Reality intruded on President Obama’s magical mystery tour in Europe today as NATO ministers turned a deaf ear to his plea for more troops in Afghanistan:
Gordon Brown was the only one to offer substantial help. He offered to send several hundred extra British soldiers to provide security during the August election, but even that fell short of the thousands of combat troops that the US was hoping to prise from the Prime Minister.
Just two other allies made firm offers of troops. Belgium offered to send 35 military trainers and Spain offered 12. Mr Obama’s host, Nicolas Sarkozy, refused his request.
Of course this had all been predicted by those who’ve been watching NATO and Europe for years (which would include us here at QandO). Western Europe, which forms the bulk of NATO, for the most part has no stomach for the war in Afghanistan, heck, they barely have a stomach for their own defense. Instead of the thousands troops, Obama was sure he’d be able to charm from them he’ll see 547 to 747 more troops, most from the UK, while the US sends 21,000.
While the school girls and press may be enamored with the charm and glamor of Obama, one of the major reasons for his trip turns out to be an unsurprising failure.
I‘m headed to a rather somber ocassion, where the family of a young paratrooper who served with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team will be presented his posthumous award of the Silver Star. It will be awarded in the high school auditorium from which he graduated.
I did aSomeone You Should Know segement about the fight in Wanat, Afghanistan where 9 soldiers lost their life. But they gave much better than they got, killing well over 100 Taliban and al Qaeda.
The young man being honored today is Cpl. Joseph Ayers. This from the script of the SYSK delivered on WRKO 680am, Boston on Pundit Review Radio:
At another spot on the observation post, Cpl. Jonathan Ayers laid down continuous fire from an M-240 machine gun, despite drawing huge volumes of small-arms and RPG fire from the enemy.
The enemy put everything they had into knocking out that machine gun. At least 5 or 6 RPGs exploded all around him and he never even flinched. Those that saw what he did said, “He just kept rocking on that 240.”
The survivors said it was the most heroic thing they’d ever seen. Like a movie. They feel he saved their lives. He kept the enemy from getting anywhere near COP. And Ayers kept firing until he was shot and killed.
I’ll have more on this later.
UPDATE: Well that was one heck of a great ceremony. The auditorium was packed. The Patriot Guard lined the room. Old members of the 173rd Airborne Brigade (from my era) were on hand. So were Cpl Ayer’s comrades. His mother had decreed (in a motherly way) that this ceremony not be a memorial service but, instead, a celebration of his life. And that’s precisely what it was. Speaker after speaker talked about Jonathan, his life prior to the Army, the fact that he was the commander of the JROTC unit at Shiloh High School and that the military seemed always to be in his future.
His former company commander, who will receive the Silver Star in a ceremony at Ft. Benning tomorrow, talked about the fact that had it not been for Jon Ayers, he wouldn’t have the honor of standing on that stage addressing Ayer’s family. His mother, Susan, talked about the son she’d lost but was so proud of the man he’d become. And his father brought the house down with a poignant yet humorous remembrance of his son. After the presentation of the Silver Star to the family, the family was the first to leave and then other relatives. When the soldiers who had served with Jon rose to walk out, the entire auditorium stood and applauded them. 16 Sky Soldiers from Chosen Company of the 1st of the 503 Airborne Infantry battalion lost their lives during their tour in Afghanistan. Over 60 of them were awarded Purple Hearts. 14 Silver Stars. One Distinguished Service Cross was awarded to a member of the company and one is pending. And one soldier from the company has been nominated for the Medal of Honor.
It was an inspiring afternoon – one remembering a young man who gave his all for a unit, in which his mother said, he was so proud to serve he found it difficult to express the full depth of his pride. Today they honored him.
John Murtha! Yes, “that John Murtha” … seriously:
In one of his last moves before leaving office March 13, then-Navy Secretary Donald Winter quietly awarded 19-term Democratic congressman John Murtha (Pa.) with the service’s highest civilian honor.
Citing Murtha’s “courageous leadership, vision, and loyalty to the men and women of the Department of the Navy,” Winter presented the influential chairman of the House Appropriations Committee’s defense panel with the Navy’s Distinguished Public Service Award, an honor bestowed in “those extraordinary cases where individuals have demonstrated exceptionally outstanding service of substantial and long term benefit to the Navy, Marine Corps, or the Department of the Navy as a whole,” a Murtha release stated.
As you can imagine, this didn’t sit well with some in the military. Seems they don’t appreciate seeing elected officials who condemn their comrades in arms as “murderers” being awarded medals:
The primary reason for their ire stems from the congressman’s statements in May, 2006, that a squad of Marines who responded to an IED ambush and short firefight in Haditha, Iraq, rampaged through the village, murdering civilians “in cold blood.”
Murtha made those comments in the heat of the 2006 congressional mid-term election campaign, in a move some political analysts saw as an attempt to stoke the anti-war vote for a Democratic takeover of the House. The former Marine and distinguished Vietnam veteran continued his accusations in follow-up media appearances before an official Pentagon and Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigation had been completed.
When the dust settled more than two years later, six of the eight Marines and Sailors accused of crimes in the Haditha incident had their cases dismissed, one was found not guilty and the last has been continued indefinitely.
Murtha has refused to recant his accusations or apologize to the Marines he accused of war crimes. When asked by Military.com in late 2007 whether he regretted his initial statements and owed the exonerated Marines and Sailor an apology, Murtha refused to comment, saying the cases were still being adjudicated.
Well, I can understand why he wouldn’t apologize. After all, it’s quite well known that Murtha is an officious liar, and no one should believe a word he says.
As for some actual soldier reaction, Deebow at Blackfive queries “Are You F’ing Serious?!”
I was immediately a little suspicious about what kind of award Mr. Murtha could have received, knowing that he hasn’t done anything honorable lately, at least that I can remember. So I checked the Way Back Machine event tabulator I had next to my oatmeal and it says Representative Jack Murtha was an unindicted co-conspirator in the ABSCAM investigation done by the FBI, blatantly called his constituents racists and backwoods red-necks and, most recently, called United States Marines engaged in combat “Cold Blooded Killers” for their actions during a firefight in Haditha, Iraq.
WOW! Now that is one honorable Congressman…
[snip part where Deebow reads about the honor bestowed upon Murtha]
REALLY??? The former SECNAV thought that Rep. Murtha was someone who had “loyalty” to the men and women of the Department of the Navy? He really believed that Rep. Murtha had rendered “exceptionally outstanding service?”
Apparently he did. But, even if Deebow wasn’t impressed, the Congressman himself sure was!
“I’m proud of the service and sacrifices our troops are making, and I’m honored to receive this distinguished award from the Navy,” commented Murtha. “We have an obligation to ensure that our
cold-blooded murderersmen and women in uniform have the most modern equipment, effective training, first-class medical care, and family advocacy resources.”
Erm … there may be some mistranslation in there somewhere.
But one influential veterans group has reacted strongly against the award, crafting a petition to lobby the Navy to rescind it.
Vets for Freedom, a group that generally supports the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, called Murtha’s award “appalling” and his accusations against the Haditha Marines “vile and despicable.”
“Congressman John Murtha should apologize for slandering the Marines of [3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment], and for undermining the efforts of those servicemen and women who fought in Iraq,” the online petition states. “If he does not, the Secretary of the Navy should rescind this award as a sign of his unwavering support for those who served in combat during Operation Iraqi Freedom.”
So far more than 35,000 supporters have signed the online petition.
If you tend to side with Deebow rather than Rep. Murtha, then you can sign too by going to this link.
Osame bin Laden takes a verbal shellacking from one of the founders of al Qaeda who is none to pleased with bin Laden, Iraq and 9/11:
Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, who goes by the nom de guerre Dr Fadl, helped bin Laden create al-Qaeda and then led an Islamist insurgency in Egypt in the 1990s.
But in a book written from inside an Egyptian prison, he has launched a frontal attack on al-Qaeda’s ideology and the personal failings of bin Laden and particularly his Egyptian deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Twenty years ago, Dr Fadl became al-Qaeda’s intellectual figurehead with a crucial book setting out the rationale for global jihad against the West.
Today, however, he believes the murder of innocent people is both contrary to Islam and a strategic error. “Every drop of blood that was shed or is being shed in Afghanistan and Iraq is the responsibility of bin Laden and Zawahiri and their followers,” writes Dr Fadl.
The terrorist attacks on September 11 were both immoral and counterproductive, he writes. “Ramming America has become the shortest road to fame and leadership among the Arabs and Muslims. But what good is it if you destroy one of your enemy’s buildings, and he destroys one of your countries? What good is it if you kill one of his people, and he kills a thousand of yours?” asks Dr Fadl. “That, in short, is my evaluation of 9/11.”
Heh … welcome to reality Dr Fadl.
Oh, and an excellent if obvious evaluation.
The arrogance of “art” or the artist, if you prefer.
Val Kilmer is thinking about running for governor of New Mexico. Says Kilmer:
He told The Hill at Monday’s Huffington Post party at the Newseum that he has been approached to run for the highest office of the state where he owns a ranch and has family roots.
“Actually, they’ve asked me to run for governor,” he said, not specifying who “they” are. “People seem to want me to.”
I bet I can name one group who doesn’t want you.
Veterans. Specifically, Vietnam veterans.
Why you may ask?
Read this from an interview in Esquire where the interviewer is asking Kilmer how he relates to the characters he plays:
[Klosterman]: You mean you think you literally had the same experience as Doc Holliday?
Kilmer: Oh, sure. It’s not like I believed that I shot somebody, but I absolutely know what it feels like to pull the trigger and take someone’s life.
[Klosterman:] You understand how it feels to shoot someone as much as a person who has actually committed a murder?
[Kilmer] I understand it more. It’s an actor’s job. A guy who’s lived through the horror of Vietnam has not spent his life preparing his mind for it. He’s some punk. Most guys were borderline criminal or poor, and that’s why they got sent to Vietnam. It was all the poor, wretched kids who got beat up by their dads, guys who didn’t get on the football team, couldn’t finagle a scholarship. They didn’t have the emotional equipment to handle that experience. But this is what an actor trains to do. I can more effectively represent that kid in Vietnam than a guy who was there.
Pompous ignorance. And the absolute certainty this poseur displays is laughable. He knows “absolutely” what it feels like to pull the trigger and take someone’s life” although he’s absolutely never done it.
And he “understands it more” than a combat veteran what it is like to have been in combat.
He crowns his burst of ignorance with a stereotypical but untrue characterization of a group he obviously knows nothing about. The disrespect he displays is both disgusting and inexcusable.
Let’s see, he played a fighter pilot once, didn’t he? Well let’s plop his rear-end in an Airbus A320 over the Hudson River at about 2500 feet, kill both engines and see if he can “effectively represent” former fighter pilot Sully Sullenburger, shall we?
Piece of cake, right?
Whatever happened to actors like Henry Fonda who when given an Oscar I believe, said, and I paraphrase, “I don’t know what all the fuss is about. I just pretend to be someone who really did something”.
That’s you, Kilmer!
New Mexicans, I love you, but if you ever elect this trumped up fraud to the governor’s office, I can promise you I will never, ever again step foot in NM for the rest of my natural life. And I’ll do everything I can to persuade others never to do so either. In fact, for all I’ll care, La Raza can have you.
Signed: Some poor borderline criminal punk who volunteered to go to Vietnam.
[There, I feel better.]
The Pentagon, unsurprisingly, has completed a study in which it concludes that the US should lower its expectations in Afghanistan:
A classified Pentagon report urges President Barack Obama to shift U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan, de-emphasizing democracy-building and concentrating more on targeting Taliban and al-Qaida sanctuaries inside Pakistan with the aid of Pakistani military forces.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has seen the report prepared by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but it has not yet been presented to the White House, officials said Tuesday. The recommendations are one element of a broad policy reassessment under way along with recommendations to be considered by the White House from the commander of the U.S. Central Command, Gen. David Petraeus, and other military leaders.
[T]he plan calls for a more narrowly focused effort to root out militant strongholds along the Pakistani border and inside the neighboring country, according to officials who confirmed the essence of the report.
In other words, the military is saying “let us do what we’re good at – killing bad guys.”
Let’s face it, nation building requires the intense participation of the State Department in addition to the military, and during the Bush years, State showed no stomach for that sort of work in Iraq. Under the Obama administration – and the Clinton State Department – the desire to participate will be even less.
And while only a fool would argue that the establishment of a democracy in Afghanistan would be the best case for the US (and the world), at this time, it may not be an attainable goal.
So the Pentagon, reading the hand-writing on the wall, is saying let’s go kinetic and forget about trying to establish another democracy – Afghanistan is just not worth the blood and treasure at this time.
Interestingly, that’s also the conclusion Michael Yon has reached a similar conclusion (via email):
My humble recommendation is to downgrade all expectations for Afghanistan. Treat the patient as best we can, and concern ourselves with more important matters while striving not to allow Afghanistan to again become a launching pad for international terror. President Obama should not stake our national reputation on the idea that we will achieve our current more ambitious goals. Decrease expectations, and work on more important matters such as the world economy and other more serious military threats. Afghanistan is not worth so much effort when most of NATO has no heart and is virtually worthless. Eventually we’ll likely end up alone, or mostly alone, holding the bag, while Europe goes home to its wine and beer.
Given the lack of progress with nation building and NATO’s intransigence, I’m beginning to think this approach may be the most rational way to proceed in Afghanistan.
If there is one sure way to roll back any gains the US has made in the War on Terror over the past eight years, it would be to shift the focus from military and intelligence gathering, to a crime fighting stance. That is exactly the position the Obama DOJ appears to be taking:
The Justice Department, probably more than any other agency here, is bracing for a broad doctrinal shift in policies from those of the Bush administration, department lawyers and Obama administration officials say.
Eric H. Holder Jr., whom the Senate is expected to confirm on Monday as the nation’s 82nd attorney general, plans to take the oath of office that evening to demonstrate a quick start, which will include overseeing the creation of a new detention policy for terrorism suspects.
Mr. Holder will have to contend with that and other issues rapidly. Lawyers inside and outside the department say he will face crushing time constraints. Chief among them is a pledge by President Obama to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, within a year. Mr. Holder and a department task force must find a solution to the question of what to do with the remaining prisoners there and any apprehended in the future.
“This will be a sea change of what went on before,” said an Obama administration lawyer, noting that the principal authority over detention policies will move from the Defense Department under the Bush administration to the Justice Department.
What to do with the GITMO prisoners is a piddling concern compared to how the administration plans to fight terrorism. Released prisoners can potentially be tracked. The hands of national security however, once tied, are difficult to free. Fighting terrorism as if it were an issue of law enforcement will potentially, and dangerously, bind our hands in that endeavor:
The department has to decide by next month whether it will reverse course from the Bush administration, which had repeatedly invoked the so-called state secrets doctrine to shut down legal challenges to several lawsuits dealing with national security. Officials also face a February deadline on whether to extend habeas corpus rights to detainees at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.
Above are two prime examples of how the policy switch advantages the enemy at the expense of the citizens. In the first, the folly of fighting terrorism through the courts could not be clearer. It is nearly impossible to build a public case based on state secrets. In the law enforcement model, the prosecution is not allowed to have secrets, and defendants are entitled to see the evidence against them as well as to confront all witnesses. That is because our nation is founded on the principle that the people, from whom the government derives its power, should enjoy the benefit of presumptions and the government should be required to make its case. When trying to confront our nation’s enemies, however, we do not want to allow them the same benefit. By engaging them in courtroom battles rather than in military/intelligence ones, we do just that.
Specifically, allowing state secrets to become part of a legal case allows the enemy to see what cards we’re holding. It is a surefire way to devalue our national intelligence. Indeed, any time sensitive information is available to more than a few people it eventually becomes public, and lawyers sworn to secrecy are no different (see e.g. Lynne Stewart). Yet, despite these dangers, the Obama DOJ may be considering backing off the positions staked out by the previous administration:
The case dealing with the state secrets doctrine, which allows the government to rebuff lawsuits by invoking national security concerns, involves al-Haramain Islamic Foundation. A federal trial judge in San Francisco ruled that the government could not invoke the doctrine to block a lawsuit by al-Haramain, which has asserted that the government illegally listened in on its conversations.
The Bush administration used the doctrine to block more than two dozen lawsuits. In timing that was a bit of a surprise, the Justice Department lawyers who have handled the lawsuit filed a motion with the court an hour before Inauguration Day that held to the same position.
Some Obama administration figures regarded the filing before midnight on Jan. 19 as a rear-guard action to make it more difficult to reverse course.
The Justice Department has to file a new brief by Feb. 13. Jon B. Eisenberg, who represents al-Haramain, said the schedule meant that “Holder and company have to decide pretty quickly if they want to keep opposing this case with the state secrets doctrine.”
If the DOJ opts to forego the state secrets doctrine as a defense, then it will be left with two undesirable choices: (1) make national intelligence discoverable in a court of law, or (2) drop the case altogether and set the defendant free. Neither choice is satisfactory, but both are the inevitable outcome of pursuing terrorism under the rubric of law enforcement.
Similarly, extending habeas corpus rights to prisoners detained on the battlefield is an exercise in futility. Of course, that ship sailed with the ruling in Boumediene v. Bush. I’m not sure what argument the government could make that any prisoners under the control of the U.S., regardless of where they are being held, are not entitled to some sort of habeas proceeding. And since the very procedures deemed constitutionally valid by the Supreme Court in Hamdi were struck down as inadequate in Boumediene, I don’t know what options are actually left to the Obama administration other than the unsavory prospect of field executions.
Again, these are the inevitable results of waging war as if we were fighting crime. The two arenas are decidedly distinct, and the tactics and strategies of one do not translate well into the other. If we insist on treating terrorists as criminals, cloaked with the protections of our Constitution and privy to the secrets that ensure our security, then we invert the promise of a national defense. The end result is to allow the enemy to be in control of our security interests rather than the other way around.
Heroes are the uncommon breed, devoid of the frailties that steer normal humans away from potentially deadly situations. Possessed of the deepest sense of devotion to family, friends and comrades, these are the people who mortgage their own lives for the future of others. Heroes are the ones who make our lives better through their own vigilance, fortitude and strength of will. They are the guardian angels of our very hopes and dreams. This is the story of one the greatest among them [HT: The Whistler].