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For New York Times readers, the big news on September 12th this year was the Chicago teacher's strike (click image for larger version...)
Near the middle of the front page - just above the fold - they were treated to an exposé of Mitt Romney's college years (he didn't protest Vietnam!!!!). Those who actually unfolded a copy might have noticed something in the lower left corner of the front page about "Anti-American anger" erupting somewhere or other. A thumbnail image was captioned
Protesters, at right, angry over a video denouncing Islam attacked the United States Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing a State Department officer.
Any reader wanting details could turn to page 4.
By the time they were reading it, President Obama was jetting off to Vegas for a campaign fundraiser. Of course, the Benghazi incident couldn't really stay on page four. In fact, by the 13th, intrepid reporters at CBS had spent hours investigating the story, and were already 'raising questions' - like the one in their big headline that day ...
(More to follow.)
While waiting to watch the 2012 Joe Biden/Paul Ryan debate, here's a quick look at a Joe Biden (2007) vs Joe Biden (2009) debate.
No one wins that one - ol' Joe was wrong both times.
(Original post with that video here.)
October 3, 1993 - actual footage from the "Blackhawk Down" mission in Somalia:
October 7, 1993 - President Clinton announces a surge of US troops in Somalia, but also a March 1994 withdrawal date for all US troops there:
Recently, General Colin Powell said this about our choices in Somalia: "Because things get difficult, you don't cut and run. You work the problem and try to find a correct solution." I want to bring our troops home from Somalia. Before the events of this week, as I said, we had already reduced the number of our troops there from 28,000 to less than 5,000. We must complete that withdrawal soon, and I will. But we must also leave on our terms. We must do it right...
August 1996: Osama bin Laden declares war on America:
But your most disgraceful case was in Somalia; where- after vigorous propaganda about the power of the USA and its post cold war leadership of the new world order- you moved tens of thousands of international force, including twenty eight thousands American solders into Somalia. However, when tens of your solders were killed in minor battles and one American Pilot was dragged in the streets of Mogadishu you left the area carrying disappointment, humiliation, defeat and your dead with you. Clinton appeared in front of the whole world threatening and promising revenge, but these threats were merely a preparation for withdrawal. You have been disgraced by Allah and you withdrew; the extent of your impotence and weaknesses became very clear. It was a pleasure for the "heart" of every Muslim and a remedy to the "chests" of believing nations to see you defeated...
Nineteen years ago today - and "always go to war with an exit strategy" has been Democratic Party policy ever since.
You've probably heard a bit (perhaps a lot - and will likely hear more) about the troops President Obama brought home from Afghanistan recently. You'll hear less about the troops President Obama sent to Afghanistan to replace them - but here's a report on several thousand of them.
The recent end to the US troop surge in Afghanistan has reduced the overall number of American troops on the ground, even as some new faces have arrived. It's a revolving door reminding us just how much we've asked of our men and women in uniform. NBC's Lester Holt spent time with members of the 3rd Infantry Division this week and has their story.
They are the new comers to Afghanistan..but old hands at war. Few Army divisions have deployed into battle more often than the Third Infantry Division. This time it is volatile southern Afghanistan... birthplace of the Taliban...where Captain Steve Nepowada leads a patrol in search of insurgent weapons stashes. He says, "We got the call we are going to Afghanistan. Everyone was excited and we were pumped ready to make a difference here for the first time."
The 3rd ID is accustomed to those calls. For the last ten years it's virtually been on the Pentagon's speed dial. In 2003 it led-off the historic invasion of Iraq...becoming the first to reach Baghdad. Business hasn't slowed down since. There were three more Iraq deployments to follow...and now Afghanistan.
I was on the 3ID's 2007 tour in Iraq - the surge - but I'm not going to share those old war stories here just now. (Oh, okay - just one.) A bit of division history is in order here, though - as their Iraq tour that followed that one is worth a look in the context of this latest adventure.
It began three years ago, in late 2009:
Iraq may not be the "central front" in the era of persistent conflict, but clearly it remains the number one destination for deploying troops.
The Third Infantry Division, the Ft Stewart, Georgia based U.S. Army division that toppled the Saddam Hussein regime with the "Thunder Run" in 2003, returned to Iraq in 2005 and again during "the surge" in 2007 is now beginning its historic fourth deployment to Iraq.
Many observers at the time - with violence at low levels in Iraq as Afghanistan was spinning rapidly out of control...
...believed the Third would be diverted to Afghanistan. After all, President Obama had campaigned on the idea that it was the Real Central Front in the War on Terror (from which his predecessor had diverted resources to Iraq), and in fact, Obama had already diverted another brigade from Iraq to Afghanistan earlier that year (though that was actually part of a fraud perpetrated on the American public - he quietly sent another to Iraq in its place). So - given that it's where the troops were needed, and where the president had repeatedly said they were needed, it was hardly surprising that earlier in 2009, 3ID units had diligently completed training in mountainous northern Georgia, anticipating an Afghan tour.
But it didn't happen - and upon departure the division's commanding general explained that even though they weren't going to be in a combat environment like Afghanistan, Iraq was still important.
"For the newest soldiers who don't know what combat is like yet, there might be some, 'gee I wish I was going to Afghanistan'. But for the old soldiers, and take it from an old soldier like me who was in Afghanistan when it was not the main effort and Iraq was, I am now going to Iraq where Afghanistan is the main effort and Iraq is not - it's still an incredibly important fight."
It must have been - the 3ID deployment, along with other units deploying or in theater at the time, enabled U.S. force levels in Iraq to be maintained at approximately 120,000 troops well into 2010. But as they deployed, near the end of President Obama's first year in office, the commander-in-chief hadn't yet figured out exactly what to do about all that war stuff. He was working on it, or at least thinking about it, but the 68,000 troops then in Afghanistan would just have to muddle through for a little while more.
The Third's 2009-2010 deployment to Iraq wasn't uneventful - they did experience combat (and deaths in combat) in Iraq, even though they weren't allowed to call themselves "combat" troops. To some degree they weren't, as they spent much of the tour confined to various FOBs, and the only time they really "made the papers" back stateside was for the backlash that followed after their general expressed his desire to do something about the number of female troops returning to the states early because they had gotten pregnant while deployed.
But other units in Iraq made bigger headlines. For example, later in their own tours - immediately before the 2010 elections in America - if they had time to watch the news, members of the 3ID would be able to "ride along" with a very excited NBC news crew ("It is really, really hot right now," declared Rachel Maddow, "but yet, seeing what we just saw, right here live with that gate closing, the last U.S. combat troop, I'm totally covered in goose bumps") as they accompanied the "last combat brigade to leave Iraq." Still, even after NBC News' official declaration of the end of combat in Iraq, the 3ID troops never considered going anywhere without their weapons through the remainder of their own "non-combat" tour.
End history lesson - and on to the future. We can hope and pray for other outcomes, but their long delayed Afghan tour will certainly be different - with levels of blood and thunder more like their earlier Iraq tours than their last. But once again the men and women of the Third Infantry Division have deployed at an inconvenient moment, this time to a very hot war zone even as the surge of forces their commander-in-chief eventually ordered there ends, exactly as he had publicly pledged it would when he ordered it ("...as Commander-in-Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home...")...
...and just in time for another election in America.
"We got the call we are going to Afghanistan. Everyone was excited and we were pumped ready to make a difference here for the first time."
Spare a prayer for them, when you've got a moment to spare.
"U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan reach 2,000" proclaims the headline over this October 1, 2012 story.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- The killing of an American serviceman in an exchange of fire with allied Afghan soldiers pushed U.S. military deaths in the war to 2,000, a cold reminder of the perils that remain after an 11-year conflict that now garners little public interest at home.
Every death is a tragedy, of course, but that claim that Afghanistan "garners little public interest at home" reminded me of this story from last August, headlined "'No one really cares': US deaths in Afghanistan hit 2,000 in 'forgotten' war." That same day, under a shorter headline ("U.S. death toll in Afghanistan hits 2,000") the UPI even reported the name to go with the number 2000:
The number of U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan... hit 2,000 last week when Specialist James A. Justice died of wounds in an Army hospital in Germany.
Certainly every death is a tragedy, but equally certainly some of us are paying attention. In fact, that August 22 story reminded me of one from two months previously: "US death toll in Afghanistan surges past 2,000." That same month (June) the Minneapolis Star-Tribune even reported a name to go along with the number 2,000. Even more tragically, the 2,000th American killed in Afghanistan was a Marine Corporal from Minnesota who had just married his high school sweetheart:
Three months ago, Taylor Baune married his high school sweetheart shortly before his first deployment to Afghanistan with the Marines. On Wednesday, the 21-year-old Andover man became the 2,000th American killed in combat in Afghanistan, during operations in Helmand Province, the Defense Department said Thursday.
Returning to today's news, the name of the soldier to become the 2,000th American combat death in Afghanistan was not included in the story. In fact, a Pentagon press secretary - perhaps not sure of exactly how many American troops have been killed there - declared it to be an "arbitrary milestone" that the US does not mark.
"We honor all courageous Americans who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan to make the American people more secure," he said. "The fact of the matter is that America is safer because of all of those who have served in this war, including our fallen heroes."
And who can argue with that? Tragically, if current trends continue, that total of fallen heroes will reach 2,000 some time this December, and whether the Pentagon wants to admit it or not, we Americans are paying attention, and we do care. We know exactly what's going on over there, and hopefully our news media won't bombard us with insulting stories about how much we aren't paying attention when it happens again.