Category: Iraq

Video: President Obama Torpedoes a Loaded FOXNews Question

From our friends at Occupy Democrats:

BRET HENRY: President Obama, as you grappled here with all these national security challenges, I have two questions. One, back home we’ve learned that 40 military veterans died while they were waiting for health care, a very tragic situation. I know you don’t run the Phoenix Office of Veterans Affairs, but as Commander-in-Chief, what specifically will you pledge to fix that?

And, secondly, more broadly — big picture — as you end this trip, I don’t think I have to remind you there have been a lot of unflattering portraits of your foreign policy right now. And rather than get into all the details or red lines, et cetera, I’d like to give you a chance to lay out what your vision is more than five years into office, what you think the Obama doctrine is in terms of what your guiding principle is on all of these crises and how you answer those critics who say they think the doctrine is weakness.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, Ed, I doubt that I’m going to have time to lay out my entire foreign policy doctrine. And there are actually some complimentary pieces as well about my foreign policy, but I’m not sure you ran them.

Here’s I think the general takeaway from this trip. Our alliances in the Asia Pacific have never been stronger; I can say that unequivocally. Our relationship with ASEAN countries in Southeast Asia have never been stronger. I don’t think that’s subject to dispute. As recently as a decade ago, there were great tensions between us and Malaysia, for example. And I think you just witnessed the incredible warmth and strength of the relationship between those two countries.

We’re here in the Philippines signing a defense agreement. Ten years ago, fifteen years ago there was enormous tensions around our defense relationship with the Philippines. And so it’s hard to square whatever it is that the critics are saying with facts on the ground, events on the ground here in the Asia Pacific region. Typically, criticism of our foreign policy has been directed at the failure to use military force. And the question I think I would have is, why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force after we’ve just gone through a decade of war at enormous costs to our troops and to our budget? And what is it exactly that these critics think would have been accomplished?

My job as Commander-in-Chief is to deploy military force as a last resort, and to deploy it wisely. And, frankly, most of the foreign policy commentators that have questioned our policies would go headlong into a bunch of military adventures that the American people had no interest in participating in and would not advance our core security interests.

So if you look at Syria, for example, our interest is in helping the Syrian people, but nobody suggests that us being involved in a land war in Syria would necessarily accomplish this goal. And I would note that those who criticize our foreign policy with respect to Syria, they themselves say, no, no, no, we don’t mean sending in troops. Well, what do you mean? Well, you should be assisting the opposition — well, we’re assisting the opposition. What else do you mean? Well, perhaps you should have taken a strike in Syria to get chemical weapons out of Syria. Well, it turns out we’re getting chemical weapons out of Syria without having initiated a strike. So what else are you talking about? And at that point it kind of trails off.

In Ukraine, what we’ve done is mobilize the international community. Russia has never been more isolated. A country that used to be clearly in its orbit now is looking much more towards Europe and the West, because they’ve seen that the arrangements that have existed for the last 20 years weren’t working for them. And Russia is having to engage in activities that have been rejected uniformly around the world. And we’ve been able to mobilize the international community to not only put diplomatic pressure on Russia, but also we’ve been able to organize European countries who many were skeptical would do anything to work with us in applying sanctions to Russia. Well, what else should we be doing? Well, we shouldn’t be putting troops in, the critics will say. That’s not what we mean. Well, okay, what are you saying? Well, we should be arming the Ukrainians more. Do people actually think that somehow us sending some additional arms into Ukraine could potentially deter the Russian army? Or are we more likely to deter them by applying the sort of international pressure, diplomatic pressure and economic pressure that we’re applying?

The point is that for some reason many who were proponents of what I consider to be a disastrous decision to go into Iraq haven’t really learned the lesson of the last decade, and they keep on just playing the same note over and over again. Why? I don’t know. But my job as Commander-in-Chief is to look at what is it that is going to advance our security interests over the long term, to keep our military in reserve for where we absolutely need it. There are going to be times where there are disasters and difficulties and challenges all around the world, and not all of those are going to be immediately solvable by us.

But we can continue to speak out clearly about what we believe. Where we can make a difference using all the tools we’ve got in the toolkit, well, we should do so. And if there are occasions where targeted, clear actions can be taken that would make a difference, then we should take them. We don’t do them because somebody sitting in an office in Washington or New York think it would look strong. That’s not how we make foreign policy. And if you look at the results of what we’ve done over the last five years, it is fair to say that our alliances are stronger, our partnerships are stronger, and in the Asia Pacific region, just to take one example, we are much better positioned to work with the peoples here on a whole range of issues of mutual interest.

And that may not always be sexy. That may not always attract a lot of attention, and it doesn’t make for good argument on Sunday morning shows. But it avoids errors. You hit singles, you hit doubles; every once in a while we may be able to hit a home run. But we steadily advance the interests of the American people and our partnership with folks around the world.

A full, complete, thoughtful, reasoned response.

President of the United States (Finally) Declares War in Iraq Over

He did it.

I was actually in the parking lot at the Matteson, IL, Walmart during the President’s address tonight.

The 7 ½ year war in Iraq, fought for no reason whatsoever, is over.

Yes, I’m pleased. This liberal feels good. And I feel good about the President of the United States.

The President of the United States ended Operation Iraqi Freedom, ended the war in Iraq.

4,417 American soldiers killed. 3,494 killed in combat.

Total American soldiers wounded: 31,929.

Iraqi deaths due to the U.S. invasion: 1,366,350, as of this moment in time.

War is over.

Thank you so, so much to our men and women who serve in the military.

And thank you so, so much to those of you who made the ultimate sacrifice.

And thank you, President Barack Hussein Obama.

Thank you for ending this madness.

The President’s address:

Having returned hours earlier from a conversation with troops in Fort Bliss, Texas – troops who had seen every phase of what has become one of America’s longest wars – the President spoke to the Nation for just the second time from the Oval Office to announce the end of America’s combat role in that war.  Americans in high school today may barely remember a time when America was not at combat in Iraq, and young adults – including so many of our troops who have sacrificed so much – have almost by definition gone their entire adult lives in a country divided over the war.  Today, as the President put it, was a day to begin to “turn the page” – a day when America could turn its focus towards building itself back up from a devastating recession.

Over all that time, though, as the President pointed out, “there has been one constant amidst those shifting tides”:

At every turn, America’s men and women in uniform have served with courage and resolve.  As Commander-in-Chief, I am incredibly proud of their service.  And like all Americans, I’m awed by their sacrifice, and by the sacrifices of their families.

The Americans who have served in Iraq completed every mission they were given.  They defeated a regime that had terrorized its people.  Together with Iraqis and coalition partners who made huge sacrifices of their own, our troops fought block by block to help Iraq seize the chance for a better future.  They shifted tactics to protect the Iraqi people, trained Iraqi Security Forces, and took out terrorist leaders.  Because of our troops and civilians — and because of the resilience of the Iraqi people — Iraq has the opportunity to embrace a new destiny, even though many challenges remain.

So tonight, I am announcing that the American combat mission in Iraq has ended.  Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country. Having drawn down 100,000 troops since taking office, a much smaller force will stay to train and assist the Iraqi forces during the transition period.  The President was unambivalent on what would happen after that time: “all U.S. troops will leave by the end of next year.”

The President mentioned that Vice President Biden is in Iraq now, having spent the day meeting with Iraqi leaders about working with America’s diplomatic team going forward.

Vice President Joe Biden Meets with Iraqi Vice President Adil Al-Mahdi at the Presidency Diwan in Baghdad, Iraq

Vice President Joe Biden meets with Iraqi Vice President Adil Al-Mahdi at the Presidency Diwan in Baghdad, Iraq August 31, 2010. (by David LIenemann)

As one war winds down, the President spoke directly to questions about the war in Afghanistan that continues:

Americans across the political spectrum supported the use of force against those who attacked us on 9/11.  Now, as we approach our 10th year of combat in Afghanistan, there are those who are understandably asking tough questions about our mission there.  But we must never lose sight of what’s at stake.  As we speak, al Qaeda continues to plot against us, and its leadership remains anchored in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan.  We will disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda, while preventing Afghanistan from again serving as a base for terrorists.  And because of our drawdown in Iraq, we are now able to apply the resources necessary to go on offense.  In fact, over the last 19 months, nearly a dozen al Qaeda leaders — and hundreds of al Qaeda’s extremist allies — have been killed or captured around the world.

Here too, though, the President made clear that lessons of Iraq have not been lost: “And next August, we will begin a transition to Afghan responsibility.  The pace of our troop reductions will be determined by conditions on the ground, and our support for Afghanistan will endure.  But make no mistake:  This transition will begin — because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghan people’s.”

President Barack Obama Delivers an Oval Office Address on Iraq

President Barack Obama delivers an address to the nation on the end of the combat mission in Iraq from the Oval Office August 31, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

The President then spoke on one of the most important reasons he opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning, and one of the most important benefits of the drawdown – the ability for America to refocus its energy and resources on challenges at home, including taking care of our veterans:

Unfortunately, over the last decade, we’ve not done what’s necessary to shore up the foundations of our own prosperity.  We spent a trillion dollars at war, often financed by borrowing from overseas.  This, in turn, has short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits.  For too long, we have put off tough decisions on everything from our manufacturing base to our energy policy to education reform.  As a result, too many middle-class families find themselves working harder for less, while our nation’s long-term competitiveness is put at risk.

And so at this moment, as we wind down the war in Iraq, we must tackle those challenges at home with as much energy, and grit, and sense of common purpose as our men and women in uniform who have served abroad.  They have met every test that they faced.  Now, it’s our turn.  Now, it’s our responsibility to honor them by coming together, all of us, and working to secure the dream that so many generations have fought for — the dream that a better life awaits anyone who is willing to work for it and reach for it.

Our most urgent task is to restore our economy, and put the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs back to work.  To strengthen our middle class, we must give all our children the education they deserve, and all our workers the skills that they need to compete in a global economy.  We must jumpstart industries that create jobs, and end our dependence on foreign oil.  We must unleash the innovation that allows new products to roll off our assembly lines, and nurture the ideas that spring from our entrepreneurs.  This will be difficult.  But in the days to come, it must be our central mission as a people, and my central responsibility as President.

Part of that responsibility is making sure that we honor our commitments to those who have served our country with such valor.  As long as I am President, we will maintain the finest fighting force that the world has ever known, and we will do whatever it takes to serve our veterans as well as they have served us.  This is a sacred trust.  That’s why we’ve already made one of the largest increases in funding for veterans in decades.  We’re treating the signature wounds of today’s wars — post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury — while providing the health care and benefits that all of our veterans have earned.  And we’re funding a Post-9/11 GI Bill that helps our veterans and their families pursue the dream of a college education.  Just as the GI Bill helped those who fought World War II — including my grandfather — become the backbone of our middle class, so today’s servicemen and women must have the chance to apply their gifts to expand the American economy.  Because part of ending a war responsibly is standing by those who have fought it.

Obama Declares ‘I Don’t Quit’ in First State of the Union Address

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

Declaring “I don’t quit,”‘ an embattled President Barack Obama vowed in his first State of the Union address Wednesday night to make job growth his topmost priority and urged a divided Congress to boost the still-ailing economy with fresh stimulus spending. Defiant despite stinging setbacks, he said he would not abandon ambitious plans for longer-term fixes to health care, energy, education and more.

“Change has not come fast enough,” Obama said before a politician-packed House chamber and a TV audience of millions. “As hard as it may be, as uncomfortable and contentious as the debates may be, it’s time to get serious about fixing the problems that are hampering our growth.”

Obama looked to change the conversation from how his presidency is stalling — over the messy health care debate, a limping economy and the missteps that led to Christmas Day’s barely averted terrorist disaster — to how he is seizing the reins.

A chief demand was for lawmakers to press forward with his prized health care overhaul, which is in severe danger in Congress, and to resist the temptation to substitute a smaller-bore solution for the far-reaching changes he wants.

“Do not walk away from reform,” he implored. “Not now. Not when we are so close.”

Republicans applauded the president when he entered the chamber, and even craned their necks and welcomed Michelle Obama when she took her seat. But the warm feelings of bipartisanship disappeared early.

I don’t know how “embattled” President Obama is right now. Every president is “embattled.” I found the tone of the SOTU remarkable. But Congress needs to remember how to be a parliament, and they’re not there yet. Republicans say, “NO!” Democrats let the tail wag the dog and give up the fight. The intelligence factor in Congress is rather low right now, I fear, on both sides of the aisle. Republicans are too dumb to realize that there is more to life than cheap politics, and Democrats are too dumb to know how to make Congress work.

Too bad.

I’m glad this president does not “give up.” We still have work to do.

US Military Suicides Outnumber Soldiers Killed By Enemy Fire For 2009

This is incredibly sad.

Should the President write letters of condolence to family members?

I would. The letters are for the living, not the deceased.

C.I.A. Drops Blackwater

The C.I.A. has finally terminated ties with Blackwater.


From the New York Times:

The Central Intelligence Agency has terminated a contract with the security company formerly called Blackwater Worldwide that allowed the company to load bombs on C.I.A. drones in Pakistan and Afghanistan, intelligence officials said Friday.

The contract gave employees with the company an operational role in one of the Central Intelligence Agency’s most significant covert programs, which has killed dozens of militants with Predator and Reaper drones. The company’s involvement highlighted the extent to which the C.I.A. had outsourced critical jobs to private companies since the 9/11 attacks.

The contract with the company, now called Xe Services, was canceled this year by Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A. director, according to a C.I.A. spokesman. In August, The New York Times first revealed the existence of the contract, which was run by a division of the company called Blackwater Select, which handles classified contracts.

George Little, the C.I.A. spokesman, said that Mr. Panetta had ordered that the agency’s employees take over the jobs from Xe employees at the remote drone bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and that Mr. Panetta had also ordered a review of all contracts with the company.

“At this time, Blackwater is not involved in any C.I.A. operations other than in a security or support role,” Mr. Little said.

This is Friday night news. Many times, unpopular news is released on Fridays to downplay the prime time media blitz. This release happend to come just after the NYTimes reported that Blackwater employees had joined C.I.A. operatives in secret operations during the Bush II administration.

Good riddance.

Read more.

NYTimes: Blackwater Guards Tied to Covert Raids by C.I.A.

From the New York Times:

Private security guards from Blackwater Worldwide participated in some of the C.I.A.’s most sensitive activities — clandestine raids with agency officers against people suspected of being insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan and the transporting of detainees, according to former company employees and intelligence officials.

The raids against suspects occurred on an almost nightly basis during the height of the Iraqi insurgency between 2004 and 2006, with Blackwater personnel playing central roles in what company insiders called “snatch and grab” operations, the former employees and current and former intelligence officers said.

Several former Blackwater guards said that their involvement in the operations became so routine that the lines supposedly dividing the Central Intelligence Agency, the military and Blackwater became blurred. Instead of simply providing security for C.I.A. officers, they say, Blackwater personnel at times became partners in missions to capture or kill militants in Iraq and Afghanistan, a practice that raises questions about the use of guns for hire on the battlefield.

Separately, former Blackwater employees said they helped provide security on some C.I.A. flights transporting detainees in the years after the 2001 terror attacks in the United States.

The secret missions illuminate a far deeper relationship between the spy agency and the private security company than government officials have previously acknowledged. Blackwater’s partnership with the C.I.A. has been enormously profitable for the North Carolina-based company, and became even closer after several top agency officials joined Blackwater. “It became a very brotherly relationship,” said one former top C.I.A. officer. “There was a feeling that Blackwater eventually became an extension of the agency.”

"…a very brotherly relationship."

This raises concerns about the extent to which private security firms have been involved in offensive military and intelligence operations. The firms were hired for defensive guard duty, the NYTimes says.

Read more here.

As Afghanistan Enters Year 9, We Tally the Cost of War

It’s time to take stock of the numbers again, as the war in Afghanistan enters its ninth year Tuesday.

Our National Debt stands at $11,930,445,364,162.68 as of this writing. That’s a tad under $12 trillion.

The Total Cost of War since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began is currently $917,149,614,395. That’s just under $1 trillion. $688,690,605,993 has been spent in Iraq, $228,459,269,025 in Afghanistan. If the numbers don’t add up, that’s because the counter at is constantly moving. The total right now is $917,150,203,805.

Yes, they’re pretty accurate. Here’s more about the counters:

The numbers indicate all of the approved funding for the wars to date. In addition to this approved amount, the FY2010 budget shows a $130 billion request for more war spending. This would bring total war spending in Iraq and Afghanistan to more than $1 trillion. When all FY2010 war-related amounts are approved, we will adjust the counters so that they reach the new totals at the end of FY2010.

If you should compare the amount displayed on the Cost of War counters with the numbers available in our information sheets, please note that the information sheets include all war spending to date, the same number that the counters will reach at the end of the 2009 fiscal year.

Total War Funding since 2001

To date, $915.1 billion dollars have been allocated to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This counter is designed so that on September 30, 2009, the end of the federal government’s 2009 fiscal year, the counter will reach that total number. Likewise, counters found here for states and towns will also reach their portion of this number at the end of FY2009.

Cost of War in Iraq since 2003

To date, $687 billion dollars have been allocated to the war in Iraq since 2003. This counter is designed so that on September 30, 2009, the end of the federal government’s 2009 fiscal year, the counter will reach that total number. Please note that the cost of war in Iraq has decreased since our last estimate. This is because a larger proportion of spending was allocated to Afghanistan than originally estimated.

Cost of War in Afghanistan since 2001

To date, $228 billion dollars have been allocated to the war in Afghanistan since 2001. This counter is designed so that on September 30, 2009, the end of the federal government’s 2009 fiscal year, the counter will reach that total number. To learn more about the cost of war in Afghanistan, see our April 2009 publication.

Here’s the Cost of War in Iraq:

Here’s the Cost of War in Afghanistan:

Here is the total of both wars combined:

Now, the human loss…

4,347 Americans have died in Iraq since the war began on March 19, 2003. 3,475 of them died in combat.

869 Americans have died in Afghanistan. 219 from the UK died in Afghanistan, 356 from other countries, for a total of 1,444 dead on the coalition side.

Somewhere between 93,345 and 101,862 Iraqi civilians have died in the war in Iraq. That’s civilians. Just Foreign Policy puts the total number of civilians due to the war at 1,339,771.

The Washington Post currently lists 5,130 Americans dead in both wars, and has pictures of all of the fallen.

President Obama, these are your wars now.

Rachel Maddow’s Amazing Interview with Former Sec. of Homeland Security Tom Ridge

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Ridge on what happened during Katrina.

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Ridge and Maddow debate the decision behind the Iraq War.

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This interview was nothing short of amazing. The exchange was brilliant on both sides. Rachel Maddow is one of the most intelligent political minds in this country. Ridge elaborates on what he wrote in his book, and answers questions calmly and directly.

Former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge appears on the show to share his interpretation of what he wrote in his book, The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege…And How We Can Be Safe Again, published today. The book is well-reviewed, and I actually may pick up a copy.

Watch the video above. Enjoy as two brilliant minds who share very different viewpoints debate and discuss.

Justice Dept. Report Advises Pursuing C.I.A. Torture Allegations

We may finally begin to see justice restored in the United States of America.

Breaking news from The New York Times:

The Justice Department’s ethics office has recommended reversing the Bush administration and reopening nearly a dozen prisoner-abuse cases, potentially exposing Central Intelligence Agency employees and contractors to prosecution for brutal treatment of terrorism suspects, according to a person officially briefed on the matter.

The recommendation by the Office of Professional Responsibility, presented to Attorney General Eric H. Holder recent weeks, comes as the Justice Department is about to disclose on Monday voluminous details on prisoner abuse that were gathered in 2004 by the C.I.A.’s inspector general but have never been released.

When the C.I.A. first referred its inspector general’s findings to prosecutors, they decided that none of the cases merited prosecution. But Mr. Holder’s associates say that when he took office and saw the allegations, which included the deaths of people in custody and other cases of physical or mental torment, he began to reconsider.

With the release of the details on Monday and the formal advice that at least some cases be reopened, it now seems all but certain that the appointment of a prosecutor or other concrete steps will follow, posing significant new problems for the C.I.A. It is politically awkward, too, for Mr. Holder because President Obama has said that he would rather move forward than get bogged down in the issue at the expense of his own agenda.

The advice from the Office of Professional Responsibility strengthens Mr. Holder’s hand.

The recommendation to review the closed cases, in effect renewing the inquiries, centers mainly on allegations of detainee abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Justice Department report is to be made public after classified information is deleted from it.

President Obama, it’s time to lead and let justice be served.

‘He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.’

The title of this entry is from the Declaration of Independence.

But it resonates today in light of the United State’s occupation of Iraq: “He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.”

And this, from the same document:

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States

And this:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

I know I’m just a rambling liberal, but I couldn’t help thinking of Iraq when I read these lines in anticipation of this year’s 4th of July.  Food for thought, from our American ancestors.

The conclusion of the Declaration still makes me want to stand at attention and observe a moment of silence:

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

“…our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

What a punch.

Peace to all this July 4th.