Monday, January 27, 2014

Mitt, Marcus and the Myth

Climate change chased me indoors this weekend.  I ended up watching two movies-Mitt (the documentary about Mitt Romney's Presidential runs) and Lone Survivor (the Peter Berg movie about Navy Marcus Luttrell and his fellow Navy Seals in combat in Afghanistan).

Watching "Mitt" reinforced my belief once again what a grave error the country made in the 2012 Presidential election.  It is just too bad this documentary did not play before the election.

Mitt Romney is the real deal.  I did not agree with everything he did in the campaign but there is no way you cannot respect the man that he is. Watching the movie you cannot come away without understanding that this is a man who has great self-awareness, intelligence and humility.

A couple things that I found particularly interesting in the film that tell you something about the man.

*Minutes before he is to leave for the first debate with President Obama he is picking up litter he spots on the hotel balcony that his grandchildren had left behind.  There is Romney in his suit and tie cleaning up the place to insure the litter does not blow away when is just about ready to walk out the door to debate "the most powerful man in the world."

*Romney fully understood that a caricature had been developed that he was a "flipping Mormon" and he also understood that there was very little he could do about it.  That is just the way the game is played.  It might not be fair but Romney understood that you just have to deal with what is, not what you want it to be.

*There was very little in the movie that suggested that Romney was "handled" by his handlers.  A lot of that could have been the result of the editing of the film. However, in all of the scenes right before he went on stage for one of the debates there was no last second coaching from anyone but his family.  That tells me something in itself.  Mitt Romney is his own man.

*I thought it was particularly interesting seeing the scene in his hotel room as he came to the conclusion that he had lost to Barack Obama.  He talked about what his concession speech should say.  Should he be completely gracious or should he talk about his concern about the path the country is on?

Romney mentioned in that moment that he believed (as I do) that the country was living on borrowed time.  He stated he thought that there was a very real chance that within the next five years the country would reach a tipping point and go over a cliff because of our tax, spend and borrowing policies.  He was not that blunt on the stage that night in his concession speech nor was he during the campaign (perhaps he should have been).  He was gracious as always but he also left no doubt about his concerns for the future of out country. This is what he said that night in November, 2012.

... I ran for office because I’m concerned about America. This election is over, but our principles endure. I believe that the principles upon which this nation was founded are the only sure guide to a resurgent economy and to renewed greatness.
"Mitt" is worth 90 minutes of your time.  It is on NetFlix.

The second film I saw was Lone Survivor.

It is a hard movie to watch. However, it is also inspiring to know that we have men like Marcus Luttrell, Michael Murphy, Matthew Axelson and Danny Dietz who are willing to commit themselves in such a way for their country and their brothers in arms.

Marcus and these men were all the real deal.

What is most troubling in watching Lone Survivor is seeing the effects of the Rules of Engagement that our soldiers have to observe in this war zone.  I doubt that any nation has ever put so many restrictions and rules on its soldiers in a war zone as we have on our own in Afghanistan.

I understand the delicate balance we are trying to achieve in winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people while also fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda.  However, if in doing so we have to continually put our service men and women in excess danger, perhaps we should not be there to begin with.

The Lone Survivor incident occurred under the Bush Administration so don't think this is just a post criticizing President Obama.  There is plenty of blame to go around when it comes to how we have constrained and restrained our combat troops from engaging the enemy to prosecute the war on terror while defending our men and women.

Just as troubling is the tragedy of August, 2011 when 30 American special forces were lost (including 22 Navy Seals of which 20 were from Navy Seal Team VI) when the Chinook helicopter they were being transported in to support other troops under attack, was shot out of the sky by a Taliban RPG.

Restrictive rules of engagement are also at the center of questions about why we lost some much blood and treasure at one time in that incident.  An after-action report by CENTCOM command on the loss of these men is very troubling as reported by

The CENTCOM report indicates that the Task Force Commander declined to strike the Taliban targets with the Apaches or the AC-130 gunship because they couldn’t confirm whether the group of Taliban they were following were carrying weapons. That shows the counterproductive nature of the rules of engagement, Karen Vaughn says:
When the families from the crash were meeting with the Army’s Investigation Team and Naval Officers, a father asked why they didn’t use a drone strike to take out the Taliban. A 3-star Admiral responded, “We are trying to win their hearts and minds.”

Of course, while we are worried about losing the hearts and minds of the Afghans we are literally losing the hearts and minds, and arms and limbs, of our troops. It certainly doesn't seem to be fair trade to me.

The Breitbart story also raises questions about the expectations on the special forces in Afghanistan and the operational tempo these men and women were expected to sustain in the war effort under the Obama Administration.

The CENTCOM report itself notes that in August 2009 the number of monthly objectives was 54. But in August 2011 – the month that the helicopter, "Extortion 17," was shot down – that number had grown to 334 objectives, more than a 600 percent increase in just two years.
The other problem was the increasing use of Afghan locals in these operations in another attempt to win their "hearts and minds."
Another outstanding issue is that Afghan military and police forces are involved in planning every special operations mission, creating a possible problem with operational security.

All of this is interesting in light of the fact that Barack Obama came to office supposedly as a "man of peace".  In fact, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize barely nine months after taking office. ( If you want a good laugh go back and read the press release announcing Obama's selection).

This leads me to ask a question.

Were more Americans killed in Afghanistan under the Presidential administration of George W. Bush or Barack Obama?

The answer to this question says a lot about a lot of things.

I doubt that fewer than one in a hundred people on the street could answer this question correctly.

The fact is that nearly three times as many American soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan under Barack Obama as under George W. Bush.

630 men and women lost their lives on the battlefield in Afghanistan under President Bush in eight years.  That is about 79 per year.

1,671 Americans have lost their lives in the last five years under President Obama.  That is an average of over 334 per year.

On a per year basis, more than four times as many have lost their lives in the last five years as they did in the previous eight years.  These numbers do not include another eight Americans who have already been killed in Afghanistan in 2014 so far in January.

In addition, an increasing number of these casualties is the result of Afghan forces who have turned on American soldiers and killed them in inside jobs.

Have you heard much about any of this on the evening news?

Where are the anti-war protestors today that kept calling President Bush a warmonger?

What happened to all the film footage of those caskets being airlifted to Dover (DE) Air Force Base during the Bush Administration?  It seems to have mysteriously disappeared now that President Obama is in office.

Obama may have run for office as a man of peace but his record in office is far removed from his rhetoric.  What is worse is that the gains made during the Bush administration brought relative peace and stability in Iraq.  The American deaths we suffered actually produced something tangible.  We now see those gains have been reversed in Iraq under Obama and in Afghanistan it is difficult to see that we are getting anything for our casualties on the battlefield.

Thankfully we still have men like Mitt and Marcus.  Unfortunately, Barack Obama is more myth than man.  I was reminded of that when viewing "Mitt" when I once again saw the famous exchange between President Obama, Romney and debate moderator Candy Crowley on the subject of Benghazi.  You may recall this was barely a month after the events of that fateful night.

It is now almost a year and a half after those events.  We know for certain that the White House knew Benghazi was a terrorist act almost immediately and yet (obviously for political purposes) they concocted a story that the killing of Ambassador Stevens and the others was a spontaneous act due to a video.  To this day, we still do not know what or where President Obama as the events unfolded that was more important than an attack on a U.S diplomatic mission.  We also know that not one person has been brought to justice for the killings.

Here is what President Obama said in the debate that night about Benghazi along with my comments on what we know today.

Decide for yourself.  Man or myth?

OBAMA: Secretary Clinton has done an extraordinary job. But she works for me. I'm the president and I'm always responsible (Secretary Gates has stated that Obama was no where to be found in the White House that night even though Obama had been informed of the attack), and that's why nobody's more interested in finding out exactly what happened than I do (We still don't know much more today about the true facts of that night than at that time.)
The day after the attack, governor, I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people in the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened. That this was an act of terror  (He sent his team out in force over the next ten days to blame a video rather than an act of terror) I also said that we're going to hunt down those who committed this crime ( A year and a half later no one has been brought to justice for the killings).
And then a few days later, I was there greeting the caskets coming into Andrews Air Force Base and grieving with the families (He told the families that it was all the fault of a video rather than an act of terror).
And the suggestion that anybody in my team, whether the Secretary of State, our U.N. Ambassador, anybody on my team would play politics or mislead when we've lost four of our own, governor, is offensive. That's not what we do. That's not what I do as president, that's not what I do as Commander in Chief. (Patently false based on the facts)

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