The Academy Awards were held earlier tonight, and another year has passed without a single great major movie about America’s role in Iraq and Afghanistan. “The Hurt Locker” did win awards but it was panned by numerous veterans and did little to increase respect for the military. Continue reading
President Obama’s Afghanistan troop surge had a 96% support score among Republicans in both the House and Senate, but major Democratic leaders are now pulling back from Operation Enduring Freedom. On ABC’s “This Week” yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was repeatedly asked if the Afghanistan mission “was worth it,” and refused to answer the question. Continue reading
Several high profile conservative pundits have recently turned against the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. The group includes columnists Ann Coulter, George Will, Tony Blankley and MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough. These pundits support RNC Chairman Michael Steele and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) who now refer to Afghanistan as “Obama’s war.” Continue reading
Reed Clifton of Portland, Maine is a professional musician concentrating on folk, country and blues. He was born in northern New Jersey. He describes his hometown as a “New York City suburb/inner city ghetto, and spent much of his early life as a product of his environment. After cleaning up his life he attended college in California’s San Joaquin Valley. In college he began frequenting country music clubs such as Trouts in the Oildale section of Bakersfield, and his love and appreciation of country music grew.” He describes his philosophy of life by saying: “Some folks journey’s take them on sidewalks, mine goes over Everest. Wouldn’t have it any other way.” Continue reading
For the past two days my Wall has been filled with comments from libertarians and liberals. They both advocate the same isolationist foreign policy, and a significant part of their anger is directed towards the U.S. missions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Continue reading
President Obama met last week with the Republican leadership which promised enthusiastic support for a number of his initiatives. The President has solid GOP backing for his 34,000 troop surge in Afghanistan, as well as his proposals to promote nuclear power, off shore drilling for oil and gas, clean coal technologies and three pending free trade agreements. All of these proposals were advocated by the President in his State of the Union address. Continue reading
Today’s passing of former Rep. Charlie Wilson (D-TX) brings back many wonderful memories. He was a charming rogue whose determination was instrumental in toppling the Soviet empire. The Congressman helped lead the secret effort to fund the Afghan resistance throughout the 1980’s, and all of his obituaries are mentioning George Crile’s book and 2008 movie, “Charlie Wilson’s War” which brought him to national attention.
The defeat of the USSR in 1988 was truly a turning point in Cold War history. Without his tremendous efforts it is highly doubtful the Afghans would have received the shoulder fired Stinger missiles which allowed them to bring down Soviet attack helicopters.
I had the pleasure of working closely with him during the years he served as a Co-Chairman of the National Security Caucus in the U.S. Congress, and I was Executive Director of the American Security Council. Wilson was also a Co-Chairman of the Committee for a Free Afghanistan (CFA), which was a project of the American Security Council. CFA successfully advocated United States funding for the resistance, and Wilson’s efforts on the powerful Defense Appropriations Subcommittee were instrumental.
The opening scene in “Charlie Wilson’s War” shows him in a hot tub with two Las Vegas showgirls, and this was done at the Congressman’s recommendation. All of us who knew him have countless Wilson stories. He was a wonderful friend who had a ready supply of jokes, and everyone knew he was a character.
Wilson was Capitol Hill’s answer to Hugh Hefner. While she was First Lady, Barbara Bush told the Washington Post, “Nice girls do not go out with Charlie Wilson.” Most lawmakers would have been embarrassed but Charlie made sure everyone knew her comment.
His Congressional staff was filled with spectacular women, and several times I met the former Miss World who was his girlfriend. She was also 30 years younger than Wilson. One film critic accurately noted, “Wilson comes across as a womanizing party animal, yes, but also a man of decency, idealism and consummate plain-talk swagger.”
He was a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and it was a real loss for the national security community when he left Capitol Hill in 1996. The projects we worked on are too numerous to mention, but one of the most valuable was CFA’s sponsorship of a film crew which spent months at a time inside Afghanistan.
They recorded footage which clearly demonstrated Soviet atrocities and helped to galvanize American public opinion against the USSR. Many of these film clips from the war zone were repeatedly used on commercial and cable TV stations.
CFA was often accused of being a CIA front group, but there was never any truth to the accusation. We would have greatly benefited from government funding, but that never happened. The Soviet news agency TASS on 6/20/86 said CFA is “widely known as cover for the CIA.”
I frequently accompanied the late Army Brig. Gen. Theodore Mataxis to his meetings with Wilson. Mataxis was on active duty for 32 years and when he retired he was responsible for coordinating aid shipments in Pakistan. Because of Charlie Wilson’s assistance he made seven trips to Peshawar. This was the staging point on the Pakistani side of the border, and each trip lasted for three months. Mataxis was an expert in guerrilla warfare, and fought in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.
After the USSR pulled out of Afghanistan, Wilson asked Metaxis to conduct a briefing for the members of the House Appropriations Committee on lessons of the war. The General began his testimony by saying, “Guerrilla war does not fit into the popular image of a high-tech future war, but it may well be the war an advanced nation may find itself fighting. The Soviet Army, a modern, mechanized high-tech force, fought a guerrilla war for over nine years in Afghanistan.
“Despite their best efforts, the application of overwhelming air power, and the expenditure of national treasure and young lives, the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, leaving the field to the defiant Mujahideen guerrillas. A wise army prepares for future war by examining the lessons of the past. This does not mean that armies should prepare to fight as the last war was fought. Rather, they should draw lessons from the past that will guide the future.”
Wilson was 6′ 4″ tall in stature, and taller in real life. He was also a giant in his love for America and especially for those who have served in our armed forces.
I rarely praise The New York Times, but they are offering excellent advice today. Our goal should be victory in as short a time as possible, and we should use every advantage we have. We are suffering combat deaths because close air and artillery support is often rejected. An example was in Kunar, “’We are pinned down,’ a Marine major explained to his Afghan counterpart as they waited helplessly. ‘We are running low on ammo. We have no air. We’ve lost today.’ In the end, four Marines, eight Afghan troops and an Afghan interpreter were dead, and 22 others wounded.”
The Taliban should know the coalition forces will fight them with complete air dominance. The rules of engagement allow the Marines to fire only when they see an insurgent with a weapon. The insurgents are literally firing from a house, dropping their weapons and then walking away in broad daylight. Also, they are using their fellow Afghans as human shields.
AP photos show our troops acting as shields for innocent Afghans as the citizens cower behind them. This is a ridiculous situation. We will never achieve victory at this rate. The Taliban are motivated, driven, evil, willing to die and zealots. The Afghan government and Afghan troops are Keystone Cops at best. If we do not destroy the Taliban we will be there forever.
One of the many myths pedaled by the Libertarian Party and other isolationists is that the United States is responsible for the creation of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorist organization. This charge has frequently been made by Congressmen Ron Paul (R-TX) of the Liberty Caucus and Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) of the Progressive Caucus.
Rep. Paul says “in our infinite wisdom we gave money, technology and training to Bin Laden. . . We went to the taxpayers at the point of a gun and said bin Laden is a great guy. That is what the Congress did in the 1980′s. You pay up, because we think bin Laden is a freedom fighter.”
Senate candidate Rand Paul (R-KY) yesterday also falsely claimed that America provided weapons to bin Laden. As usual, Rep. Paul and the Libertarians take statements completely out of context to further their conspiracy theories.
An official statement from the CIA says the agency has “never employed, paid, or maintained any relationship whatsoever with Bin Laden.” The United States supported the Afghan freedom fighters, but Congressman Paul’s accusation that America financed and equipped the “Afghan Arabs” is completely false.
Neither the CIA nor the U.S. military had any relationship with the Afghan Arabs. U.S. officials did not meet with them, there were no discussions, there was no coordinated planning and no joint fighting.
The Afghan Arabs joined the effort to rid Afghanistan of Soviet occupation, but they had broader goals. All of this is documented in “The Main Enemy: The Inside Story of the CIA’s Final Showdown with the KGB” by Milt Bearden.
He served as the CIA station chief in Pakistan from 1986 to 1989, and was in charge of running the covert action program for Afghanistan. The author makes it clear that the CIA covert action program did not fund any Arabs or other Muslims to come to Afghanistan, and says “Contrary to what people have come to imagine, the CIA never recruited, trained, or otherwise used Arab volunteers.”
CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen notes that the “Afghan Arabs functioned independently and had their own sources of funding.” In the book, “Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden,” Bergen says:
“While the charges that the CIA was responsible for the rise of the Afghan Arabs might make good copy, they don’t make good history. The truth is more complicated, tinged with varying shades of gray. The United States wanted to be able to deny that the CIA was funding the Afghan war, so its support was funneled through Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence agency (ISI).
“ISI in turn made the decisions about which Afghan factions to arm and train, tending to favor the most Islamist and pro-Pakistan. The Afghan Arabs generally fought alongside those factions, which is how the charge arose that they were creatures of the CIA.
“Former CIA official Milt Bearden, who ran the Agency’s Afghan operation in the late 1980s, says: ‘The CIA did not recruit Arabs,’ as there was no need to do so. There were hundreds of thousands of Afghans all too willing to fight, and the Arabs who did come for jihad were ‘very disruptive . . . the Afghans thought they were a pain in the ass.’
“I have heard similar sentiments from Afghans who appreciated the money that flowed from the Gulf but did not appreciate the Arabs’ holier-than-thou attempts to convert them to their ultra-purist version of Islam. [Freelance cameraman] Peter Jouvenal recalls: ‘There was no love lost between the Afghans and the Arabs. One Afghan told me, ‘Whenever we had a problem with one of them we just shot them. They thought they were kings.’
“There was simply no point in the CIA and the Afghan Arabs being in contact with each other. The Afghan Arabs functioned independently and had their own sources of funding. The CIA did not need the Afghan Arabs, and the Afghan Arabs did not need the CIA. So the notion that the Agency funded and trained the Afghan Arabs is, at best, misleading. The ‘Let’s blame everything bad that happens on the CIA’ school of thought vastly overestimates the Agency’s powers, both for good and ill.”
Another excellent source to refute this claim is the late Ayman al-Zawahiri,who was al-Qaeda’s number two leader. He has admitted the Afghan Arabs did not receive any U.S. funding. In “Knights Under the Prophet’s Banner”, al-Zawahiri says the Afghan Arabs were funded with money from Arab sources: “Bin Ladin apprised me of the size of the popular Arab support for the Afghan mujahidin which amounted, according to his sources, to $200 million in the form of military aid alone in 10 years.”
The past few days have brought bad news for Attorney General Martha Coakley, the Democratic candidate in the January 19th special election to fill the late Senator Ted Kennedy’s (D) vacancy. Her performance in last night’s debate was dismal, her opponent raised over $1 million on line yesterday, and today her TV ad misspelled the word “Massachusetts.”
The biggest surprise to me was Coakley’s confusion regarding the most basic aspects of our legislative process at the federal level. She has no legislative experience which was apparent last night. She didn’t even know the House and Senate healthcare bills had to go to conference to be merged before going to both houses for a vote.
As the debate demonstrated, on national security issues the choice is clear. Coakley believes there are no terrorists left in Afghanistan and they have all gone to Yemen or Pakistan. President Obama certainly does not believe that, and he emphasized the threat of terrorism in asking us for an additional 35,000 troops. Coakley said, “If the goal was and the mission in Afghanistan was to go in because we believed that the Taliban was giving harbor to terrorists. We supported that. I supported that. They’re gone. They’re not there anymore.”
Coakley also wants to give full Constitutional rights to terrorists. She clings to her sophomoric arguments despite the fact that our soldiers when caught have been dragged through the streets, hanged on bridges and are beheaded. The people we are fighting are savages, and they do not recognize the distinction between civilian and military courts.
I am not an Obama fan, but the President is correct in saying “We are at war.” He is also correct in calling attention to nuclear weapons in Pakistan and emphasizing that they can never fall into the hands of the Taliban. State Senator Scott Brown (R) and over 95% of House Republicans support Obama’s troop surge and the President’s new counter insurgency strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Coakley is with the opposition.
The Attorney General lists her foreign policy experience as visiting her sister who lives in London. As a Senator, Obama voted to extend the FISA wire-tapping law. This past September, he sent a letter to Congress asking Congress to extend three expiring provisions of the USA Patriot Act. Once again, Brown and Congressional Republicans support the President on these national security matters, but Martha Coakley is on the other side. Coakley says she will “happily” oppose our wartime Commander-in-Chief as he confronts a war against terrorists.
On other subjects, Coakley said “we need to increase tax revenues.” She claims it will only be on the “wealthy,” but a tax increase on the magnitude needed for health care reform makes it impossible that only the rich will be taxed.
The debate was amazing even before it began. When he walked in, Senator Brown went over to the Coakley sign-holders, introduced himself and shook their hands. Several of the sign holders greeted him enthusiastically and said they were voting for him! They were holding Coakley signs because they were being paid $50 by their union, the SEIU.
Massachusetts has been losing population and it has a high cost of living. The state pays for the education of young people but they end up moving away because of no job growth. Companies have also been moving their offices to more tax friendly states.
I am surprised organized labor is so supportive of Coakley. They apparently do not realize why so many union members are out of work. The private sector has dried up and a major factor is the taxes and regulations imposed by the state legislature and the U.S. Congress.
I hope Massachusetts will start to turn things around and with Scott Brown they have the whole package. He started off with nothing, worked his way through college and law school, and joined the military. He understands business, and has been a public servant opposing tax increases on the local and state level. Supporting Scott Brown is a vote for change.