Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal looked entirely uncomfortable testifying before House and Senate Committees on President Obama’s Afghanistan strategy.
McChrystal, Commander of the International Security Assistance Force and
Commander of the United States Forces Afghanistan, gave a lot of carefully-crafted answers to members’ questions.
Typical was his answer to the question of what it means to “defeat” the Taliban: “It could be similar to politics, where you defeat the other party in an election, but you don’t wipe them out.” Which must be painful to the ears of military members’ families.
In his prepared remarks, McChrystal said, “To pursue our core goal of defeating al Qaeda and preventing their return to Afghanistan, we must disrupt and degrade the Taliban’s capacity, deny their access to the Afghan population, and strengthen the Afghan Security Forces, ” Adding, “This means we must reverse the Taliban’s current momentum and create the time and space to develop Afghan security and governance capacity.”
Anyone who’s ever spent time around military officers will attest to the fact that you’ll likely never meet anyone with more self-confidence than a four-star general. In their normal, day to day world, they are in control everything they see in their area of responsibility. McChrystal exudes that confidence and a great deal of credibility which helps Obama.
Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Ca.), the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, pointedly asked McChrystal to clarify whether or not it was his idea to withdraw troops in August of 2011, which has been the source of much controversy surrounding Obama’s strategy.
[Any errors in transcription are mine and are edited for length.]
Rep. Buck McKeon: Did you recommend that the troops begin withdrawal by July 2011?
Gen. Stanley McChrystal: I made no recommendations at all on that.
That answers the most fundamental question of Obama’s strategy: the commander on the ground is in no way responsible for Obama’s exit strategy or the purely political announcement of an arbitrary withdrawal date.
The most interesting line of questioning of the day came from Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) who noted officials giving testimony before the committee pointedly avoided using the words “win” or “victory.”
Rep. John Kline: You said General McChrystal “I’m confident we have the right strategy and the right resources” and I was delighted to hear that. And I do have great confidence in you and have had since we first met the first time in I think some little corner in Baghdad somewhere, where you were doing a fantastic job. But what do we have the right strategy and the right resources to do? Is that to win?
McChrystal: I believe it’s to let the Afghan people win.
Kline: Okay. And is there an important difference there? We’re asking our sons and daughters literally in some cases to go over there and fight — 30,000 more of them — are we asking them to go over and win?
McChrystal: We are asking them to go over and be on the winning team. The reason I parse this is because the Afghans are the ultimate winners here.
Kline: I think the parsing is interesting because it seems to be consistent whether its Admiral Mullen or whether its — I asked whenever we had the last hearing a few days ago if we were seeking victory and he said, no it’s success. I don’t understand why we’re parsing these words success and victory and win. But it seems to me it’s consistently coming from that table. Now Secretary Gates reportedly said this weekend that “We are in this thing to win unquote when talking to our men and women in Afghanistan.” And I certainly think that’s right and I certainly hope that’s the message that we are portraying to the men and women that we’re sending over there. They’re going over there to win. Is there some guidance somewhere to all of you that says we can’t use the words win or victory?
McChrystal: Not that I have received.
Kline: That’s outstanding. I’m very pleased to hear that. It’s amazing that we got into this parsing business. I would have been perfectly happy to access the synonyms success, victory and win until I started discussions with people who preceded you on the panel and you. Those words win and victory don’t come out. Instead in saying we’re helping the Afghans win. But I really hope that there is no direction or command or guidance that says we can’t use those words because I think it’s important for our men and women in that uniform to know that they’re going to win.
In his West Point speech, Obama also used the term “success,” never once mentioning victory or a win. If this president isn’t comfortable with saying he’s sending our troops to Afghanistan to win, then perhaps our troops could just win one for the Gipper.
The American people are really comfortable with victory over the terrorists.
Senate Kills Ban on Taxpayer Funding of Abortion
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Cal.), one of the most pro-abortion politicians in all of United States government, offered a motion last night to table the Senate equivalent of the House Stupak Amendment that would have banned taxpayer funding of abortion in the Senate health care bill. The motion passed by a vote of 54-45 killing the ban outright.
Voting with Republicans in against the motion were Democrats Bob Casey (Penn.), Edward Kaufman (Del.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Kent Conrad (N.D.), Byron Dorgan (N.D.), Mark Pryor (Ark.) and Evan Bayh (Ind.). Two Republicans voted in favor of killing the ban, Maine liberal bookend Sens. Olympia Snow and Susan Collins.
Will any of these Democrats who say they oppose Americans being forced to pay for the taking of a life with their taxpayer dollars actually defend that principle by supporting a filibuster? Anyone acting in any manner to facilitate this bill passing the Senate can no longer claim to be pro-life. There is no compromise on the outright ban on taxpayer funding and that’s just been set aside.
Sen. Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-Okla.) has personally delivered thousands of babies as a physician and is a champion defender of innocent life.
“I’m disappointed my colleagues voted to preserve this radical provision that will, for the first time, force taxpayers to fund other American’s abortions with public funds,” Coburn said of the vote. “This provision is an affront to not just the millions of Americans who oppose abortion, but those who believe it is wrong to force anyone to fund abortion with public funds.”
“I commend Senator Nelson for offering this amendment,” Coburn added. “I hope those who voted against his amendment will rethink their position and realize they are on the wrong side of history, justice and common sense.”
Cantor and McKeon Offer Legislation for MOH Recipients to Fly Flags
House Republican Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia and Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), top Republican on the Armed Services Committee yesterday introduced a resolution, H.R. 952, allowing Congressional Medal of Honor recipients to properly display the United States flag on their property at all times.
Radio talk show host Mark Levin told the story of a 90-year-old Medal of Honor recipient, Col. Van T. Barfoot, being ordered last week by his homeowner association to remove from his yard a flagpole where he faithfully raises the American flag every morning.
“I was appalled to learn that one of our decorated Congressional Medal of Honor veterans was being prevented from proudly displaying the Flag of the United States of America in an honorable way,” said McKeon. “This reminds me of that famous quote by George Washington: ‘The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their country.’ Our service men and women — especially those living with honors and distinction — should be allowed to fly the flag that represents the very freedoms they fought so hard to protect.”
“It’s a sad day when a veteran of three wars is told he cannot fly the American flag on a pole outside of his home,” Cantor said. “Col. Barfoot made countless sacrifices, wore our country’s uniform with honor, and has earned the right to proudly display the American flag. I thank Col. Barfoot for his service and support his patriotism and efforts, as well as those here in the House, to allow him to fly his flag.”
Barfoot resides in Henrico County, Virginia.