” American Airlines stated recently that there will be a new culture of cooperation and leadership at AA where leaders will listen to what the employees have to say.  Well, so sorry, but this is not leadership.  Leaders have a vision for greatness and victory, they study and understand the elements necessary to pursue the vision, they then motivate a team of people to also see and adopt that vision.  They then give everything they have to support the team in the accomplishment of the goal, literally sacrificing themselves for the greater goal.  If you have been to any business school in the US, you have never heard of this kind of leadership from your professors.  The real school of leadership apparently happens in life, not in class, and its best students tend to be brilliante people with high ethical standards.  Case in point, Admiral Jim Stockdale, Vietnam POW and former Vice Presidential Candidate.  While in the Hanoi Hilton POW camp, he literally punched out the camp commander.  Why?  Here are the words of his cellmate at the time:

Why did Stockdale intentionally assault the camp commander by punching him

in the face? An irrational outburst of anger or violence was completely out

of character for this Stanford-educated philosopher. He was noted around the

camp for his towering intellect, not his emotional volatility.

Mr. Johnson pauses for a long moment before answering that question,

choosing his words deliberately. “Frankly, I think he was protecting me.

You know, that’s a characteristic of leadership.”


I urge all of us riding this rollercoaster of bankruptcy and merger with American Airlines to seek out, support and exert or follow this kind of leadership.  Such leadership gives us the best opportunity to succeed.  We don’t need more managers who have had a class on leadership – we need leaders who have taken a few classes on management and can choose fine managers to manage, not lead.


Below is an article on leadership that brings it all into focus.


Regards – Rob Gaylord  – Focker Out


Vietnam POWs

Lessons in leadership from our heroes

The Washington Times

By Taylor Baldwin Kiland and Peter Fretwell Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Forty years ago, on Feb. 12, 1973, our nation started to welcome home

591 American prisoners of war, most of them from the infamous Hanoi Hilton

POW camp. Some of the released prisoners had been held for up to nine years,

and U.S. military doctors expected broken men to step off the C-141s landing

at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines. Instead, they found fewer than 5

percent of the POWs suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Using just their brains and tin cups, these Americans created their own

high-performance society, communicating with each other through prison walls

by tapping on the cups – employing a type of Morse Code as their language.

They built a civilized culture against all odds – including extreme torture

and extended isolation. For the longest-held of the POWs, this duress lasted

more than eight years. No other group of POWs in our nation’s history has

ever been held captive as long as these men.

Texas Rep. Sam Johnson was one of those POWs. Four decades later, he

believes the leadership these men demonstrated can provide today’s political

leaders with some genuine role models.

Mr. Johnson recalls one hot summer night in 1967 when he shared a cell with

James Stockdale, the senior ranking officer among the group of POWs, and

their de facto leader. They were trying to communicate with recent

“shoot-downs,” other aviators whose planes had been recently shot down.

Captured and incarcerated, many of these men were still recovering from

their aircraft ejection injuries. As Mr. Johnson describes it, “They were

scared, for good reason. We wanted to talk to them and make them know that

there were other Americans around.” The tap code communications system was

the POWs’ lifeblood, but the risks for using it were high. Punishment by the

camp guards for communicating with each other was harsh. When possible, the

POWs assigned at least one man the task of “clearing,” or alerting other

POWs of a guard’s impending approach. This required lying on the filthy

prison cell floor and peering through the crack under the prison door. The

alternative was balancing on their toilet buckets to look over the top of

the cell door for moving shadows along the hallway.

“Stockdale had a broken leg, and I had a busted arm. The bunks were, you

know, about that high and concrete,” Johnson explained, as he held his hand

up to his knees. Johnson is a tall man, so the concrete slab allowed him to

peer out the high cell windows.

“Jim would get on the floor and ‘clear’ and I’d get up on the concrete bunk

and talk to [a new guy] down the back side out of the window. We happened to

be on the back of the jail. We would tell him essentially how the cow eats

the cabbage [how the things worked in the prison system] and, that ‘you’re

going to be all right.'”

On this particular night, they were finally caught. “The guard and an

officer came charging down the hall. Jim barely got up before the door

opened. I’m standing there and the door pops open and here’s this little

North Vietnamese guy wearing Air Force 2nd Lieutenant bars. Turns out he was

a camp commander. He wasn’t a lieutenant – he was masquerading as one. Jim

hauled off and decked him right there. Just knocked him down.

And, I thought, ‘.We’re in deep serious now.’ And we were.”

Punishment was immediate and harsh. Mr. Johnson spent 72 days in leg stocks

in a small cell with the windows boarded up. He quietly notes, “Jim got the

worst punishment.”

Why did Stockdale intentionally assault the camp commander by punching him

in the face? An irrational outburst of anger or violence was completely out

of character for this Stanford-educated philosopher. He was noted around the

camp for his towering intellect, not his emotional volatility.

Mr. Johnson pauses for a long moment before answering that question,

choosing his words deliberately. “Frankly, I think he was protecting me.

You know, that’s a characteristic of leadership.”

Stockdale exhibited several noteworthy characteristics of a great leader

that day. He stayed focused on the POWs’ agreed-upon mission, he chose his

battle carefully and – without fear of personal consequences – he sacrificed

himself to protect those under him. He asked nothing of his followers that

he would not first deliver himself. When pain was on the agenda, Stockdale

didn’t delegate. He led.

Even today, Mr. Johnson found Stockdale’s actions a model for himself and

others in challenging leadership positions: “All of us who serve America in

public office would do well to pause at this 40th anniversary of our

homecoming to ask ourselves whether we are showing the same courage and

selflessness I saw in his leadership during our time in the Hanoi Hilton.

This is America – where we rise to the occasion to make this country better

for the next generation. This is our time. This is our challenge. When we

honor the legacy and values of outstanding leadership like Jim, America will


Response to Fox News Biased Reporting on American Airlines

September 24th, 2012

Dear Fox and Friends Producers, 


You are one of my favorite shows so I am writing as a fan to let you know that you have been putting out some bad information.American Airlines and AMR corporation have been putting on a full court press to blame their operational ineffectiveness on pilots calling in sick.  They have put out a line of comment indicating that pilots sick calls are running 20% over normal.  The fact is that these numbers are easy to obtain, verify and compare and actually show that pilot sick calls are not elevated at all but within 1% of their monthly average for the last 12 months.  That monthly average runs about 6.5% or about 500 pilots out of our 7600 who are currently flying and not on furlough or serving with the military.  Flight Attendant sick calls are running at historically high levels but this has not been delineated by either American or the media.

American pilots are in the unique position of working without a contract.  Our contract, which was abrogated by the court two weeks ago, enables pilots to work through operational issues in a professional manner through communications and hearings and fact finding when there are deviations.  That is gone now, so pilots are flying very cautiously with regard to company and FAA rules because the company can fire a pilot without recourse and the FAA can take the pilots license while they investigate and that pilot is immediately unemployed – pilots are not on salary they actually get paid by the minute and don’t start getting paid until the aircraft is moved from the gate.  So when you see pilots at the airport, in uniform doing paperwork and preparing to fly – they are not being paid.  The pilots of American Airlines are professional aviators who have been lied to by management at every turn since 2003 when they gave back over a billion dollars in a concessionary contract to prevent AMR’s dive into bankruptcy while management prepared bonuses for themselves.

As a conservative and an international airline captain at AA I am a Union Member because of the unique circumstances of commercial aviation.  But Airline pilots are not traditional unionized labor as many conservatives like myself may be tempted to assume.  We are professionals that are federally licensed and regulated.  By any measure we have greater risk and responsibility than any manager including AMR CEO Tom Horton.  Yet we have no contact with our managers, so we traditionally have a contract we follow and our own ethics and leadership as professionals to guide our actions.  We are compensated well because our work requires years of preparation, experience and hundreds of thousands of dollars of personal investment.  We have the lives of hundreds of people in our hands every day and sole responsibility for a $20 plus million dollar asset, flown at all hours in all weather conditions into some of the most demanding airports in the world. We have more life and death responsibility that any surgeon at any one moment.  We are more highly regulated, inspected and scrutinized than any doctor or CEO and yet we serve at the complete mercy of companies and managers who have little understanding or respect for our profession.  We accept these factors but will not devalue our profession for the sake of inexperienced managers and boards who don’t know what it really means to run a world class airline.  This is why the pilots voted down the company’s last offer.  It was an insulting attack on our profession and we will not cut our own throats to cover for managements failures – we have done our job exactly as we contracted to do with integrity and within the rules of our highly regulated environment.We were professional aviators before we worked for AA, and we will be professional aviators after we no longer work for AA.  I was an Air Force U-2 pilot and AA came to my base and specifically asked me to work for them.  When I arrived for my interview I sat next to the Colonel who was the Captain of Air Force One, he got the same invitation.  American came to us because they needed our skills to make their business work,  without professional aviators there is no airline.  We cannot be outsourced or easily replaced.  There is a worldwide pilot shortage that is only getting worse.

With regard to the company’s economic arguments, AA pilots are paid less than almost all their counterparts, less than Delta, United and Southwest by significant numbers.  So their argument that the pilots are making above market rates is a lie.  For 25 years AA made promises in writing that they have now been allowed to walk away from through bankruptcy.  American Airlines entered bankruptcy with more cash ($5 billion) than any company in American history.  AA’s bankruptcy was merely a stunt to break the unions and stiff our creditors so they can compete.  Funny thing is that despite no labor concessions having been put in place yet, AA is now reporting a profit except for the costs of paying bankruptcy lawyers.  This is a travesty and deserves a fair and balanced investigation, not a mere regurgitation of comments that pose as facts from sources controlled by AA or intellectually dishonest analysts who have it out for unions.

Of course everyone loves Southwest Airlines, but did you know that Southwest is the most highly unionized airline in the US?  The difference is management philosophy at Southwest,  Their CEO recently stated that the most important people for Southwest are not customers, but employees.  Southwest believes that if they take care and respect employees then the employees will take care and respect their customers and business will be good.  Well for Southwest business is in fact, very good.  But Southwest practices care and respect for employees, they don’t just talk about it.  AA has talked for years but not followed up with the actions and commitments.  Employees are not the enemy, they are an airlines greatest asset or, if treated poorly, its most powerful drain on brand excellence.

I am a retired AF Colonel, I have an MBA and have run four international companies.  I have worked as an aviation analyst for NBC and an international risk expert for CBS.  I understand business and leadership and airlines are a unique business that requires extremely competent leadership, agile decision making and trust.  It would be refreshing for the media to be fair and balanced with regard to some industries where unions are not the enemy but in fact the leaders in protecting the traveling public.  Airline pilot unions in the US have been responsible for creating and/or demanding most of the programs that are now credited with creating the great safety record we now enjoy in the US.

For those companies and organizations on the unsecured creditors committee (the UCC) involved in the AA bankruptcy this is about dollars that belong to companies – for AA pilots (also on the UCC) this is about the future of our families, our lives, our financial security and our honor.

Thanks for your time, the pilots at American Airlines are proud professionals saddened by where management has taken our once great airline.  I continue to transport and protect my precious passengers despite the attacks on my profession, my livelihood, my reputation and my colleagues.  Professional pilots call in sick when they are not physically fit to fly, this is the responsibility placed on us alone by our Federal Airline Transport License and our FAA Medical Certificate, it is not a company decision.  We don’t call in sick to punish the company or leverage our circumstances.  But these are trying times of great stress for the employees of American Airlines, and I am sure that this stress does affect peoples health.  Over the past several years the stress has gotten so bad that suicides among pilots in our business are at record levels. That is a sure sign of trouble in any business that cannot and should not be ignored.

The truth is that prior to AA’s bankruptcy and continuing through it, AA is responsible for lying not only to employees, but to investors, stockholders, banks, regulators, creditors, analysts and the media. They have been fined well over $150 million over the last 4 years for gross maintenance violations, these fines are records – the previous highest fine was $25 million (also fined against AA).  So where is the outrage from the media against a company that has used spin to avoid accountability and abused the bankruptcy laws to cheat investors (every AA stockholder), stakeholders (employees), suppliers and customers so they can break contracts they agreed to and signed.  Please tenaciously investigate deeper than the press releases and the analyst babble from those who look at the industry but don’t know the business.

Finally, please realize that I obviously do not speak for American Airlines or for the pilots union, the Allied Pilots Association.  I speak as a private citizen, professional aviator, conservative and concerned american worker.

Very Respectfully,

Captain Robert Gaylord

How the Bin Laden mission went down!

May 5th, 2011

Behind The Hunt For Bin LadenClues slowly led to location of Qaeda chiefThis article is by Mark Mazzetti, Helene Cooper and Peter Baker.WASHINGTON — For years, the agonizing search for Osama bin Laden kept coming up empty. Then last July, Pakistanis working for the Central Intelligence Agency drove up behind a white Suzuki navigating the bustling streets near Peshawar, Pakistan, and wrote down the car’s license plate.The man in the car was Bin Laden’s most trusted courier, and over the next month C.I.A. operatives would track him throughout central Pakistan. Ultimately, administration officials said, he led them to a sprawling compound at the end of a long dirt road and surrounded by tall security fences in a wealthy hamlet 35 miles from the Pakistani capital.On a moonless night eight months later, 79 American commandos in four helicopters descended on the compound, the officials said. Shots rang out. A helicopter stalled and would not take off. Pakistani authorities, kept in the dark by their allies in Washington, scrambled forces as the American commandos rushed to finish their mission and leave before a confrontation. Of the five dead, one was a tall, bearded man with a bloodied face and a bullet in his head. A member of the Navy Seals snapped his picture with a camera and uploaded it to analysts who fed it into a facial recognition program.And just like that, history’s most expansive, expensive and exasperating manhunt was over. The inert frame of Osama bin Laden, America’s enemy No. 1, was placed in a helicopter for burial at sea, never to be seen or feared again. A nation that spent a decade tormented by its failure to catch the man responsible for nearly 3,000 fiery deaths in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001, at long last had its sense of finality, at least in this one difficult chapter.For an intelligence community that had endured searing criticism for a string of intelligence failures over the past decade, Bin Laden’s killing brought a measure of redemption. For a military that has slogged through two, and now three vexing wars in Muslim countries, it provided an unalloyed success. And for a president whose national security leadership has come under question, it proved an affirming moment that will enter the history books.The raid was the culmination of years of painstaking intelligence work, including the interrogation of C.I.A. detainees in secret prisons in Eastern Europe, where sometimes what was not said was as useful as what was. Intelligence agencies eavesdropped on telephone calls and e-mails of the courier’s Arab family in a Persian Gulf state and pored over satellite images of the compound in Abbottabad to determine a “pattern of life” that might decide whether the operation would be worth the risk.As more than a dozen White House, intelligence and Pentagon officials described the operation on Monday, the past few weeks were a nerve-racking amalgamation of what-ifs and negative scenarios. “There wasn’t a meeting when someone didn’t mention ‘Black Hawk Down,’ ” a senior administration official said, referring to the disastrous 1993 battle in Somalia in which two American helicopters were shot down and some of their crew killed in action. The failed mission to rescue hostages in Iran in 1980 also loomed large.Administration officials split over whether to launch the operation, whether to wait and continue monitoring until they were more sure that Bin Laden was really there, or whether to go for a less risky bombing assault. In the end, President Obama opted against a bombing that could do so much damage it might be uncertain whether Bin Laden was really hit and chose to send in commandos. A “fight your way out” option was built into the plan, with two helicopters following the two main assault copters as backup in case of trouble.On Sunday afternoon, as the helicopters raced over Pakistani territory, the president and his advisers gathered in the Situation Room of the White House to monitor the operation as it unfolded. Much of the time was spent in silence. Mr. Obama looked “stone faced,” one aide said. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. fingered his rosary beads. “The minutes passed like days,” recalled John O. Brennan, the White House counterterrorism chief.The code name for Bin Laden was “Geronimo.” The president and his advisers watched Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A. director, on a video screen, narrating from his agency’s headquarters across the Potomac River what was happening in faraway Pakistan.“They’ve reached the target,” he said.Minutes passed.“We have a visual on Geronimo,” he said.A few minutes later: “Geronimo EKIA.”Enemy Killed In Action. There was silence in the Situation Room.Finally, the president spoke up.“We got him.”Filling in the GapsYears before the Sept. 11 attacks transformed Bin Laden into the world’s most feared terrorist, the C.I.A. had begun compiling a detailed dossier about the major players inside his global terror network.It wasn’t until after 2002, when the agency began rounding up Qaeda operatives — and subjecting them to hours of brutal interrogation sessions in secret overseas prisons — that they finally began filling in the gaps about the foot soldiers, couriers and money men Bin Laden relied on.Prisoners in American custody told stories of a trusted courier. When the Americans ran the man’s pseudonym past two top-level detainees — the chief planner of the Sept. 11 attacks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed; and Al Qaeda’s operational chief, Abu Faraj al-Libi — the men claimed never to have heard his name. That raised suspicions among interrogators that the two detainees were lying and that the courier probably was an important figure.As the hunt for Bin Laden continued, the spy agency was being buffeted on other fronts: the botched intelligence assessments about weapons of mass destruction leading up to the Iraq War, and the intense criticism for using waterboarding and other extreme interrogation methods that critics said amounted to torture.By 2005, many inside the C.I.A. had reached the conclusion that the Bin Laden hunt had grown cold, and the agency’s top clandestine officer ordered an overhaul of the agency’s counterterrorism operations. The result was Operation Cannonball, a bureaucratic reshuffling that placed more C.I.A. case officers on the ground in Pakistan and Afghanistan.With more agents in the field, the C.I.A. finally got the courier’s family name. With that, they turned to one of their greatest investigative tools — the National Security Agency began intercepting telephone calls and e-mail messages between the man’s family and anyone inside Pakistan. From there they got his full name.Last July, Pakistani agents working for the C.I.A. spotted him driving his vehicle near Peshawar. When, after weeks of surveillance, he drove to the sprawling compound in Abbottabad, American intelligence operatives felt they were onto something big, perhaps even Bin Laden himself. It was hardly the spartan cave in the mountains that many had envisioned as his hiding place. Rather, it was a three-story house ringed by 12-foot-high concrete walls, topped with barbed wire and protected by two security fences. He was, said Mr. Brennan, the White House official, “hiding in plain sight.”Back in Washington, Mr. Panetta met with Mr. Obama and his most senior national security aides, including Mr. Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. The meeting was considered so secret that White House officials didn’t even list the topic in their alerts to each other.That day, Mr. Panetta spoke at length about Bin Laden and his presumed hiding place.“It was electric,” an administration official who attended the meeting said. “For so long, we’d been trying to get a handle on this guy. And all of a sudden, it was like, wow, there he is.”There was guesswork about whether Bin Laden was indeed inside the house. What followed was weeks of tense meetings between Mr. Panetta and his subordinates about what to do next.While Mr. Panetta advocated an aggressive strategy to confirm Bin Laden’s presence, some C.I.A. clandestine officers worried that the most promising lead in years might be blown if bodyguards suspected the compound was being watched and spirited the Qaeda leader out of the area.For weeks last fall, spy satellites took detailed photographs, and the N.S.A. worked to scoop up any communications coming from the house. It wasn’t easy: the compound had neither a phone line nor Internet access. Those inside were so concerned about security that they burned their trash rather than put it on the street for collection.In February, Mr. Panetta called Vice Adm. William H. McRaven, commander of the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command, to C.I.A. headquarters in Langley, Va., to give him details about the compound and to begin planning a military strike.Admiral McRaven, a veteran of the covert world who had written a book on American Special Operations, spent weeks working with the C.I.A. on the operation, and came up with three options: a helicopter assault using American commandos, a strike with B-2 bombers that would obliterate the compound, or a joint raid with Pakistani intelligence operatives who would be told about the mission hours before the launch.Weighing the OptionsOn March 14, Mr. Panetta took the options to the White House. C.I.A. officials had been taking satellite photos, establishing what Mr. Panetta described as the habits of people living at the compound. By now evidence was mounting that Bin Laden was there.The discussions about what to do took place as American relations with Pakistan were severely strained over the arrest of Raymond A. Davis, the C.I.A. contractor imprisoned for shooting two Pakistanis on a crowded street in Lahore in January. Some of Mr. Obama’s top aides worried that any military assault to capture or kill Bin Laden might provoke an angry response from Pakistan’s government, and that Mr. Davis could end up dead in his jail cell. Mr. Davis was ultimately released on March 16, giving a freer hand to his colleagues.On March 22, the president asked his advisers their opinions on the options.Mr. Gates was skeptical about a helicopter assault, calling it risky, and instructed military officials to look into aerial bombardment using smart bombs. But a few days later, the officials returned with the news that it would take some 32 bombs of 2,000 pounds each. And how could the American officials be certain that they had killed Bin Laden?“It would have created a giant crater, and it wouldn’t have given us a body,” said one American intelligence official.A helicopter assault emerged as the favored option. The Navy Seals team that would hit the ground began holding dry runs at training facilities on both American coasts, which were made up to resemble the compound. But they were not told who their target might be until later.Last Thursday, the day after the president released his long-form birth certificate — such “silliness,” he told reporters, was distracting the country from more important things — Mr. Obama met again with his top national security officials.Mr. Panetta told the group that the C.I.A. had “red-teamed” the case — shared their intelligence with other analysts who weren’t involved to see if they agreed that Bin Laden was probably in Abbottabad. They did. It was time to decide.Around the table, the group went over and over the negative scenarios. There were long periods of silence, one aide said. And then, finally, Mr. Obama spoke: “I’m not going to tell you what my decision is now — I’m going to go back and think about it some more.” But he added, “I’m going to make a decision soon.”Sixteen hours later, he had made up his mind. Early the next morning, four top aides were summoned to the White House Diplomatic Room. Before they could brief the president, he cut them off. “It’s a go,” he said. The earliest the operation could take place was Saturday, but officials cautioned that cloud cover in the area meant that Sunday was much more likely.The next day, Mr. Obama took a break from rehearsing for the White House Correspondents Dinner that night to call Admiral McRaven, to wish him luck.On Sunday, White House officials canceled all West Wing tours so unsuspecting tourists and visiting celebrities wouldn’t accidentally run into all the high-level national security officials holed up in the Situation Room all afternoon monitoring the feeds they were getting from Mr. Panetta. A staffer went to Costco and came back with a mix of provisions — turkey pita wraps, cold shrimp, potato chips, soda.At 2:05 p.m., Mr. Panetta sketched out the operation to the group for a final time. Within an hour, the C.I.A. director began his narration, via video from Langley. “They’ve crossed into Pakistan,” he said.

Across the Border

The commando team had raced into the Pakistani night from a base in Jalalabad, just across the border in Afghanistan. The goal was to get in and get out before Pakistani authorities detected the breach of their territory by what were to them unknown forces and reacted with possibly violent results.In Pakistan, it was just past midnight on Monday morning, and the Americans were counting on the element of surprise. As the first of the helicopters swooped in at low altitudes, neighbors heard a loud blast and gunshots. A woman who lives two miles away said she thought it was a terrorist attack on a Pakistani military installation. Her husband said no one had any clue Bin Laden was hiding in the quiet, affluent area. “It’s the closest you can be to Britain,” he said of their neighborhood.The Seal team stormed into the compound — the raid awakened the group inside, one American intelligence official said — and a firefight broke out. One man held an unidentified woman living there as a shield while firing at the Americans. Both were killed. Two more men died as well, and two women were wounded. American authorities later determined that one of the slain men was Bin Laden’s son, Hamza, and the other two were the courier and his brother.The commandos found Bin Laden on the third floor, wearing the local loose-fitting tunic and pants known as a shalwar kameez, and officials said he resisted before he was shot above the left eye near the end of the 40-minute raid. The American government gave few details about his final moments. “Whether or not he got off any rounds, I frankly don’t know,” said Mr. Brennan, the White House counterterrorism chief. But a senior Pentagon official, briefing on the condition of anonymity, said it was clear Bin Laden “was killed by U.S. bullets.”American officials insisted they would have taken Bin Laden into custody if he did not resist, although they considered that likelihood remote. “If we had the opportunity to take Bin Laden alive, if he didn’t present any threat, the individuals involved were able and prepared to do that,” Mr. Brennan said.One of Bin Laden’s wives identified his body, American officials said. A picture taken by a Seals commando and processed through facial recognition software suggested a 95 percent certainty that it was Bin Laden. Later, DNA tests comparing samples with relatives found a 99.9 percent match.But the Americans faced other problems. One of their helicopters stalled and could not take off. Rather than let it fall into the wrong hands, the commandos moved the women and children to a secure area and blew up the malfunctioning helicopter.By that point, though, the Pakistani military was scrambling forces in response to the incursion into Pakistani territory. “They had no idea about who might have been on there,” Mr. Brennan said. “Thankfully, there was no engagement with Pakistani forces.”As they took off at 1:10 a.m. local time, taking a trove of documents and computer hard drives from the house, the Americans left behind the women and children. A Pakistani official said nine children, from 2 to 12 years old, are now in Pakistani custody.The Obama administration had already determined it would follow Islamic tradition of burial within 24 hours to avoid offending devout Muslims, yet concluded Bin Laden would have to be buried at sea, since no country would be willing to take the body. Moreover, they did not want to create a shrine for his followers.So the Qaeda leader’s body was washed and placed in a white sheet in keeping with tradition. On the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, it was placed in a weighted bag as an officer read prepared religious remarks, which were translated into Arabic by a native speaker, according to the senior Pentagon official.The body then was placed on a prepared flat board and eased into the sea. Only a small group of people watching from one of the large elevator platforms that move aircraft up to the flight deck were witness to the end of America’s most wanted fugitive.Reporting was contributed by Elisabeth Bumiller, Charlie Savage and Steven Lee Myers from Washington, Adam Ellick from New York, and Ismail Khan from Peshawar, Pakistan.Washington PostMay 3, 2011Pg. 1

Months Of Planning, Minutes Of Execution

By Greg Miller and Joby WarrickHalf an hour had passed on the ground, but the American commandos raiding Osama bin Laden’s Pakistani hideaway had yet to find their long-sought target.Two of bin Laden’s protectors were already dead, shot by the Navy SEALs carrying out the raid, and one of the U.S. helicopters sat crippled in the courtyard. Pakistan’s military, which had been kept in the dark about the operation, was scrambling to respond to reports of explosions and gunfire at the one-acre compound.The commandos swept methodically through the compound’s main building, clearing one room and then another as they made their way to the upper floors where they expected to find bin Laden. As they did so, Obama administration officials in the White House Situation Room listened to the SEAL team’s conversations over secure lines.“The minutes passed like days,” said John O. Brennan, the administration’s chief counterterrorism adviser. “It was probably one of the most anxiety-filled periods of time, I think, in the lives of the people who were assembled.”Finally, shortly before 2 a.m. in Pakistan, the commandos burst into an upstairs room. Inside, an armed bin Laden took cover behind a woman, Brennan said. With a burst of gunfire, one of the longest and costliest manhunts in modern history was over.The operation, which was planned for months but hidden from all but a tiny circle of administration officials, marked the culmination of a search often seemingly so futile that top U.S. intelligence officials would answer questions about bin Laden’s whereabouts with a helpless shrug.It was a search that employed Predator drones, sophisticated signal interception equipment, networks of informants, and teams of analysts who scrutinized every video and audio recording from the al-Qaeda leader for inadvertent clues.In the end, “he was more or less hiding in plain sight,” a senior U.S. intelligence official said. “The only resident of the compound that was taken from the site was Osama bin Laden. He died – almost certainly – from a bullet to the head.”For years, bin Laden’s whereabouts were a guessing game, an unknown destination at the end of a trail that had gone utterly cold. But over the past year, U.S. spy agencies finally narrowed the circle by homing in on a relatively mundane target: a small network of couriers thought to be bin Laden’s only point of contact to the outside world.One courier in particular unknowingly led them to a newly built residence north of Islamabad. When American analysts scrutinized the place, “we were shocked by what we saw,” a senior Obama administration official said.The compound’s main building was three stories tall but had few windows facing outside. The facility appeared to be worth at least $1 million, but had no telephone or Internet connections. Its 12-to-18-foot security walls were topped by barbed wire.It was far from the tribal areas where lower-level militants dodge Predator strikes. Indeed, the compound was a short distance from Pakistan’s military academy. U.S. documents released by the WikiLeaks anti-secrecy Web site describe plans to send U.S. special operations soldiers to Abbottabad in 2008 to train Pakistani troops. In contrast to the legend of al-Qaeda and its founder, bin Laden was not hiding in a cave.Much about the U.S. operation remained secret Monday. But U.S. officials provided new details about the chronology of events leading up to the raid, describing high-level meetings at the White House as well as daring operations on the ground.A crucial break appears to have come on May 2, 2005, when Pakistani special forces arrested a senior al-Qaeda operative known as Abu Faraj al-Libbi, who had been designated bin Laden’s “official messenger” to others within the organization. Libbi was later turned over to the CIA and held at a “black site” prison where he was subjected to the harsh methods that the George W. Bush administration termed “enhanced interrogation techniques.”Libi and other detainees pointed CIA interrogators to another messenger with close ties to the al-Qaeda leader. U.S. officials said they started only with the mystery courier’s nom de guerre, and that it took four years to uncover his actual identity, his approximate location in Pakistan and ultimately the compound where bin Laden was found.Obama was first made aware of the potential breakthrough last September, as CIA analysts grasped the significance of the succession of clues. On March 14, Obama held the first of five National Security Council meetings in the span of a month devoted to the questions of whether and how to target the newly discovered site.“We weren’t certain in August 2010 that bin Laden was there,” said the senior U.S. intelligence official. “Earlier this year, our confidence level grew much higher.”That confidence grew in large part because analysts monitored the compound so closely that they came to know its daily rhythms and the identities of its residents. Analysts concluded it was built to hide “someone of significance,” and that a third family was living on the floors above the courier and his brother.It remains unclear when bin Laden first arrived, but officials said that the compound was under near-constant scrutiny by the United States, and that it appears the al-Qaeda leader rarely – if ever – ventured outside.Indeed, U.S. officials said the timing of the raid was not driven by worry that bin Laden was about to leave, but by the accumulation of confidence that their intelligence on his location was dead on.On Thursday afternoon, Obama gathered his senior national security team in the Situation Room for a final review of the operation, according to one member present who requested anonymity to speak candidly.Three options were under consideration: The first was a raid using Special Forces, but Obama was also asked to consider a strike from a “standoff platform,” most likely a drone. The third – to wait for more definitive intelligence – would have sounded distressingly familiar to a prior generation of officials who had to explain why there had been such reluctance to pursue bin Laden before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.“Everyone, in going around the table, began by saying, ‘Well, this is a very tough call,’ ” a senior administration official said. Obama, the official said, told the group, “I’m not going to give you my answer now.”It wasn’t until 8 a.m. Friday that Obama, in a meeting with national security adviser Thomas E. Donilon, his deputy Denis McDonough, Chief of Staff William M. Daley, and Brennan, told the group to move ahead.He then boarded Marine One, waiting for him on the South Lawn, to carry him on the first leg of a trip to tornado-ravaged Alabama.The Navy SEAL commandos picked for the mission had trained for weeks, practicing daily at a precise replica of the compound that they came to know every wall and external feature, as well as where every occupant was likely to be found. The rehearsals also covered a range of scenarios, including the possibility that bin Laden would try to surrender. So the SEAL team members practiced how to take him prisoner, according a military official briefed on the plan. Using Arabic commands, the insertion team would offer bin Laden a chance to give up, and would fire only if he resisted.“As much as they may have wanted to see him dead, they were ready to offer him a chance to give up,” said the official, who agreed to speak about the mission on the condition of anonymity.In the end, bin Laden showed no interest in being captured alive.The SEAL team flew from Afghanistan into Abbottabad aboard two Black Hawk helicopters, U.S. officials said. The raid created enough of a commotion that a Pakistani resident of the city posted a series of tweets describing the sounds of helicopters and explosions.The most serious stumble occurred at the start: One of the helicopters had a mechanical failure and tumbled into a courtyard, its tail clipping a 12-foot wall. Navy SEALs who were supposed to be dropped safely outside the perimeter were scrambling for cover in bin Laden’s yard.“Seeing that helicopter in a place and in a condition that it wasn’t supposed to be – that, at least for me and I know for the other people in the room, was the concern,” Brennan said.A third helicopter, a Chinook, was sent to the scene for emergency support. Meanwhile, the team dropped outside the compound joined the unit that from the the damaged helicopter and pressed ahead, exchanging fire with the courier and his brother until both men were killed.The commandos moved inside, and finally reached bin Laden’s upstairs living quarters after nearly 40 minutes on the ground. What words if any were exchanged between the Americans and the Saudi-born terrorist are not publicly known, but the SEALs used the code word “Geronimo” to inform their commanders that they had found the target.“The woman presumed to be his wife . . . was shielding bin Laden,” Brennan said, adding that it was not clear that anyone had forced her to take the action. The White House later said that a woman who died in the assault was not one of bin Laden’s wives.The al-Qaeda leader was shot at at least once in the head and died instantly, U.S. officials said.News footage from inside the rooms of the compound showed the aftermath of a ferocious struggle, with blood-soaked carpets and overturned furniture. ABC News, which obtained the footage, said computer equipment appeared to have been seized in the raid. A senior U.S. intelligence official confirmed that the SEAL team seized material from the compound that was being scrubbed for possible leads to other terrorist suspects.All told, four men and one woman lay dead. Only the body of bin Laden was carried away as the commandos made their way to a designated collection point outside the complex, destroyed the downed helicopter and boarded Black Hawk and Chinook for the return flight to Afghanistan.Only after slipping out of Pakistani airspace did Obama call Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, to inform him of the U.S. military raid 35 miles, as the crow flies, from the Pakistani capital.A series of top-secret briefings at the White House on Sunday afternoon conveyed, with rising certainty, news of the operation’s success. At 7:01 pm, the president was told there was a “high probability” that bin Laden was dead.Staff writers Peter Finn and Scott Wilson and staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report

Robert GaylordPrincipal, MacroStrategiesrgaylord@macrostrat.com800-939-1731954-614-1759 (Blog)

Vote Like An American

October 21st, 2010

The Decision —  And now, we as a nation are faced with a thorny decision.  As the November elections loom on the immediate horizon, we as individuals must ask – what do we do?Do we NOT vote as protest to our sorry state – a perhaps senseless protest against those who through their inability gave us this time of trouble.  Or perhaps no group of honest or dishonest actors could act to change the events wrought through the innocent (?) decisions of thousands.Or do we vote the status quo to at least give those who successfully wooed our X in the block last time a chance to finish their task?  Or are all these praetors, I mean legislators, just fodder against the relentless cycles of economic, climatic and natural human truth?What do we do?  Do we pursue the division of the sheets, to ensure that our ideology is preserved, our icons enshrined and our own interests preserved?  What is our ideology?  How do we decide?I suggest the following – ask yourself — What do we as Americans bring to the table of civilization?  And how does my vote reflect that?Here is my answer.  If you could use one word, and only one word to describe what positive contribution America has brought to civilization – what would that word be?I urge you to decide for yourself, as an American what that word is for you – and then vote for those persons who most closely reflect that sensibility.  Don’t worry what those who are not American might use for an answer.  Because what the world thinks about Americans does not matter in terms of what we must decide for ourselves.  Do we expect Pakistani’s to decide fundamentally who they are in the cycle of human existence based on what Americans think about them?  No, Pakistan is the definer of their own legacy in this spin through time we call history.Speaking for myself, in order to come upon a singular word to describe America, I must take reflection on what I know of my America.  For I am American Indian, for I am of England and of Ireland and I am of Scotland.  For all this genealogy, I am truly American.  But enough of geography and immigration – what does it mean to be American expressed in one word?Is it Democracy?  A very Greek concept by virtue of history. But for me that is only part of the construct of America.Is it Republic?  Why yes, our system is republican in structure, but that is not it either, at least not for me.What is it that makes us American?  I believe it is not an esoteric question, it is the question that enables us to understand why and who we are.  Are we people of history and character? Or are we people of whimsy and greed?  Perhaps we are all these things.  I believe history is a series of repetitions and “do overs” that results precisely because human nature does not change – and humans are very messy players on the canvas of time.So, is the word Capitalism?  Hmmm, I like that one because I believe it is Capitalism that enables the non-capitalist philosophers, dreamers, poets and humanitarians to make this world a better place to exist.  The Greenpeace folks and people of faith survive on the generosity and excess wealth generated by Capitalism.  I know philosophically they hate that, but it is true.  Very few paupers, communists, socialists or fascist actors support the selfless people of the world.Is it Freedom?  Is this the word that encapsulates America?  Well certainly this is very close to that which makes us truly American – but that is not it for me.For me, the word that describes, identifies and exemplifies America is Liberty.  For me Liberty encompasses the good of Freedom, the boundary of individual and corporate Responsibility and the respect of personhood.  My Liberty is constrained by the boundary of your Liberty, and therefore by mutual respect we exercise the full measure of our freedom and responsibility to each other as Americans.So this November I urge you to consider you own definition of what it means to be an American – and VOTE FOR THOSE WHO EMBODY IT.  But before you do, look in the mirror and ask yourself four questions:  Who is responsible to taking care of me?  Who is responsible for taking care of people I know that are in need?  Who is responsible for paying for what I have?  Who is responsible for governing my country locally and nationally.  If your answer is the person in the mirror, then you are an American.  Vote like an American!

Understanding US Foreign Oil Dependence

September 23rd, 2010

POPULAR MYTHOLOGY  —  The United States imports the lion’s share of its oil from the Arab Middle East or Persian Gulf. FACT  —  In 2009 the US imported a grand total of 4.2 billion barrels of crude oil, roughly half of what we use.  What that means is we get nearly half of all the oil we use, FROM THE UNITED STATES!  —  MORE FACTS  —  Actual net imports of crude oil amounts to 51% of US oil consumption.  60% of these OIL IMPORTS, or 2.5 billion barrels, comes from NON-OPEC countries.  The remaining 40% of these OIL IMPORTS comes from OPEC nations (see yesterday’s blog for details of who they are).  Even more interesting is the fact that only 16% of all US Oil Imports comes from the Persian Gulf.Therefore US exposure to Mideast and/or Persian Gulf oil supply risk is actually only 16% of US oil consumption.   Price and market risk are an entirely different animal to be discussed later.  —  Which nations are the top suppliers of oil to the US?   —  As of June 2010  —  The top ten foreign sources of crude oil were: CANADA, MEXICO, SAUDI ARABIA, NIGERIA, VENEZUELA, RUSSIA, IRAQ, ALGERIA, ANGOLA AND COLOMBIA.   —   ANALYSIS  —  The United States effectively hedges its oil supply risk. More than 84% of US oil imports come from geographic areas outside the Persian Gulf.  More than 60% of US imported oil comes from non-OPEC sources.  —  The US is more dependent on Western Hemisphere oil sources than Middle East sources.   —  Instability in the Middle East creates fear of oil supply interruptions.  —  US national security policy focuses on creating and preserving regional stability.  —  Oil market makers such as OPEC have had greater influence on the price of crude in the last three years than in the last 25.  —  US oil risk hedging continues to focus on oil sources less at risk for political disruption and supply interdiction.     —  However, US foreign policy is casting a blind eye on creating strong security strategies and political relationships in the regions that supply the most oil to the US – North and South America.  —  MORE TO COME  —  FOCKER OUT!  —  Note: All data derived from US Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, Petroleum Supply Annual 2010 

America’s Nasty Little Oil Habit

September 22nd, 2010

Environmentalists, politicians and journalists warn of the dire consequences of US dependence on foreign oil. The United States is accused of running a foreign policy based entirely on petro-centric interests and of fighting wars solely for the purpose of ensuring the free flow of oil at market prices. The US is criticized for its dependence on foreign oil, especially Mideast oil and for tolerating tyrants and despots in the quest for cheap affordable oil.So what is the truth about the US and its nasty little oil habit? In order to have a correct view of America’s oil interests, we must first understand US National Security Interests.


1. Oil is the most critical natural resource of the global capitalist system and the stability of oil exporting regions is a critical US national security interest. This is why China, France, Russia, Mexico and most other industrial nations normally critical of the US are silent with regard to global oil politics.2. US national security policy is based on the concept of stability, not the free flow of oil at market prices. However –

a. Oil prices are very sensitive to instability.

b. Capitalism thrives on stability. Stability encourages investment, creates markets and enhances trade.

c. Stability normalizes the availability of essential raw materials so companies and investors will risk capital to build, create, sell, profit and eventually pay taxes.

Therefore, as a nation that lives and breathes economic supremacy via the capitalist model, oil is the lifeblood and stability makes it available in a constant and affordable market.Does the US get most of its oil from the Mideast?  No, we actually get most of our foreign oil from Mexico, Canada, Venezuela and then Saudi Arabia.  Therefore much of our supply risk exists in the Western Hemisphere. However, since oil is a commodity its price is set in the world market independent of location.  So lets try to understand this.

UNDERSTANDING THE WORLD OIL MARKET1. Oil is a commodity of varying qualities; therefore the source that supplies the highest quality (a characteristic that makes it easier to crack and turn into high quality distillates) will command the highest prices (we capitalists love that). Oil supplies of equal quality are priced based on several simple concepts – first, supply and demand (over production lowers prices); second, OPEC; and third risk (i.e. stability). 2. Oil is in huge supply, however; high quality crude oil that is easy to extract and deliver is not. Middle East oil is very high quality (sweet), they have lots of it and it is easy to extract and deliver. In fact many wells in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait do not require pumps – the oil shoots out at high pressure. Wells in Texas and the North Sea require expensive methods (water injection) or infrastructure (oil well platforms floating in rough seas) to get at the “sweet” crude. Oil fields in the former Soviet Republics lie on the wrong side of major mountain ranges, complicating delivery.3. The US produces huge amounts of oil and could produce more except for one interesting fact – it is cheaper to buy oil outside the US than to exploit all of our more difficult to extract domestic sources.4. OPEC (The Organization of Oil Producing and Exporting Countries) is a cartel of twelve nations –  Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela. Only six of which are located in the Middle East. Those five are: Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.5. OPEC was founded by Venezuela (I didn’t know that!) as a way to calm the volatile market price fluctuations of oil while simultaneously ensuring a profit for its members. The market sets oil prices; prices are moved by fluctuations in supply, demand and perceptions of risk.6. OPEC tries to leverage supply to control the market price of oil by setting production quotas for its members. Many times OPEC members do not follow the quotas that are set.7. US national security policy works to increase regional stability, this mitigates oil supply risk. Watch for my next blog where we will examine US OIL DEPENDENCE.  Focker OUT!

What do I think?

September 18th, 2010

This is my first post so I just want to say hello webworld.  You will find on this blog thoughtful analysis of the geopolitical situations we all face with specific emphasis on global political, economic and security risk.  If you are interested in knowing where my thoughts come from then click on the blogroll for Macro Strategies – that is my consulting company.  These are interesting times, so hang on… there is definitely more to come.  Focker Out!