Archive for afghan war

GOP hates spending, so Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) intros bill to boost Pentagon war spending by $5 billion

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spend money guy

Via

Watch as Senate Democrats point at laugh at the House Armed Services panel's Defense authorization bill that would hike Pentagon spending by $5 billion.

Because, see, what we need now is to pour more cash into the Afghanistan war, which is exactly what Chairman Buck McKeon's (R-Calif.) legislation would do. Republicans want to "make up for cuts to training and maintenance" due to that thing we all love to hate called "sequestration."

Yes, the party that hates spending wants to spend-- spend-- an additional five. Billion. Dollars.

The Hill:

The sweeping Pentagon policy bill pushes back on a number of administration proposals and priorities.

The measure includes restrictions on transferring Guantánamo detainees to the United States, which President Obama proposed to re-start last month as he looks to close the prison. The bill also included funding for new barracks at Guantánamo to replace temporary facilities.

The committee rejected base closures and new healthcare fees for a second straight year, and also said no to a smaller pay raise for troops... On sexual assault, an issue that has generated a host of attention in recent weeks, the bill strips commanders’ ability to overturn guilty verdicts and establishes minimum sentencing guidelines for sexual assault cases.

It does not, however, go as far as some lawmakers are proposing to remove the decision to prosecute sexual assault cases from the chain of command.

Did I say that thing we all love to hate is called "sequestration"? I meant "the GOP."

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Entire VIDEO: President Obama speaks on drones, Guantanamo, counterterrorism at National Defense University

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president obama counter terrorism speech

Here is the transcript of the speech, not including improvised remarks. Here are clips of Medea Benjamin asking President Obama, “Will you apologize to the thousands of Muslims that you have killed?” and his reactions.

Excerpts:

Today, Osama bin Laden is dead, and so are most of his top lieutenants. There have been no large-scale attacks on the United States, and our homeland is more secure. Fewer of our troops are in harm’s way, and over the next 19 months they will continue to come home. Our alliances are strong, and so is our standing in the world. In sum, we are safer because of our efforts...

Today, the core of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on a path to defeat. Their remaining operatives spend more time thinking about their own safety than plotting against us. They did not direct the attacks in Benghazi or Boston. They have not carried out a successful attack on our homeland since 9/11. Instead, what we’ve seen is the emergence of various al Qaeda affiliates...

Moreover, we must recognize that these threats don’t arise in a vacuum. Most, though not all, of the terrorism we face is fueled by a common ideology – a belief by some extremists that Islam is in conflict with the United States and the West, and that violence against Western targets, including civilians, is justified in pursuit of a larger cause. Of course, this ideology is based on a lie, for the United States is not at war with Islam; and this ideology is rejected by the vast majority of Muslims, who are the most frequent victims of terrorist acts...

Beyond Afghanistan, we must define our effort not as a boundless ‘global war on terror’ – but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America. In many cases, this will involve partnerships with other countries...

But despite our strong preference for the detention and prosecution of terrorists, sometimes this approach is foreclosed. Al Qaeda and its affiliates try to gain a foothold in some of the most distant and unforgiving places on Earth. They take refuge in remote tribal regions... [P]utting U.S. boots on the ground may trigger a major international crisis. To put it another way, our operation in Pakistan against Osama bin Laden cannot be the norm...

To begin with, our actions are effective... Simply put, these strikes have saved lives... Moreover, America’s actions are legal...

To say a military tactic is legal, or even effective, is not to say it is wise or moral in every instance...

[B]y the end of 2014, we will no longer have the same need for force protection, and the progress we have made against core al Qaeda will reduce the need for unmanned strikes...

America does not take strikes when we have the ability to capture individual terrorists - our preference is always to detain, interrogate, and prosecute them. America cannot take strikes wherever we choose – our actions are bound by consultations with partners, and respect for state sovereignty. America does not take strikes to punish individuals – we act against terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people, and when there are no other governments capable of effectively addressing the threat. And before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured – the highest standard we can set...

[I]t is a hard fact that U.S. strikes have resulted in civilian casualties, a risk that exists in all wars. For the families of those civilians, no words or legal construct can justify their loss. For me, and those in my chain of command, these deaths will haunt us as long as we live, just as we are haunted by the civilian casualties that have occurred through conventional fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq...

To do nothing in the face of terrorist networks would invite far more civilian casualties... So it is false to assert that putting boots on the ground is less likely to result in civilian deaths, or to create enemies in the Muslim world. The result would be more U.S. deaths, more Blackhawks down, more confrontations with local populations, and an inevitable mission creep in support of such raids that could easily escalate into new wars... But by narrowly targeting our action against those who want to kill us, and not the people they hide among, we are choosing the course of action least likely to result in the loss of innocent life...

Any U.S. military action in foreign lands risks creating more enemies, and impacts public opinion overseas. Our laws constrain the power of the President, even during wartime, and I have taken an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States. The very precision of drones strikes, and the necessary secrecy involved in such actions can end up shielding our government from the public scrutiny that a troop deployment invites. It can also lead a President and his team to view drone strikes as a cure-all for terrorism. For this reason, I’ve insisted on strong oversight of all lethal action....

[N]ot only did Congress authorize the use of force, it is briefed on every strike that America takes. That includes the one instance when we targeted an American citizen: Anwar Awlaki, the chief of external operations for AQAP...

This week, I authorized the declassification of this action, and the deaths of three other Americans in drone strikes, to facilitate transparency and debate on this issue, and to dismiss some of the more outlandish claims. For the record, I do not believe it would be constitutional for the government to target and kill any U.S. citizen – with a drone, or a shotgun – without due process. Nor should any President deploy armed drones over U.S. soil.

But when a U.S. citizen goes abroad to wage war against America – and is actively plotting to kill U.S. citizens; and when neither the United States, nor our partners are in a position to capture him before he carries out a plot – his citizenship should no more serve as a shield than a sniper shooting down on an innocent crowd should be protected from a swat team

Please go here for the entire transcript.

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VIDEO-- Medea Benjamin to Pres. Obama: "Will you apologize to the thousands of Muslims that you have killed?"

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medea benjamin after heckling Obama

Link, via Ryan J. Reilly

Medea Benjamin may have made some valid points, as did the president. But heckling often ends up working against the heckler, at least that's the way it looked from the reactions that came my way on Twitter. On the other hand, it does get a whole lot of attention from the media.

President Obama eventually became impatient with the interruptions and politely told a very persistent Medea Benjamin to STFU:

President Obama:

"This is part of free speech, is you being able to speak but also, you listen, and me being able to speak."

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Hopelessly over-optimistic wishes for 2013

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wishful thinking fingers crossed smaller

Every January 1st,  the L.A. Times has a tradition of posting a list of their wishes, many which coincide with my own. Most never get fulfilled, some get partially granted, and others come true.

Here are a few samples from this year's "over-optimistic" wishes and hopes. Last year, five of their 27 dreams came true. This time the Times includes wishes for:

The almost unimaginably tragic deaths of 20 elementary school children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut — at the hands of an emotionally disturbed young man armed with an arsenal of weapons — to finally prove the catalyst for action rather than just words when it comes to meaningful gun control legislation.

The IRS and the Federal Election Commission to put a stop to special-interest groups making a mockery of campaign finance laws by collecting and spending huge donations anonymously through PACs disguised as charities.

The U.S. Supreme Court to strike down Proposition 8 once and for all, eliminating the ban on same-sex marriage in California. While they're at it, the justices should do away with the section of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that denies federal benefits to same-sex couples who are legally wed in their home states.

Further progress in extricating U.S. military forces from Afghanistan, so that the U.S. and its allies can transfer responsibility for security to Afghan forces even earlier than the projected 2014 deadline.

The Supreme Court to reaffirm the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires states with a history of racial discrimination to clear changes in their election procedures with the Justice Department or a federal court.

Congress to hammer out a plan to overhaul the nation's dysfunctional immigration system that would provide a path to citizenship for the 11 million people who are already here illegally and also provide for enforcement of immigration laws at the workplace and along the border.

Congress to treat problems as problems, rather than opportunities to push the nation to the brink. Enough with the "fiscal cliff" and debt-ceiling crises. How about some genuine commitment to solving problems?

An end to congressional threats to defund Planned Parenthood.

More at the link.

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U.S. force in Afghanistan may be smaller than expected after 2014

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Via Kevin Frayer/Associated Press

Despite some commanders saying more U.S. troops are needed in Afghanistan, President Obama could very well keep the numbers much lower than they'd prefer, per the L.A. Times:

The Obama administration plans on keeping 6,000 to 9,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistanafter 2014, fewer than previously reported, and will confine most of them to fortified garrisons near the capital, leaving Afghan troops largely without American advisors in the field to fight a still-powerful insurgency, U.S. officials said.

Although it is not final, contours of the plan have become increasingly clear in the weeks since President Obama's reelection. Officials close to the discussions say the final U.S. presence will be substantially smaller than the 15,000 troops senior commanders have sought to keep after most of the 68,000 remaining American troops leave in the next two years. [...]

Bagram will become the hub for U.S. special operations teams charged with tracking and killing members of Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, the chief American military mission after the drawdown. Bagram also will be the main air base for U.S. drones and other combat aircraft in Afghanistan, the officials said.

Zero troops would be a good number, too. In fact, it seems President Obama agrees, but unfortunately, that's just wishful thinking:

"One of the things that Obama and Karzai have always agreed on is the need for a reduced force presence," a U.S. official said. "I could see them both wanting zero, but at the end of the day I don't think that will happen."

Details here.

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VIDEO: Romney's Afghanistan reversal a disqualifying character issue

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First, the surprising and news-making reversal of Mitt Romney on Afghanistan, and some initial reaction to the debate:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Next, the commentary:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

On the Tee Vee machine so far today, what I'm seeing from political commentators is that Romney simply "shifted to a more moderate, more appealing" position as opposed to completely and hypocritically reversing himself two weeks before Election Day.

He has zero credibility. He cannot be trusted, he cannot be believed. He'll say anything he thinks voters want to hear.

Rachel Maddow nailed it:

"...68,000 American lives on the line... This is a real war... This is changing your mind... about the fate, the lives and deaths, of 68,000 Americans... and that you can get away with running from the things that you've previously claimed were your heartfelt beliefs and now denying that you ever believed they were true. It's a character issue and I find it disqualifying."

"It's an existing war. It's not hypothetical."

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Top senators, including Republicans, can’t explain Mitt Romney’s Afghanistan policy

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I'm guessing that even Willard Romney can't explain Willard Romney's Afghanistan policy. Josh Rogin reports that nobody else can either:

Republican candidate Mitt Romney's policy on the future of U.S.-led war in Afghanistan war is unclear and confusing, complicating attempts to either support or criticize it during the campaign, according to leading senators from both parties. [...]

But when it comes to what a President Romney would do differently from Obama on Afghanistan if and when he became president, the details remain sketchy. [...]

Last week, The Cable asked several senior senators from both parties whether they supported Romney's plan for Afghanistan. None was able to articulate exactly what that policy is or what the U.S. force in Afghanistan might look like if Romney is elected.

"What is it?" said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a Romney supporter and senior member of the Armed Services Committee.  [...]

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) said he wasn't sure exactly what Romney's Afghanistan policy entailed and didn't want to get into it

Of course, Team Obama can use this GOP comment stew to compare Romney's lack of foreign policy experience to the president's, not to mention Obama's national security successes *coughBinLadencough*.

Add a big splash of Bain Pain and a big pinch of Where's the Tax Returns? and a big ol' slab of Mystery Mittstery Meat and voila! A recipe for Willard Fail.

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