Tuesday, January 27, 2009

It's not all in a name

"It does require careful balancing," US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stated agreeing with Senator John McCain on an issue (transitioning some troops from Iraq to Afghanistan) in this morning's Senate Armed Services Committee encounter.  "Encounter" because don't call that garbage a hearing.  The United States is officially involved in two wars.  It is not a joke, it is not a laughing matter.   When Senator Saxby Chambill made a fool of himself talking about how 'hard' football is, the comfort factor was the idiot was a Republican.  So you could grimace as the A&M jokes flew and Robert Gates declared it was "probaly a lot less stress here" in DC, as the Defense Secretary than as a football coach.  And Chambliss laughed, "Your Aggies were wearing you out pretty good."
No, it's not funny.  It's shameful and it's embarrassing.  4 US soldiers died in Iraq yesterday.  If Gates wants to engage in jokes about how easy he has it now, then he's obviously not doing his job.  There was no sense of perspective, there was no sense of honor.  It was embarrassing, it was shameful.  Again, Dems could take comfort in the fact that Chambliss and Gates -- two Republicans -- were making idiots out of themselves, looking like beyond-middle age men trying to make like frat boys.  But then Democrat Kay Hagan decided she wanted a piece of that too.  So the shame was bi-partisan.
Gates would later attempt to turn somber and declare, "I think this is the longest war we've fought since the Reovlutionary War with an all volunteer force."  That just goes to the issue that he's not stressed enough because he's not doing his damn job.  Which war, Gates?  Afghanistan or Iraq?  When you're the Secretary of Defense, you shouldn't need prompting to know the country's involved in two wars.  He did know that the 16-month 'withdrawal' (combat troops only) was only one of several plans being looked at (but the May 2010 'plan' is the shortest).
He came off like a real idiot.  The Ace bandage on his left arm didn't add to that image alone (though this is what, his twentieth injury in office?).  It did allow the chair Carl Levin to joke (apparently fearing that there weren't enough jokes in the nearly three hour hearing), "I know you're struggling with the arm wrestling you undertook."  But while the bandage alone would have, at worst, caused raised eyebrows, the fact that he decided to go through the hearing with his jacket half on and half off helped seal the impression of Gates as a real idiot.  You wear the jacket or you don't.  It was as though we were watching FlashDefense starring Robert Gates as Alex Owens -- Defense Director by day, exotic dancer by night.  What a feeling!
His prepared statement at least allowed him a few minutes of being serious.  However, it was rather frightening: "As our military presence [in Iraq] decreases over time, we should still expect to be involved in Iraq on some level for many years to come -- assuming a soveriegn Iraq continues to seek our partnership.  The stability of Iraq remains criticial to the future of the Middle East, a region that multiple presidents of both political parties have considered vital to the national security of the United States."  In his prepared remarks he stated, "The goal for the Army is two years off for every year of deployment."  He said nothing about the marines.  In his prepared remarks, he jolly noted that the "24-month lifetime limit on deployment" for the National Guard and Reserve has been eliminated.  He also stated of them, "The goal is five years of dwell time for one year deployed.  We have made progress towards this goal but are not there yet."  The laughter you hear is coming from across the nation since, no, Gates is "not there yet" and, in fact, is no where near "there yet." In comments to questions (it's hard to call them "replies), Gates would declare that in 2009, a year deployed will be followed by 15 months at home and, in 2010, it should be a year deployed means 2 years at home.
April 1, 2008, the US House Committee on Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Health heard testimony from  US Army Director, Divisions of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research's Col Charles W. Hoge who declared, "One of the issues with multiple deployments and the dwell time for soldiers when they've come back, we've learned from the research that we've done, [is] that 12 months is not enough time for soldiers to reset and go back for another deployment."  US House Rep Shelley Berkley followed up, "Not enough time between tours of duty, did I hear you correctly?"  Hoge paused frequnetly in his reply, "Yes . . . What we've found . . . Yes.  That's what I said . . . The 12 months is insuf- . . . appears to be insufficient."  As Berkely noted, not only was that the not the policy but some were "being called back in less than 12 months" leading Hoge to pathetically reply, "I don't know." (It's his job to know and if Hoge doesn't know his job, hint to Gates, that's something you might want to stress over.) As noted in the January 21st snapshot, the British troops already have 24 months (2 years) between deployments and there is apush to go to longer than that.  BBC reported this month that Gen Richard Dannatt is pushing for 30 months between deployments.  And that's with six months of deployment -- six months deployed, thirty months home.  Gates isn't stressing because he's not doing his damn job. 
Instead of making jokes, he should have been pressed to explain why he's still not up to what the military's own medical experts say are needed?  He should have been pressed on why US service members do not get the reset time the British military does?  This is insane.  The man is not stepping into the job, he's had the job.  Since December of 2006.  It's past time he had some answers to supply. 
"Tough morning in the Senate?" asked US House Rep John McHugh early in the House Armed Services Committee.  The Ranking Member of the Minority was refering to the cast (he said sling -- Gates sometimes wears a sling with the bandage, he wasn't wearing a sling at that time).  Not much time to reply because before any questions could be asked, it was time to rush to the floor for a vote and the hearing was placed on hold for over forty minutes.  When they returned US House Rep Mac Thornberry attempted to seize the role of House clown and did it so well he was awarded House fool.  It's very rare that you manage to top Fox 'News," but Thornberry did so with a highly inventive incident ("before you were secretary") of a grand conspiracy involving al Qaeda, trick photography, wire services and, presumably, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (that would be the secretary before Gates).  "Stuff happens," no doubt, was secretive al Qaeda code.  Thank you, Thornberry for demonstrating that "The Fool On The Hill" isn't just a Beatles song.
Thornberry's turn at House fool appeared to take the pressure off everyone and the House members -- on both sides -- largely stuck to specific issues and not stand up.  (For example, US House Rep Gene Taylor wanted specific information about the number of ships and, as with most specific questions, Gates had no answer.)  There was little on Iraq and even less that Gates had answers to.  We'll cover another section later in the snapshot.  For now, we'll just note that the House committe, chaired by Ike Skelton, was more focused and far more serious than was the Senate. 


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Anonymous said...

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