Afghanistan

Kentucky Marine Dakota Meyers Presented with Medal of Honor at the White House

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September 15, 2011
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An excerpt of President Obama’s full remarks:

Dakota, I realize the past two years have not been easy for you, retelling the story of that day and standing here today.  You’re a very modest young man.  But, as you’ve said, you do it for a simple reason — retelling the story — because it helps you to honor those who didn’t come home, and to remind your fellow Americans that our men and women in uniform are over there fighting every single day.

So that’s how we’ll do this today.  It’s fitting that we do so this week, having just marked the 10th anniversary of the attacks that took our nation to war.  Because in Sergeant Dakota Meyer, we see the best of a generation that has served with distinction through a decade of war.

Let me tell the story.  I want you to imagine it’s September 8, 2009, just before dawn.  A patrol of Afghan forces and their American trainers is on foot, making their way up a narrow valley, heading into a village to meet with elders.  And suddenly, all over the village, the lights go out.  And that’s when it happens.  About a mile away, Dakota, who was then a corporal, and Staff Sergeant Juan Rodriguez-Chavez, could hear the ambush over the radio.  It was as if the whole valley was exploding.  Taliban fighters were unleashing a firestorm from the hills, from the stone houses, even from the local school.

And soon, the patrol was pinned down, taking ferocious fire from three sides.  Men were being wounded and killed, and four Americans — Dakota’s friends — were surrounded.  Four times, Dakota and Juan asked permission to go in; four times they were denied.  It was, they were told, too dangerous.  But one of the teachers in his high school once said, “When you tell Dakota he can’t do something, he’s is going to do it.”  (Laughter.)  And as Dakota said of his trapped teammates, “Those were my brothers, and I couldn’t just sit back and watch.”

The story of what Dakota did next will be told for generations.  He told Juan they were going in.  Juan jumped into a Humvee and took the wheel; Dakota climbed into the turret and manned the gun.  They were defying orders, but they were doing what they thought was right.  So they drove straight into a killing zone, Dakota’s upper body and head exposed to a blizzard of fire from AK-47s and machine guns, from mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.

Coming upon wounded Afghan soldiers, Dakota jumped out and loaded each of the wounded into the Humvee, each time exposing himself to all that enemy fire.  They turned around and drove those wounded back to safety.  Those who were there called it the most intense combat they’d ever seen.  Dakota and Juan would have been forgiven for not going back in.  But as Dakota says, you don’t leave anyone behind.

For a second time, they went back — back into the inferno; Juan at the wheel, swerving to avoid the explosions all around them; Dakota up in the turret — when one gun jammed, grabbing another, going through gun after gun.  Again they came across wounded Afghans.  Again Dakota jumped out, loaded them up and brought them back to safety.

For a third time, they went back — insurgents running right up to the Humvee, Dakota fighting them off.  Up ahead, a group of Americans, some wounded, were desperately trying to escape the bullets raining down.  Juan wedged the Humvee right into the line of fire, using the vehicle as a shield.  With Dakota on the guns, they helped those Americans back to safety as well.

For a fourth time, they went back.  Dakota was now wounded in the arm.  Their vehicle was riddled with bullets and shrapnel.  Dakota later confessed, “I didn’t think I was going to die.  I knew I was.”  But still they pushed on, finding the wounded, delivering them to safety.

And then, for a fifth time, they went back — into the fury of that village, under fire that seemed to come from every window, every doorway, every alley.  And when they finally got to those trapped Americans, Dakota jumped out.  And he ran toward them.  Drawing all those enemy guns on himself.  Bullets kicking up the dirt all around him.  He kept going until he came upon those four Americans, laying where they fell, together as one team.

Dakota and the others who had joined him knelt down, picked up their comrades and — through all those bullets, all the smoke, all the chaos — carried them out, one by one.  Because, as Dakota says, “That’s what you do for a brother.”

Dakota says he’ll accept this medal in their name.  So today, we remember the husband who loved the outdoors –Lieutenant Michael Johnson.  The husband and father they called “Gunny J” — Gunnery Sergeant Edwin Johnson.  The determined Marine who fought to get on that team — Staff Sergeant Aaron Kenefick.  The medic who gave his life tending to his teammates — Hospitalman Third Class James Layton.  And a soldier wounded in that battle who never recovered — Sergeant First Class Kenneth Westbrook.

Dakota, I know that you’ve grappled with the grief of that day; that you’ve said your efforts were somehow a “failure” because your teammates didn’t come home.  But as your Commander-in-Chief, and on behalf of everyone here today and all Americans, I want you to know it’s quite the opposite.  You did your duty, above and beyond, and you kept the faith with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps that you love.

Read the rest of the President’s remarks here.

Rand Paul calls for complete withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of 2012

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July 5, 2011
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When Rand Paul campaigned for Congress, he said that such matters should be left up to the Commander-in-Chief. But in a NYT editorial today co-authored by two Senate Democrats, he’s calling for the complete withdrawal of Afghanistan in a year and a half, two years earlier than Obama’s plan.

We commend the president for sticking to the July date he had outlined for beginning the withdrawal. However, his plan would not remove all regular combat troops until 2014. We believe the United States is capable of achieving this goal by the end of 2012. America would be more secure and stronger economically if we recognized that we have largely achieved our objectives in Afghanistan and moved aggressively to bring our troops and tax dollars home.

After Al Qaeda attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, we rightly sought to bring to justice those who attacked us, to eliminate Al Qaeda’s safe havens and training camps in Afghanistan, and to remove the terrorist-allied Taliban government. With hard work and sacrifice, our troops, intelligence personnel and diplomatic corps have skillfully achieved these objectives, culminating in the death of Osama bin Laden.

But over the past 10 years, our mission expanded to include a fourth goal: nation-building. That is what we are bogged down in now: a prolonged effort to create a strong central government, a national police force and an army, and civic institutions in a nation that never had any to begin with. Let’s not forget that Afghanistan has been a tribal society for millenniums.

Nineteen months ago the president announced the surge strategy in hopes of stabilizing Afghanistan and strengthening its military and police forces. Today, despite vast investment in training and equipping Afghan forces, the country’s deep-seated instability, rampant corruption and, in some cases, compromised loyalties endure. Extending our commitment of combat troops will not remedy that situation.

What’s interesting about this move by Rand is that it will anger two Republican factions: the McCain/Graham no isolationism faction, and the anti-war Ron Paul wing. The Paulbots are for bringing home the troops before Fall, not in 18 months. They’re not going to be too happy about this one, either (except the ones that reflexively switch to whatever Rand Paul says).

Rep. Yarmuth issues statement on Obama’s Afghanistan strategy

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June 23, 2011
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No, his plan did not cut it:

“The cost of the war in Afghanistan is not limited to hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars, but also the tremendous sacrifices of the men and women of our military who have done everything we have asked of them during the last ten years. They deserve a clearly defined mission with established metrics for success and an exit strategy. Regrettably, the President’s proposal does not meet those basic standards or the expectations of the American people. I urge President Obama to significantly reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan not in one year, but immediately. The best way to honor our servicemen and women is to bring them home safely, and as soon as possible.”

McConnell admits that new GOP war critics are giant partisan hypocrites

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June 23, 2011
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Oh yes he did. Here’s Mitch McConnell on why so many Republicans have suddenly become big war critics/doves:

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“I do think there is more of a tendency to pull together when the guy in the White House is on your side. So I think some of these views were probably held by some of my members even in the previous administration, but party loyalty tended to kind of mute them. I think a lot of our members, not having our party in the White House, feel more free to kind of express their reservations.”

Hey Geoff Davis, he’s talking to you!

It’s kind of easy to point to this and say this is another example of Mitch McConnell being “off his game”, admitting to something true in public when he is supposed to spin. But maybe Mitch is playing chess here, either in competition with the Paul/Tea Party right, or giving Obama more slack to screw up with next year concerning the wars.

Fascinating, either way.

Obama’s Afghanistan Speech (VIDEO)

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June 23, 2011
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In case you haven’t seen it yet:

Ack.

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Yarmuth says 10,000 troop withdrawal won’t cut it

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June 22, 2011
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Didn’t think so:

“If the president announces the withdrawal of 10,000 or fewer troops by the end of the year, that would not be very satisfying to me. I don’t think it would satisfy the American people,” he said.

I wonder what Quiet Ben will have to say? (if anyone can find him)

Also, be sure to watch for the reaction of the Kentucky Republican delegation in the House. I’m guessing that Geoff Davis says it isn’t enough, but I’d be surprised if Rogers, Guthrie and Whitfield joined him.

Rand Paul will likely say it’s none of his business (not Commander in Chief), but he’d like to “look at” and “debate” a much faster withdrawal, because we are “broke”. Mitch McConnell, on the other hand, will probably stop just short of saying “cut and run”.

Yarmuth calls for "significant and sizable drawdown from Afghanistan"

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June 22, 2011
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With President Barack Obama set to address the nation tonight on Afghanistan, John Yarmuth and 55 of his colleagues in the House sent out this letter to the President, calling for a “significant and sizable drawdown from Afghanistan”:

Bipartisan Letter Calling for Significant and Sizable Drawdown in Afghanistan

Dear Mr. President,

We urge a significant and sizable reduction of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan beginning July 2011. With Osama bin Laden killed and Al Qaeda largely driven from Afghanistan, it is time to accelerate the transfer of security responsibilities to the Government of Afghanistan and to reduce the U.S. military footprint there.

In the wake of the horrific September 11th attacks, the U.S. resolved to eliminate terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and to bring those who would harm innocent civilians to justice. Our troops have fought bravely, and now fewer than 100 Al Qaeda operatives are estimated to remain in Afghanistan. The recent killing of Osama bin Laden, for which you and members of our military and intelligence communities should be commended, is the capstone of that initial mission.

International terrorist networks remain a grave threat to the United States, as Al Qaeda affiliates now have a significant presence in countries like Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. But maintaining anywhere near 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan is not an effective means of combating a global and decentralized enemy.

Our economic vitality is a crucial component of our national security. The nearly decade-long war in Afghanistan drains our resources, even as we face serious economic challenges at home. To date, we have spent nearly half a trillion dollars on the Afghan war, and that price tag increases by $10 billion every month we remain. When we calculate the long-term costs of this war, including servicing our debt and caring for our veterans, the dollar figures are almost inconceivable. These funds are needed for rebuilding our own economy, reducing the deficit and generating jobs for Americans.

Ultimately, this war will end not on the battlefield but through political negotiations. As we scale down our military operations in Afghanistan we need to continue our diplomatic efforts, pushing for a negotiated settlement that includes the Government of Afghanistan and other parties interested in establishing peace and stability.

The American public is weary of a war with no end in sight, and we call upon you to bring the longest war in our nation’s history to a close. Beginning in July of this year, we urge a swift, significant and sizable drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

Here, here.

Early reports are saying that Obama will announce the immediate withdrawal of 5,000 troops, an additional 5,000 by the end of the year, and a total of 30,000 by the end of next year. In my opinion, that is not sizable or significant or soon enough. I’m guessing that most of the folks who signed onto this letter (including Ron Paul) will agree with me, if that turns out to be true.

Obama to address nation on Afghanistan tomorrow night

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June 21, 2011
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From the White House:

At 8pm EDT on Wednesday, June 22nd, the President will address the nation from the White House to lay out his plan for implementing his strategy — first unveiled in December 2009 — to draw down American troops from Afghanistan.

Chop chop.

Rand Paul says things that aren’t completely crazy

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June 8, 2011
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No really, check it out:

Granted, Rand Paul doesn’t understand that Barack Obama ran on escalating Afghanistan. But besides that, nothing particularly egregious at all.

Of note is that Rand Paul never comes out for immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan, rather for “winding down”, which is pretty similar to Obama. Yet somehow I doubt that the Paulbots will can Rand Paul a blood-thirsty warmonger over that.

Geoff Davis and The Way We Were

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May 24, 2011
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Yesterday we discussed how odd it was that Rep. Geoff Davis would spend 8 years vilifying critics of the Iraq War as al-Qaeda appeasing cut-and-runners who don’t support the troops, and then casually said that the Iraq War was a mistake yesterday. Without being prefaced by, you know, a big apology.

Well, we’ve had more time to dip into the archives, and boy did we find some more stuff. This is from November 3rd, 2005 on the House floor, as Republicans sought to show the “truth” about the War in Iraq. Iraq was going swimmingly, you see, unlike what those liars in the liberal media and cut-and-running Democrats were saying.

One of the speakers that day to explain the treachery of those who criticized the war was Rep. Geoff Davis. Enjoy:

The whole thing is quite fascinating. But here’s some of the fun parts:

Mr. Speaker, I want to take a moment to share a perspective that I think is often lost in the freedoms we enjoy, the freedom to meet in this Chamber, the freedom to reflect upon the great decisions that have been made here through the generations, The decision to enter into a war, to provide freedom and the maintenance of our union, the decision to free peoples in Europe and ultimately preserve our security at home.

On December 7, 1941, President Roosevelt stood in this Chamber and declared that December 7 was a day of infamy. He shared that this unprovoked attack which moved the United States to war, eventually into Europe as well. In the Korean War, we stopped Communist aggression. In Vietnam, the American people responded. During Operation Desert Storm, the American people responded.

In this Chamber in September of 2001, President Bush responded to an attack that was not brought about, my friends, by some nebulous global war on terror. I think it is important that we understand this war is not about some nebulous terrorist concept. This is about Islamic extremism that chooses to impose itself on the world. These people who largely act as agents of states, these non-state actors do not follow the teachings that they purport. Yet if we look more deeply, we see that they are seeking to be true to their interpretation of that religion.

*****

More than that, I would suggest to you that these same people who want to talk about numbers and these liberal reporters who do not care about this Nation, who do not care about the price that was paid for the freedoms that they enjoy, where were you for the last 25 years? Where were you when 16,000 American soldiers died between 1983 and 1996 in service to this Nation? Where were you when 24,000 American men and women gave their lives between 1980 and 2004? Your comments, frankly, are despicable, dishonorable, uninformed, unhistorical, anti-intellectual and, frankly, un-American. But I respect your freedom to make those statements, because they were purchased with the blood of all of those who served.

*****

But now you disagree with the policy when our Nation is threatened by extremists, and soldiers and Marines and airmen and sailors have responded to that call, and you sit here mouthing your empty words.

*****

To me, I think the lesson that we have to ask ourselves is how do we get around this, how do we avoid this problem. Well, the media is not going to be helpful to this country because I think they have lost their connection with the heartland of this Nation, with the people who have borne the burden of the price of freedom through the generations.

*****

That is the contrast that we have here: freedom, opportunity, hope, true faith, or extremism, persecution, tyranny and hatred. Thank you for you who serve.

So there’s that…

What’s that word I’m looking for that describes Geoff Davis?

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