Perry to Restore Military Respect for POTUS

MONDAY, AUG 15, 2011 10:44 ET

Perry: The military doesn’t respect Obama

“I want to make sure that every [soldier] respects highly the president of the United States,” he says

BY JUSTIN ELLIOTT, Salon
perry

In Iowa last night, newly anointed GOP primary heavyweight Rick Perry offered a novel reason he is running for president (in addition to God calling him to do so):

 

Rick Perry strayed from a tribute to military service to tell an audience in Waterloo, Iowa, that he’s running in part to restore the respect of the military to its civilian leaders.

“One of the reasons that I’m running for president is I want to make sure that every young man and woman who puts on the uniform of the United States respects highly the president of the United States,” he said.

 

What is Perry talking about here? For one thing, this is not the type of sentence a candidate delivers off the cuff. It seems pretty clearly to be a deliberate, premeditated shot at President Obama as somehow lacking or illegitimate in his role as commander in  chief of the military.

Sure, it all sounds very 2007, given that Obama has been president for nearly three years and has presided over, among other military matters, the massive escalation of the war in Afghanistan. But Perry’s line should serve as a corrective to those who thought the killing of Osama bin Laden would neutralize attacks on Obama as weak or lacking the mettle to lead the military. Then again, the attack seems more plausible in the context of a GOP primary than it does, say, face-to-face against the president of the United States on a debate stage.

A couple of other interesting takes: Ben Smith, who reported the quote from Iowa, observes that the military is pretty much required to respect the president, so in some sense Perry’s line is insulting to soldiers. It’s even odder given that Perry himself is an Air Force vet. And Adam Weinstein at Mother Jones notes that there’s a crucial difference between respect and approval ratings, an area in which Obama is hurting among soldiers — much like George W. Bush was back in 2007.

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Deadliest Single Incident for American Forces in the Afghanistan War

31 American Troops Killed In NATO Helicopter Crash In Afghanistan

By SOLOMON MOORE   08/ 6/11 09:18 AM ET   AP

KABUL, Afghanistan — A military helicopter crashed in eastern Afghanistan, killing 31 U.S. special operation troops and seven Afghan commandos, the country’s president said Saturday. An American official said it was apparently shot down, in the deadliest single incident for American forces in the decade-long war.

The Taliban claimed they downed the helicopter with rocket fire while it was taking part in a raid on a house where insurgents were gathered in the province of Wardak late Friday. It said wreckage of the craft was strewn at the scene.

NATO confirmed the overnight crash took place and that there “was enemy activity in the area.” But it said it was still investigating the cause and conducting a recovery operation at the site. It did not release details or casualty figures.

“We are in the process of accessing the facts,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Justin Brockhoff, a NATO spokesman.

But a senior U.S. administration official in Washington said it was apparently shot down by insurgents. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the crash is still being investigated.

The toll would surpass the worst single day loss of life for the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan since the war began in 2001 – the June 28, 2005 downing of a military helicopter in eastern Kunar province. In that incident, 16 Navy SEALs and Army special operations troops were killed when their craft was shot down while on a mission to rescue four SEALs under attack by the Taliban. Three of the SEALs being rescued were also killed and the fourth wounded. It was the highest one-day death toll for the Navy Special Warfare personnel since World War II.

With its steep mountain ranges, providing shelter for militants armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers, eastern Afghanistan is hazardous terrain for military aircraft. Large, slow-moving air transport carriers like the CH-47 Chinook are particularly vulnerable, often forced to ease their way through sheer valleys where insurgents can achieve more level lines of fire from mountainsides.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Saturday gave the first public word of the new crash, saying in a statement that “a NATO helicopter crashed last night in Wardak province” and that 31 American special operations troops were killed. He expressed his condolences to President Barack Obama.

The helicopter was a twin-rotor Chinook, said an official at NATO headquarters in Brussels. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he was receiving his information from an Afghan officer in Kabul.

The crash took place in the Sayd Abad district of Wardak province, said a provincial government spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid. The volatile region borders the province of Kabul where the Afghan capital is located and is known for its strong Taliban presence.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement that Taliban fighters downed the helicopter during a “heavy raid” in Sayd Abad. He said NATO attacked a house in Sayd Abad where insurgent fighters were gathering Friday night. During the battle, the fighters shot down the helicopter, killing 31 Americans and seven Afghans, he said, adding that eight insurgents were killed in the fight.

There have been at least 17 coalition and Afghan aircraft crashes in Afghanistan this year.

Most of the crashes were attributed to pilot errors, weather conditions or mechanical failures. However, the coalition has confirmed that at least one CH-47F Chinook helicopter was hit by a rocket propelled grenade on July 25. Two coalition crew members were injured in that attack.

Meanwhile, in the southern Helmand province, an Afghan government official said Saturday that NATO troops attacked a house and inadvertently killed eight members of a family, including women and children.

NATO said that Taliban fighters fired rocket propelled grenades and small arms fire at coalition troops during a patrol Friday in the Nad Ali district.

“Coalition forces responded with small arms fire and as the incident continued, an air strike was employed against the insurgent position,” said Brockhoff. He added that NATO sent a delegation to meet with local leaders and investigate the incident.

Nad Ali district police chief Shadi Khan said civilians died in the bombardment but that it was unknown how many insurgents were killed.

Helmand, a Taliban stronghold, is the deadliest province in Afghanistan for international troops.

NATO has come under harsh criticism in the past for accidentally killing civilians during operations against suspected insurgents. However, civilian death tallies by the United Nations show the insurgency is responsible for most war casualties involving noncombatants.

In south Afghanistan, NATO said two coalition service member were killed, one on Friday and another on Saturday. The international alliance did not release further details.

With the casualties from the helicopter crash, the deaths bring to 365 the number of coalition troops killed this year in Afghanistan and 42 this month.

DADT Could Be Gone, But Some Commanding Officers Will Continue Making Gay Slurs

Military leaders to certify end of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ Friday

Posted at 06:33 PM ET, 07/21/2011
By Ed O’Keefe and Craig Whitlock

Top Pentagon leaders will say Friday that the military is ready to permit gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military, allowing President Obama to formally end the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, according to a U.S. official and others familiar with the plans.

In accordance with a law passed in December that set in motion the process of ending the ban, Obama first must receive notice from Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and top uniformed brass that the military is prepared to end the policy before the government stops enforcing it. The policy will end 60 days after Obama formally certifies the repeal in writing to Congress.

If Obama signs the certification in the coming days, the ban would end in late September.

Obama met Wednesday at the White House with Panetta, who will be formally sworn in to his new job by Vice President Biden on Friday at the Pentagon. The White House isn’t planning to formally mark the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell” with any type of public event until the end of the 60-day period, sources said.

Once the almost 18-year ban ends, gays and lesbians serving in military uniform will be able to publicly reveal their sexual identity without fear of dismissal or official rebuke, openly gay men and women will be able to enlist in the military, and gay couples may be allowed to wed at military chapels or live together on military bases in states that recognize same-sex marriages.

But several unresolved issues remain regarding military spousal benefits for gay couples, including potential housing options and survivor benefits. Complicating any resolution is that the Defense of Marriage Act, which bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages, will keep same-sex military couples from enjoying full spousal benefits.

Obama announced support this week for legislation to repeal DOMA, which gay activists has said would be necessary to fully end any and all official discrimination against gays in the military.

Gay activists and top military officials also have cautioned that it may take years for gays to feel completely comfortable revealing their sexual orientation to colleagues.

On the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, gay service members contacted in recent weeks said they don’t anticipate publicly disclosing their sexual orientation right away. Soldiers stationed in Afghanistan reported that despite the completion of mandatory training programs in recent months, colleagues and commanding officers have been using gay slurs or making gay jokes.

In Iraq, training courses ended weeks ago, and troops said they don’t anticipate that the policy change would adversely affect operations.

“I don’t think there’s any issue with it whatsoever,” Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, the chief spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq, said in a recent interview. “And if there are individual issues, then people will have to either conform or make a decision to leave when they can.”

As part of a bipartisan agreement that ended the policy, the military required every active-duty and reserve service member to attend training courses outlining how a repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” would change military personnel policy and benefits. Though most service members have completed their training, military officials have said courses for the Army — the largest military service — wouldn’t be completed until early August.

The decision to certify the ban follows months of criticism by gay activists that Obama should have acted sooner to end the policy. Since December, federal courts have ordered the government to stop enforcing the policy, then allowed it to continue as the Justice Department appealed the decision.

House Republicans, most of whom voted against ending the ban on grounds that it would disrupt battlefield operations, successfully amended the House version of the annual defense authorization bill with language restricting gay weddings on military bases and other similar provisions. It is unclear whether such provisions would be included in the final version of the bill, which isn’t likely to be passed by the House and Senate until after late September.

Gen. Petraeus Ends Command in Afghanistan

Gen. David H. Petraeus ends his command in Afghanistan

By , Monday, July 18, 7:35 AM THE WASHINGTON POST

KABUL — Gen. David H. Petraeus relinquished his command of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan on Monday, handing the reins to Marine Gen. John Allen as the United States and its allies begin to withdraw troops from the country where they have waged war for nearly a decade.

Petraeus ends his tour in Afghanistan without conclusive signs that the counter-insurgency strategy he helped design has turned the tide in the war against the Taliban. The more than 140,000 NATO troops under his command have weakened the insurgency in some of its key strongholds in the south, but other parts of the country remain treacherous, and Taliban leaders still operate with relative impunity from Pakistan.

On Monday morning, three NATO troops were killed in a bombing in eastern Afghanistan. And the Taliban claimed responsibility for killing a senior adviser to Afghan President Hamid Karzai and a member of parliament in Kabul on Sunday night.

The Afghan government, meanwhile, has failed to deliver meaningful services into much of the countryside or reduce the corruption that has disillusioned the Afghan people and forced repeated confrontations with its coalition partners.

In a morning ceremony outside Petraeus’s Kabul headquarters, however, the military commanders and Afghan officials chose to emphasize positive developments from the past year, when Petraeus has been in charge.

Petraeus, who will return to Washington as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said that coalition forces have wrested momentum from the insurgents in much of Afghanistan, and have taken away Taliban sanctuaries in Kandahar and Helmand.

And with the number of Afghan and coalition forces in the country up by some 80,000, the number of attacks on coalition troops declined in May, June and the first half of July in 2011, compared with the same period in 2010 — “contrary to the forecasts of significant further increases in insurgent attack levels this year,” Petraeus said.

Allen, who had been deputy commander at U.S. Central Command in Tampa, said that he would not ease the intensity of the coalition offensive, even as U.S. and other foreign troops begin to leave and Afghans take over security responsibility in several provinces.

“It is my intention to maintain the momentum of the campaign,” Allen said.

The Afghan defense minister, Abdul Rahim Wardak, took a swipe at those pushing for a faster withdrawal and an end to the long and costly American commitment to Afghanistan.

He said that once in Washington, Petraeus’s “broad intellect, his unmatched experiences, and knowledge of the ground realities will make him a counter-balance to all those short-sighted, politically inspired isolationists and the groups of Beltway bandits.”

“We have to assure our joint enemies that the will of the international community and the Afghan people remain unbroken,” Wardak said. “Any wavering of the resolve or premature drawdown and exit strategy will put in jeopardy all that we have achieved with so much sacrifices.”

The senior U.S. military officials in attendance at the ceremony, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, heaped praise on Petraeus for 37 years of military service.

Mullen called Petraeus “one of the most successful and storied generals of our time.”

“Dave has set the standard for wartime command in the modern era,” Mullen said. “There is no one, no one, in the pantheon of American military leadership who so perfectly symbolizes the scope of the effort of our armed forces.”

A Step Backward

‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ To Remain In Place, 9th Circuit Court Rules

Dadt Repeal Court Ruling
By SHAYA TAYEFE MOHAJER   07/16/11 01:50 AM ET   AP

LOS ANGELES — A federal appeals court late Friday ordered the military to temporarily continue its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for openly gay service members, responding to a request from the Obama administration.

In its three-page decision, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the ruling was based on new information provided by the federal government, including a declaration from Major General Steven A. Hummer, who is leading the effort to repeal the policy.

The court said it was upholding an earlier ruling to keep the policy in place “in order to provide this court with an opportunity to consider fully the issues presented in the light of these previously undisclosed facts.”

Despite the delay in dismantling the controversial policy, the ruling bars the federal government from investigating, penalizing or discharging anyone pursuant to “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

The court of appeals had halted “don’t ask, don’t tell” July 6 but the Department of Justice filed an emergency motion Thursday saying ending the policy now would pre-empt the orderly process for rolling it back, per a law signed by President Barack Obama in December.

Friday’s ruling was supported by Servicemembers United, an organization of gay and lesbian troops and veterans, but the group’s executive director Alexander Nicholson voiced frustration over the slow process of dismantling “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

“The situation with finally ending this outdated and discriminatory federal policy has become absolutely ridiculous,” said Nicholson. “It is simply not right to put the men and women of our armed forces through this circus any longer.”

The ruling didn’t elaborate on Hummer’s declaration. The Department of Justice said in a statement that it asked the court to reconsider its order “to avoid short-circuiting the repeal process established by Congress during the final stages of the implementation of the repeal.”

It said senior military leaders are expected to make their decision on certifying repeal within the next few weeks. In the meantime, the Justice Department said “it remains the policy of the Department of Defense not to ask service members or applicants about their sexual orientation, to treat all members with dignity and respect, and to ensure maintenance of good order and discipline.”

The Justice Department noted that the Defense Department has discharged only one service member since Congress voted to repeal the policy, and that was done at the request of the service member.

Last year’s ruling by the appeals court stemmed from a lawsuit filed by the Log Cabin Republicans against the Department of Justice.

The gay rights group persuaded U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips to impose a worldwide injunction halting the ban last October, but the appeals court granted the government a stay, saying it wanted to give the military time to implement such a historical change.

The Log Cabin Republicans asked the court Friday to deny the motion, saying “an on-again, off-again status of the District Court’s injunction benefits no-one and plays havoc with the constitutional rights of American service members.”

The plaintiff said while only one service member has been discharged since the congressional vote, three others have been approved for discharge by the secretary of the Air Force but the processing of those actions have been “stopped in their tracks” by the court’s order. Granting the stay the government wants would allow it to act on those discharges and also allow it to put recent applicants from gay enlistees in limbo, the group said.

Justice Department attorneys said in their motion Thursday the grounds for keeping the stay in place are even stronger today than they were when this court initially entered the stay, and that disrupting the process set out by Congress would impose “significant immediate harms on the government.”

The chiefs of the military services submitted their recommendations on the repeal to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last week. As soon as the Pentagon certifies that repealing the ban will have no effect on military readiness, the military has 60 days to implement the repeal, which could happen by September.

Lt. Col. Paul Hackett, a lawyer in the Marine Corps Reserve, said military officials are ready for the change and there is no need for a delay.

“We’re already taking steps to implement it,” he said. “Politicians do what politicians do for whatever their political need is. It’s an election year, so somebody is obviously taken that into consideration. I suspect that’s what driving this.”

Friday’s order lays out a schedule for anticipated objections and motions from both sides: the Log Cabin Republicans have until 5 p.m. Thursday to file opposition to today’s motion, and the federal government has until 5 p.m. the next day to file a reply supporting it.

The court also asks the federal government to explain by close of business Monday why the information on implementation of the Repeal Act wasn’t provided sooner.

Don’t Ask or Tell Too Soon

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Obama Administration Asks 9th Circuit Court Of Appeals To Reconsider Order

Dont Ask Dont Tell

07/14/11 10:44 PM ET   AP

SAN FRANCISCO — The federal government asked the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday to reconsider its order last week demanding an immediate halt to the enforcement of the ban on openly gay troops in the military.

The Obama administration filed the emergency motion in response to the appeals court’s decision last week to lift its stay of a lower court’s ruling last year that found the ban, known as “don’t ask, don’t tell,” unconstitutional.

Department of Justice lawyers said in the motion that ending the ban now would pre-empt the “orderly process” for rolling back the 17-year-old policy as outlined in the law passed and signed by the president in December.

“Congress made quite clear that it believed the terms of the transition were critical to the credibility and success of this historic policy change, and to ensure continued military effectiveness,” according to a statement from the Justice Department.

“Any court-ordered action forced upon the military services so close to the completion of this repeal policy pre-empts the deliberate process established by Congress and the President to ensure an orderly and successful transition of this significant policy change,” the department said.

Last year’s ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by the Log Cabin Republicans against the Department of Justice.

The gay rights group persuaded a lower court judge to declare the ban unconstitutional after a trial that put the Obama administration in the position of defending a policy it opposes.

“It is sad and disappointing that the government continues to try to prevent openly gay and lesbian Americans from serving in our armed forces,” Log Cabin Republicans attorney Dan Woods said.

“It is particularly disappointing because the President has stated that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell “weakens” our national security and signed the repeal bill with great fanfare and yet today’s filing with the Ninth Circuit is a last-ditch effort to maintain this unconstitutional policy, Woods added.

The Justice Department asked the 9th Circuit to issue a decision by the end of the day Friday.

“The True Costs of War”

The True Costs of War

Originally posted as part of Congressman John W. Olver’s E-News Updates

A recently released Brown University report entitled “Costs of War” has received national media attention for the startling $3.7 to $4.4 trillion price tag it puts on our current wars. According to the report, this staggering dollar range is an estimate of the total cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars even assuming a prompt withdrawal of all U.S. forces.  Any delay would cause the range to skyrocket further.

An estimated $1 trillion of this sum – about 25% of the total cost – comes just from interest accumulated by the U.S. as we inflate our national debt to finance the wars.  As war spending continues to mount, congressional leaders have repeatedly stated a commitment to overall deficit reduction, yet cuts to defense in this year’s Republican-led House appropriations process have been minor scratches.  Even for those who supported the initial decision to go to war, it should be obvious now that a withdrawal of our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan is at least fiscally overdue.

The Brown study enumerates additional elements of the wars’ full cost.  Every year we remain combat-engaged, we continue to lose American lives.  The social and economic costs to service members who are killed, left disabled or absent from their families for multiple and extended tours of duty are estimated to be in the hundreds of billions.  The national opportunity cost of the wars, in terms of forgone federal investment in education, health care, energy and economic revitalization, can also be added to the overall price tag.

We cannot change the past, but we can bring our troops home now and turn the responsibility for Iraq and Afghanistan over to those nations.  By pursuing an orderly but swift withdrawal, we can stop the hemorrhaging of American taxpayer dollars and the tragic losses and painful injuries that too many of our military service families are facing.  The time has come to face up the true costs of war and finally put an end to them.

Petraeus on Troop Withdrawal

President Obama announced his plan for troop withdrawal from Afghanistan last night.  It includes 10,000 troops leaving by the end of 2011, and another 23,000 to leave by fall of 2012.  68,000 will remain in the country following the total 33,000 draw dawn.

Here is General Petraeus’s reaction to the address at a Congressional hearing today:

Wednesday Withdrawal

The New York Times reported yesterday that President Obama is expected to make an announcement on Wednesday evening (June 22, 2011) regarding troop reduction in Afghanistan.

“As he closes in on a decision, another official said, Mr. Obama is considering options that range from a Pentagon-backed proposal to pull out only 5,000 troops this year to an aggressive plan to withdraw within 12 months all 30,000 troops the United States deployed to Afghanistan as part of the surge in December 2009. Under another option, a third official said, Mr. Obama would announce a final date for the withdrawal of all the surge forces sometime in 2012, but leave the timetable for incremental reductions up to commanders in the field — much as he did in drawing down troops after the surge in Iraq.”

It is important to remember, however, that even after withdrawing 30,000 troops, 68,000 will remain in Afghanistan, which is twice the number as when Obama assumed office.

With support for the war in Afghanistan dwindling, increased pressure has been placed on the President to utilize American resources ($120 billion just last year) here rather than abroad.

Stay tuned.