A very rainy Friday morning here in Space City. I tuned into C-SPAN coverage of the House Armed Services Committee meeting with a panel of two witnesses: General Jack Keane (Ret), a former Army Vice Chief of Staff from 1999 - 2003 and continues to advise, and Lawrence Korb, a Senior Fellow from the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank run by John Podesta, formerly of the Clinton administration and still involved with Hillary. The think tank was started with seed money from George Soros.
The purpose of the committee meeting was to hear the opinions of these two men on two House Resolutions under consideration: HR 3087 and HR 3159. These resolutions deal with demanding the President, along with the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, etc. produce a redeployment plan within 60 days. And it deals with the time a service member stays at home between deployments.
General Keane didn't sugarcoat the war in Iraq. He spoke of the failure in dealing with the insurgents for the past three years with a too small military force. He said, however, the surge is now showing progress and the facts on the ground tell him it is far from hopeless. He regularly goes to Iraq and returns next week for two more weeks there. He has spent many years with General Petraeus.
Keane's highlights: 1. Policy failure from 2003-2006. 2. The enemy was underestimated for 3 years. 3. Security is necessary as a prerequisition for economic progress, especially in Baghdad.
Keane sees a time frame of 12-18 months to stabilize Baghdad and buy time for necessary economic growth. He said the military commanders know this is the final effort. He spoke to the fact the solution in Iraq is not strictly military but the use of force is necessary to change attitudes on the ground. After one month now of the implementation of the surge, being on the offensive, a significant change is noticeable. Security has improved in every neighborhood in Baghdad, schools are open, markets thriving, people in cafes and socializing, government services are being applied to people. It's not a tourist destination but it is beginning to work again as a functioning city. He said progress is steady and sure.
Keane said that when he talks with everyday Iraqi civilians, they consistently tell him they do not want the U.S. troops to leave yet, not until they can have the security necessary to keep their families safe. He said that U.S. causalities rose at first, as predicted, but now are down by 30%. He spoke of Shia and Sunni reconciliation beginning. In a grassroots movement by the Sunni, huge accomplishments are being made politically and this isn't being appreciated here in this country. He said al Qaeda is being defeated and on the run, especially after losing AnBar Providence as a sanctuary. And he said al Sadr is not the force he once was, he is back in Iran.
Keane said the actions on Congress were in direct opposition to realities on the ground. He said the resolutions tie the hands of the military. He spoke of the idealism and courage of the troops, willing to die for their country. Their courage comes from a profound sense of duty and they show 'true honor', he said. He asked that they be supported. He asked the committee to encourage Congress to fight its demons and find the courage the troops find. Well, you can imagine how some responded to the honesty of the retired General. Demons? Why we don't have demons, the chair of the committee, Ike Shelton of Missouri said. We don't fight demons, we legislate. That was parroted by several others from the left side of the aisle. Keane struck a nerve with that one, I'll tell you.
Keane said the two resolutions under consideration were senseless and embarrassing, that the members shouldn't give into anger and frustration of the progress of the war, or the President, or his administration. He said it's not about them or about Republicans or Democrats. He said it is about the best interests of our country.
Then Korb spoke. He started out with the standard talking points. It was a war of choice. He didn't support the invasion. He didn't support the surge. He smirked and smiled approvingly at the Code Pinkos as they interrupted the hearing with their silliness until the Chair told security to remove them from the room. Korb demanded immediate passage of the two resolutions and that the troops be brought home by year's end.
Korb said the troops, the Army, was broken. He cited quotes from Colin Powell, Barry McCaffery, etc as his sources. This was refuted by Keane. Keane also said what an insult to the forces this type of commentary was and that in a time of war the armed forces are stressed and stretched, yes, but it is to be expected. It is normal. Keane said morale remains high and re-enlistments continue to be above average.
Korb spoke of desertions, substance abuse and dumbing down of the average enlistee by accepting lower testing scores. Keane refuted that desertions were 1/10th of 1% which is a magnitude less than Vietnam days, and that yes substance abuse is often a by-product of the stresses of war but it is still not high as with previous wars, like Vietnam.
Keane stressed the fact the Army is all volunteer and professional. Highly motivated.
Rep. Nancy Boyda, D-KS, was a mess. She berated General Keane, after he had to leave the hearing and wasn't there to respond, therefore proving her cowardly behavior, and said he made Iraq sound like a place to take her family on vacation. She said she had to leave the room as he testified because she was so angry with him. What a loser she is. She said the country has to come together, a fact many of us have been saying forever, yet then she went on to talk about a conversation she had with a 'right wing talk show host' and how angry he made her. She's just one angry woman.
Rep. Michael Tucker, R-OH, is a new favorite of mine. He mentioned that Korb in his statement presented to the committee listed references and footnotes from Korb's own speeches and writing. He said Korb listed all the tv shows he regularly is a commentator on and implied he was full of himself. Which he is. Korb was a part of the Reagan administration as former Asst Secretary of Defense from 1981-1985 and does have a doctorate in political science. Somewhere along the line, however, he became just another defeatist and whiner. Pity.
Keane pointed out to the committee that they can't legislate missions. "This is a war. We are fighting a war. To say we shouldn't stress and strain the forces makes no sense." The stress and strain are the reason the troops should leave Iraq according to Korb and his fellow defeatists. Keane voiced amazement at the statement that we should have the troops redeploy because of stress. He said he can't believe we, the United States of America, would bring the Army home and lose a war to prevent strain.
Keane was calm, steady, never raising his voice, unemotional, and fair in his assessments. Too bad we didn't get the same from Korb. Keane showed no political agenda. He spoke that this is a national issue, not a political score for either party.
I'll listen and trust General Keane. What happens if the defeatists are proven to just be cowards?