MINOT, NORTH DAKOTA — On October 26, 2009, America’s
Commander-In-Chief, while at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville,
Florida, told U. S. servicemen, “I will never rush the solemn
decision of sending you into harm’s way. I won’t risk your
lives unless it is absolutely necessary.”
Yet one thing is certain. President Obama in no rush to make decisions
that will save or spare American lives in Afghanistan. It has been
more than 100 days since General Stanley McChrystal requested more
While the President dithers, young American men are dying at a faster
rate than at any time since we invaded Afghanistan. The President claims
he is deliberating. But he has had time for dozens of rounds of golf,
White House party after White House party, and date night out (costing
taxpayers upwards of $1 million dollars per date). Still, the deliberation
The President has allowed more than $2.6 billion in funding appropriated
for food, fuel, ammunition, armor, and training for our troops in Afghanistan
to be diverted to pork projects at home. These projects include $20
million for the Ted Kennedy Institute and $25 million for a World War
II museum at the University of New Orleans.
This comes on the heels of reports from Afghanistan that American
soldiers are deeply disillusioned. Comments reported by The
Washington Times; Times Online; the Forward Operating
Base in Wardak Province, Afghanistan;
The Washington Post; Breitbart.com; and the Associated Press,
while somewhat different, all tell the same story — lack of understanding
of what their purpose is, lack of stated goals by leadership, and lack
of understanding what, if any, the end game may be.
“We want to believe in a cause, but we don’t know what
that cause is,” explained one officer. Another said, “We’re
lost — that’s how I feel. I’m not exactly sure why
here. I need a clear-cut purpose if I’m going to get hurt out
here or if I’m going to die.” Another, when asked if the
mission was worthwhile, said, “If I knew exactly what the mission
was, probably so, but I don’t.” Their Commander-In-Chief
is deliberating but certainly is not helping. Instead, he is dragging
his feet while young Americans die — perhaps needlessly.
Although many injuries are not fatal, in some ways they are worse.
One company has seen a hundred men flown home with amputations, severe
burns, and other injuries causing permanent disability. While the President
deliberates, more young men are killed or seriously injured; many of
these brave soldiers are not replaced, and those left wonder why. They
wonder why reinforcements are not sent. They wonder why no one has
given them a meaningful reason why they are there or told them what
their mission is.
A foreign service officer who resigned in disgust recently came forward
to express his concern. Matthew Hoh, a former Marine captain, has concluded
that the war “wasn’t worth the fight.” Bureaucrats
Karl Eikenberry, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, and Richard Holbrooke,
the administration’s special representative for Afghanistan,
tried to entice him to remain and not go public with his opinions.
Meanwhile, the Commander-In-Chief continues to dither as more Americans
die and morale drops further.
It may be a clever rhetorical claim that not making a decision is
a decision. However, when one has time to play, party, politic, and
campaign, but not time to decide how to best lead, direct, protect,
and give meaning to Americans whose lives are on the line, it is neither
clever nor leadership. If I did not respect the office of the President,
I would say that President Obama’s failure to act border on dereliction
of duty and treason.
A Voice from Fly-Over
A Voice from Fly-Over Country is copyright © 2009 by Robert
L. Hale and the Fitzgerald Griffin
All rights reserved.
Robert L. Hale received his J.D. in law from Gonzaga University Law
School in Spokane, Washington. He is founder and director of a non-profit
public interest law firm. For more than three decades he has been involved
in drafting proposed laws and counseling elected officials in ways
to remove burdensome and unnecessary rules and regulations.
See a complete biographical sketch.
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