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Local take on national politics

Gun rights, homeland security and drones discussed
By Linda Wenger | Apr 04, 2013
Rick Marlar holds a photo of a military vehicle that he says is being purchased by the United States Department of Homeland Security. He asked Sen. Charles Grassley to tell him why Homeland Security needs thousands of this type of vehicle. Marlar is worried the federal government will use the vehicles against Americans in this country.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R, Iowa) began his town hall meeting at the Washington Public Library by telling the 100 or more participants that the meeting was theirs. He carried a legal pad to the podium and let the audience know that he was going to take notes on what they had to say. And he did.
The first man who spoke struck a chord with many in the audience. He told Grassley that he wants to make sure the Second Amendment will not be messed with by President Obama or Congress.
“American citizens are fed up,” the man said.
Grassley responded by saying what kind of legislation on gun control he would support and what he wouldn’t support.  For example, he said he voted for a bill that included a provision for offering grant funds to school districts that want a police presence in the schools.
A few others in the audience spoke against the enhanced background check that has been proposed.
“I don’t want the government to know where the guns are,” Grassley said.
Local resident Rick Marlar switched the conversation to wondering why the Department of Homeland Security needs to purchase thousands of armored personnel carriers. As he held up a large photograph of the vehicle, he said that he is worried the vehicles will be used against Americans in their homes.
Grassley then fielded some opinions and questions about the use of drones against Americans in this country and abroad. When a specific case about the death by drone of a 16-year-old boy in Yemen was brought up, Grassley said that the United States Supreme Court ruled in the late 1940s that Americans who take up arms against the United States lose their constitutional rights.
The father of three sons who have served or are serving in the military said that one of his sons is due home within a couple of days. The father said his son’s deployment was “extended and extended and extended” and that he opposed the long deployments. He also said that broken equipment is one of the causes of lengthy deployments.
The audience began to turn to other topics, including sequestration and who is being impacted by the Sequester.
A woman talked about the impact to families and children and the closing of Heat Start programs. She said that surely enough funds could be found from a nation that is at war.
Grassley said he had a simple answer for her.
“We have promised more than we can afford,” he said.
When a man in the audience identified himself as a veteran, Grassley said that Veterans Affairs are not part of the Sequester.
Some brought up mental illness, school shootings and the risk someone with a mental illness has with losing his or her right to own a gun.
Another veteran said he is afraid that if he told his doctor he was a little depressed that his gun rights would be violated.
Grassley said that it is very difficult to be fair to everyone. He also said that a court would need to decide if mentally ill people would lose their gun rights.
Other issues raised included abortion, immigration reform, repeal of the Patriot Act, members of Congress gaining wealth through insider trading and the death of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya.
About abortion Grassley said that most of what’s going to be done will be done at the state level and that progress is being made by the growing understanding of the development of children in the womb.
As for immigration reform, Grassley said he wouldn’t vote for anything until the border is secure.
Grassley did not give an opinion on the Patriot Act because the law will come up for reauthorization in two years.
As long as Democrats dominate the Senate, Grassley doubts a Senate committee would subpoena former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. However, he said the House could issue a subpoena.
Congress passed a law or a rule prohibiting insider trading for members of Congress, Grassley said. He then talked about “a whole industry of financial spies” and that people operating as such should have to register just as lobbyists have to register.
At the end of an hour and with a page of handwritten notes, Grassley had to stop taking questions and comments. He was on his way to another engagement.

Comments (2)
Posted by: Glen Peiffer | Apr 13, 2013 12:22

On Monday, April 22, Grinnell College's Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights will host "Debating Counterinsurgency and the Future of Afghanistan," a debate between Col. Gian Gentile and John Nagl on whether counterinsurgency strategy is dead. The event will take place at 7:30 p.m. in Room 101 of the Rosenfield Center at Grinnell College.

Col. Gian Gentile, professor of history at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and John Nagl, non-resident fellow at the Center for New Security and professor of history at the U.S. Naval Academy, are both major players in military policy circles. Gentile will argue that yes, counterinsurgency is dead, while Nagl, one of the architects of current counterinsurgency strategy, will argue that it is alive and kicking.

Gentile graduated from UC-Berkeley, where he joined the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC). He later completed his Ph.D. in history at Stanford University. Gentile is a prominent critic of the U.S. military's use of counterinsurgency. When asked by The New York Times in a May 2012 interview what the United States gained after a decade of war with Afghanistan and Iraq, Gentile replied frankly, "Not much. Certainly not worth the effort. In my view."

Nagl graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, then attended St. John's College, Oxford, as a Rhodes Scholar, and earned an M.Phil. degree in 1990. Nagl served as an armor officer in the U.S. Army for 20 years. He led a tank platoon in Operation Desert Storm and served as the operations officer of a tank battalion task force in Operation Iraqi Freedom, earning the Combat Action Badge and the Bronze Star medal. He then went on to teach at the United States Military Academy at West Point and Georgetown University before returning to Oxford to receive his doctorate. Nagl's book "Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam" influenced the counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For more information about the counterinsurgency debate, contact Sarah Purcell, purcelsj@grinnell.edu, 641-269-3091. Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Information on parking and accessibility is available on the college website. Accommodation requests may be made to Conference Operations at 641-269-3235 or calendar@grinnell.edu.


West Point Is Divided on a War Doctrine’s Fate

WEST POINT, N.Y. — For two centuries, the United States Military Academy has produced generals for America’s wars, among them Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, George S. Patton and David H. Petraeus. It is where President George W. Bush delivered what became known as his pre-emption speech, which sought to justify the invasion of Iraq, and where President Obama told the nation he was sending an additional 30,000 American troops to Afghanistan.

Now at another critical moment in American military history, the faculty here on the commanding bend in the Hudson River is deep in its own existential debate. Narrowly, the argument is whether the counterinsurgency strategy used in Iraq and Afghanistan — the troop-heavy, time-intensive, expensive doctrine of trying to win over the locals by building roads, schools and government — is dead.

Broadly, the question is what the United States gained after a decade in two wars.

“Not much,” Col. Gian P. Gentile, the director of West Point’s military history program and the commander of a combat battalion in Baghdad in 2006, said flatly in an interview last week. “Certainly not worth the effort. In my view.”

Colonel Gentile, long a critic of counterinsurgency, represents one side of the divide at West Point. On the other is Col. Michael J. Meese, the head of the academy’s influential social sciences department and a top adviser to General Petraeus in Baghdad and Kabul when General Petraeus commanded the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Nobody should ever underestimate the costs and the risks involved with counterinsurgency, but neither should you take that off the table,” Colonel Meese said, also in an interview last week. Counterinsurgency, he said, “was broadly successful in being able to have the Iraqis govern themselves.”

The debate at West Point mirrors one under way in the armed forces as a whole as the United States withdraws without clear victory from Afghanistan and as the results in Iraq remain ambiguous at best. (On the ABC News program “This Week” on Sunday, the defense secretary, Leon E. Panetta, called the Taliban “resilient” after 10 and a half years of war.)

But at West Point the debate is personal, and a decade of statistics — more than 6,000 American service members dead in Iraq and Afghanistan and more than $1 trillion spent — hit home. On Saturday, 972 cadets graduated as second lieutenants, sent off in a commencement speech by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. with the promise that they are “the key to whatever challenges the world has in store.”

Many of them are apprehensive about what they will find in Afghanistan — the news coming back from friends is often not good — but still hope to make it there before the war is largely over. “We’ve spent the past four years of our lives getting ready for this,” said Lt. Daniel Prial, who graduated Saturday and said he was drawn to West Point after his father survived as a firefighter in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. “Ultimately you want to see that come to fruition.”

At West Point the arguments are more public than those in the upper reaches of the Pentagon, in large part because the military officers on the West Point faculty pride themselves on academic freedom and challenging orthodoxy. Colonel Gentile, who is working on a book titled “Wrong Turn: America’s Deadly Embrace With Counterinsurgency,” is chief among them.

Colonel Gentile’s argument is that the United States pursued a narrow policy goal in Afghanistan — defeating Al Qaeda there and keeping it from using the country as a base — with what he called “a maximalist operational” approach. “Strategy should employ resources of a state to achieve policy aims with the least amount of blood and treasure spent,” he said.

Counterinsurgency could ultimately work in Afghanistan, he said, if the United States were willing to stay there for generations. “I’m talking 70, 80, 90 years,” he said.

Colonel Gentile, who has photographs in his office of five young soldiers in his battalion killed in the 2006 bloodshed in Baghdad, acknowledged that it was difficult to question the wars in the face of the losses.

“But war ultimately is a political act, and I take comfort and pride that we as a military organization, myself as a commander of those soldiers who died, the others who were wounded and I think the American Army writ large, that we did our duty,” he said. “And there is honor in itself of doing your duty. I mean you could probably push back on me and say you’re still saying the war’s not worth it. But I’m a soldier, and I go where I’m told to go, and I do my duty as best I can.”

Colonel Meese’s opposing argument is that warfare cannot be divorced from its political, economic and psychological dimensions — the view advanced in the bible of counterinsurgents, the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual that was revised under General Petraeus in 2006. Hailed as a new way of warfare (although drawing on counterinsurgencies fought by the United States in Vietnam in the 1960s and the Philippines from 1899 to 1902, among others), the manual promoted the protection of civilian populations, reconstruction and development aid.

“Warfare in a dangerous environment is ultimately a human endeavor, and engaging with the population is something that has to be done in order to try to influence their trajectory,” Colonel Meese said.

In Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal so aggressively pushed the doctrine when he was the top commander there that troops complained they had to hold their firepower. General Petraeus issued guidelines that clarified that troops had the right to self-defense when he took over, but by then counterinsurgency had attracted powerful critics, chief among them Mr. Biden and veteran military officers who denigrated it as armed nation building.

When Mr. Obama announced last June that he would withdraw by the end of this summer the 30,000 additional troops he sent to Afghanistan — earlier than the military wanted or expected — the doctrine seemed to be on life support. General Petraeus has since become director of the Central Intelligence Agency, where his mission is covertly killing the enemy, not winning the people.

Now, as American troops head home from Afghanistan, where the new strategy will be a narrow one of hunting insurgents, the arguments at West Point are playing out in war colleges, academic journals and books, and will be for decades. (The argument has barely begun over whether violence came down in Iraq in 2007 because of the American troop increase or the Anbar Awakening, when Sunni tribes turned against the insurgency.) To Col. Gregory A. Daddis, a West Point history professor, the debate is also about the role of the military as the war winds down. “We’re not really sure right now what the Army is for,” he said.

To officers like Brig. Gen. H.R. McMaster, much of the debate presents a false either-or dilemma. General McMaster, who used counterinsurgency to secure the Iraqi city of Tal Afar in 2005 and returned recently from Kabul as head of a task force fighting corruption, said that without counterinsurgency, “There’s a tendency to use the application of military force as an end in itself.”

To John Nagl, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who fought in Iraq, wrote a book about counterinsurgency and now teaches at the United States Naval Academy, American foreign policy should “ensure that we never have to do this again.”

Does counterinsurgency work? “Yes,” he said. “Is it worth what you paid for it? That’s an entirely different question.”

Posted by: Glen Peiffer | Apr 04, 2013 21:49

My Classmate

Imagine if George W. Bush (a Republican conservative) were presiding over 89 million able-bodied, working-age Americans who were not working, what would the media be saying, with a U6 unemployment rate (the government’s most accurate measurement of joblessness) at 14.3 percent? Would the media quote the lower, but far less accurate and far more favorable, rate of 7.7 percent and declare that “things are improving?” What if the Labor Force Participation Rate was the lowest for men since 1948, when record-keeping first began? Would the media trumpet a “recovery?” Never in a million years.

Imagine if a Republican like Bush were President, would the media quote the 7.7 percent rate but ignore the underlying numbers of 13.8 percent unemployment among black Americans or 25.1 percent among teens?

Imagine if a white Republican President were presiding over 13.8 percent black unemployment versus 6.8 percent white unemployment, what would Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, (U.S. Senator) Barack Obama and other black leaders be screaming? Would they be leading a “million man march” on Washington, D.C.? Of course they would. Would black leaders blame this all on racism and in particular a racist white Republican President? Of course they would. Would they blame it all on conservative economic policies? Of course they would. Yet with a black President following big-tax, big-spend, big-entitlement, big-government policies, we hear not a word of anger or blame — and, of course, no mention of racism.

If a Republican were President while homelessness reached the highest levels in New York City since the 1929 Great Depression, what would Obama’s Marxist buddy Van Jones say? Would he blame it on low tax rates that favor “the rich?” Of course he would. Homelessness and poverty are now at all-time highs at a time of high tax rates and massive government spending. So why isn’t Jones blaming high taxes and big government for record-setting poverty? Because Marxists don’t blame Marxism.

If a Republican President like Bush presided over the biggest drop in disposable income for America’s workers in 54 years (since record-keeping began in 1959), what would the media say? Would they call the Republican President a dummy? An idiot? Out of touch? Would they make jokes about his incompetence and ignorance on “Saturday Night Live?” You’re damn right they would.

If a Republican President presided over an unimaginable 14.4 million Americans living in poverty in the suburbs, what would the media be saying? Who quoted this figure? The liberal Brookings Institute did last week. Poverty under Obama is exploding in the rich suburbs.

If a pro-business Republican President presided over record numbers of suicides at the same time we were suffering the worst economic crisis since 1929, would the media blame the suicide rate on “harsh pro-business conservative economic policies?” You could bet a million dollars on it. Yet today they say nothing because their American idol, Obama, is President.

If a Republican President presided over a country with almost 50 million people on food stamps, what would the champions of “the war on poverty” say? That’s 20 percent of every eligible American adult getting a food stamp check. Compared to the “war on poverty,” the Vietnam War was the biggest success in the history of war.

If a pro-business, pro-oil drilling Republican presided over the doubling of gas prices, what would Democrats say? Would they say he’s in cahoots with Big Oil against the interests of the American people? They already said it with Bush as President; yet with Obama as President and oil prices doubling, there are no protests, no marches. There’s not a peep out of the left or consumer advocates.

If food and gas prices both went up dramatically under a Republican President yet he claimed there was no sign of inflation, would liberals be up in arms and call the President a liar? Would they say the middle class is under attack? You can bet on it. Yet under Obama, not a word is mentioned.

If a Republican President nominated a man for Treasury Secretary who held his money in the Cayman Islands in a building liberals called “the world’s biggest tax scam,” what would Senator Harry Reid say? We already know how Senator Reid viciously attacked Mitt Romney for the sin of having Cayman investments. Yet we hear stone silence from Reid and Democrats about Obama’s choice for Treasury Secretary, Jack Lew.

What if a Republican President sold guns to Mexican drug cartels that were then used to kill 300 Mexicans plus a U.S. border agent? What would the Democrat-controlled Senate demand a Watergate-like investigation? You can bet on it.

What if a Republican President refused higher security for a U.S. ambassador and then, upon hearing he was under attack, refused to allow a rescue attempt and then left for the night and went to sleep? Would the media have a problem with the image of a Republican President sleeping while our ambassador and three American heroes were slaughtered, while waiting for help that never came? Somehow I think Geraldo Rivera would be up in arms.

What if a Republican President named Bush was presiding over historic numbers of college graduates in default on student loans and record numbers of middle-aged Americans raiding their retirement accounts out of desperation to survive? Do you think the media would blame the President?

What if in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, a Republican President closed down his jobs council? That’s too much to believe, right? The media would call him a rich, elitist, out-of-touch fool. He’d be lampooned in newspaper cartoons and skewered on “Saturday Night Live.” Yet Obama did just that in January, and the media was silent.

What if a Republican President in this economy with all the miserable stats that I just quoted with Americans in pain and suffering played golf with Tiger Woods at a luxury resort all weekend and refused media access while his wife hung out in Aspen, Colo., wearing designer dresses, spending billions of taxpayer dollars on non-stop vacations and all the security that goes with them, staying at Ritz Carltons and hanging out in Hawaii and Europe? What would the media say? What if the Vice President spent more than $400,000 per night of taxpayer money while in Paris and London while our soldiers die in Afghanistan? What would the media say?

Lastly, what if a Republican President like Bush promised to cut the deficit in half in his first term, but instead increased it by more than 50 percent? What if that same President promised to cut healthcare premiums by $2,500 per family in his first term, but instead the premiums increased by $3,065 per family. The media would be in a feeding frenzy. So would Democrat politicians. So would poor Americans. But with Obama in charge, there’s nothing. The silence is deafening.

The man we have occupying the White House is either a joke; the biggest incompetent, ignorant fool to ever serve as our President; or a radical Marxist purposely trying to overwhelm the system with debt, spending and entitlements in order to destroy America, kill the American dream and wreck capitalism for good.

This is in fact a purposeful attempt to destroy this great country with a plan Obama learned at Columbia University as my classmate. Yes, folks, this is a purposeful plan, because no one could possibly be this stupid.

Wayne Allyn Root


Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

Didn't Jim Jones promise this, too?

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