Saturday, July 26, 2008

Obama and the troops – can you spell C-L-I-N-T-O-N?

by Rick Francona

Senator Barack Obama was having a great overseas trip, you know, criticizing a sitting president in front of the star-struck and enamored Europeans. Surprisingly, he did not get much applause as he told the Germans that he wanted them to increase their commitments to the NATO mission in Afghanistan. I’m not sure why – the Germans don’t shoot at the bad guys anyway. (German soldiers in Afghanistan - don't shoot the bad guys!)

The senator got the most applause when he vowed to end the war in Iraq – not that Germany has a stake in that conflict. The inexperienced candidate continues to use the wrong word – he needs to be vowing to “win” the war in Iraq, and only then withdraw American troops from the country. Simply ending the war – like taking my toys and going home – is exactly the wrong thing to do.

However, the most telling part of this trip is his decision not to meet with wounded members of the U.S. armed forces recovering in an American military hospital in Germany. After his love-fest with the Germans in Berlin, Obama was scheduled to travel to Landstuhl Army hospital, about an hour flight. There he was to meet the wounded soldiers that just might allow him to withdraw American forces without crating a power vacuum, a power vacuum sure to be filled by the Iranians.

Obama was told by the Pentagon that neither the press nor his campaign staff were permitted in hospital, as political campaign activities are not permitted on military installations. Of course, as a sitting United States senator, Mr. Obama was always welcome to visit the troops. The Pentagon even waived the prohibition on the senator’s campaign aircraft landing at nearby Ramstein Air Base to facilitate the visit.

Senator Obama canceled the visit. The message to the troops: no photo op, no visit. I’d rather go work out at the gym in the swank Ritz Carlton hotel.

The bad decision should haunt Obama. As a senator, not only does he have the right to visit wounded American troops, he has a duty. Obama can speak to 200,000 Germans but he can't spare a couple of hours for U.S. troops.

This reprises the specter of Bill and Hillary Clinton and their no-uniform policy for members of the U.S. armed forces at the White House. It shows the same disdain for the men and women who have volunteered to serve their country.

Shame on you, Senator. Given this display of disrespect to the troops, you have shown yourself not fit to command these patriots.

Monday, July 21, 2008

End the war or win the war?

by Rick Francona

Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is committed to withdrawing American military forces from Iraq. He plans to have this action completed within 16 months of taking office.

That time line, through no prescience on his part, is probably achievable. It is achievable because of the surge - which he said would not work, by the way. Thanks to the increase in the number of troops, changes in tactics and increased capabilities of the Iraqi military and security forces, we may be able to bring most of the troops home even before his artificial deadline.

The time line is really not the issue - it is his characterization of what he hopes to accomplish. Let's look at his words (taken from his official campaign website).

“So when I am Commander-in-Chief, I will set a new goal on day one: I will end this war. Not because politics compels it. Not because our troops cannot bear the burden- as heavy as it is. But because it is the right thing to do for our national security, and it will ultimately make us safer.”

The problem is not the plan to withdraw American forces - the senator has said he will consult with the military commanders and assess the security situation in Iraq. That's pretty much what the President and Senator McCain have been saying without adding artificial time lines.

The problem is his choice of words. The senator, as we all know, is a gifted orator and talented speechwriter, so we have to assume he has chosen his words carefully. The offending phrase is "end the war."

We should not "end" the war, we need to "win" the war. Packing up and going home is not a good idea unless we have accomplished some key objectives. Just because we can leave on a a particular date does not mean that we should. Although the "security situation" may allow us to safely withdraw, the assessment should be based on making sure we do not leave a failure waiting to happen.

I guess the question the senator needs to answer is, "Do you want to win in Iraq?" If you think that is not as important as merely "ending" the war, you do not deserve to be the commander in chief of the fine young men and women who want to win in Iraq.