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Dec. 2 2009 - 5:47 pm | 14 views | 0 recommendations | 7 comments

President Obama and the war that must be fought

M4 rifle

It is called Obama’s war now, our current conflict in Afghanistan, and we are all better off that it is, no one more so than the young men and women who will be engaged in the battle.

I don’t listen to pundits when it comes to matters of life and death. I listen to those who have had their boots in the sands of battle, seen death close enough to taste blood and know that fighting a war takes much more than tough talk and a wave of the flag. Last night, watching a late edition of “Hardball,” I heard the words of retired General Paul D. Eaton, commander of operations to train Iraqui troops from 2003-4, refering to President Obama as a competent man surrounded by competent people as opposed to the incompetence of the last administration. “These soldiers,” he said, “are being put in harm’s way by a man who knows what he’s doing.” If you think the General was merely being a gung-ho soldier bracing young troops for a fresh battle, then you need to know a bit more about Paul Eaton.

 He is the son of Col. Norman Dale Eaton an Air Force pilot shot down over Laos in 1969. The General’s dad was MIA until his remains were discovered in 2004 and he was finally buried at Arlington in 2007. He has three children, one of whom, a son, is a West Point graduate and now an infantry Captain. He cares about the young men and women who served under his command and has seen far too many of them die because of the indifference and ignorance of politicians. “Anyone who blindly endorses the Republican Party on military matters is just not a thinking American,” the General said after Obama’s speech. “The Republican Party has done more damage to the armed forces of the United States than any party in my memory.”

 His anger has been simmering for some time and, as with any good soldier, when he gets a target in his sights, he hits what he aims at. In late October, when former Vice-President Dick Cheney accused the Obama administration of “dithering while America’s armed forces are in danger,” the General, from his post as senior advisor to the National Security Network, had this to say: “Dick Cheney and the Bush administration are incompetent war fighters. They ignored Afghanistan for 7 years with a crude approach to counter-insurgency warfare. 1. Deny it. 2 Ignore it. 3. Bomb it. While our intelligence agencies called the region the greatest threat to America, the Bush White House under-resourced our military efforts, shifted attention to Iraq, and failed to bring to justice the masterminds of September 11.”

General Eaton is not a lone wolf. Many in the military share his feelings. Col. Jack Jacobs, who has won three Bronze Stars, two Silver and the biggest daddy of them all, the Medal of Honor, has said of the Bush administration, “they abandoned Afghanistan. They looked only to Iraq. It will be harder going now to get rid of the bad guys.”

Retired Rear Admiral Joe Sestak, now a Congressman from the 7th congressional district in PA., has been equally as critical of the previous administration’s handling of the war and was quick to embrace President Obama’s plan.

You heard it from soldiers in the field and the rumblings out of the Pentagon, as the complaints slowly found their way to print. For far too long the signals were mixed at best, confused and incoherent at worst. There was a lot of tough talk and USA chants, but on the ground our young men and women were dying, forced into battle without proper equipment and very little direction from the highest levels of the previous administration. On the day President Bush played pretend pilot and declared Mission Accomplished, someone’s sons and daughters lay dead in the heat of Iraq.

 They fought the wrong war in the wrong way, fueled only by their ignorance and outright hubris. History will be their judge, no matter how hard and how often Cheney and his ilk try to claim a victory they never had the knowledge nor ability to grasp.

Instead, now the talk is that the soldiers are getting not only the guidance they need to succeed, they are getting the equipment with which to wage that tough, grinding daily battle that still waits to be fought by young men and women so very far from home on multiple tours of duty. They now have a President who has their backs. No more jokes at home about the non-existant weapons of mass destruction. No more double-speak about nation-building and spreading the word of democracy. We are there to broker a deal with the members of the Taliban who mean us no harm so they can go out and kill the ones who do. And we are also there to wipe out Al Qaeda. No more reports about killing the third guy from the left in the photo with Bin Laden. Those cartoon days are at an end.

 This time, the idea is to get all of them–the big guy himself in particular.

Now, Obama goes into the war zone. He goes equipped with a plan which, if it succeeds, will finally bring not an end, but a respite from the senseless waste of lives we have born witness to these last nine years. He opened a new front last night. The Generals watching, retired and active, got it. The 4,000 cadets in attendance picked up on it. The soldiers listening in the remote regions of Afghan and Iraq sure as hell zeroed in on it. Last night, Obama put his arm out and reached for the third rail–Pakistan. It will not be a public war, but a covert one, fought with Black Ops and drones, using a solid Pakistani intel operation already in place and a military willing and able to help.

In his speech last night, President Obama mentioned Pakistan over 30 times. He never once mentioned the President of Pakistan. Obama doesn’t need him nor trust him. Instead, he spoke directly to the Pakistani intel forces and their military and telegraphed a clear message. We now have one target and one target only, the one we should have had from September 12, 2001–Al Qaeda and Bin Laden.

He has never fought in battle. He did not protect the state of Alabama from foreign attack like the previous President. In his heart, he would much rather bring every single soldier home safely to family and friends than to send them to fight and die. The weight of the losses which are sure to mount will cause him much grief, as it does all Presidents, even those foolish enough to start a war instead of finishing one. He did not make any claims to victory, knowing victory against one terrorist group does not mean an end to the battle against terrorism. 

Instead, he laid out the mission, laid out the plan, laid out the expense and even told them how long they had to get the job done. It was clear, concise and to the point.

We have always had the toughest, bravest, most honorable young men and women ready to heed the nation’s call to war.

It is comforting for them to know they now have a commander-in-chief who will do all he can to give them all they need.

That’s what a leader does.

Don’t believe me.

Believe the ones who have seen far worse than I ever will–from Col. Jack Jacobs to Admiral Joe Sestak to General Paul Eaton. They are warriors all.

 They always side with the soldiers.

And now, they side with the young President who leads them.


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  1. collapse expand

    By increasing our commitment to the expansion of empire in Afghanistan, the Obama administration is now wholly indistinguishable from that of Bush/Cheney. Whether it’s the continuation of the Bush-Paulson Wall St. looting; the redistribution of Gitmo horrors to other undisclosed parts of the world; the continuing nightmare of Iraq; the continued disgraceful use of mercenaries such as Blackwater or a health care policy dominated by big pharma and corporate “medicine”; those of us who supported Obama now clearly understand the depth of his deception and betrayal. By expanding the commitment of American troops in the quagmire of Afghanistan, Obama now embraces his true masters of Wall St. and the military industrial complex. I voted for Obama in Florida and supported his campaign with my modest means. I will never make that mistake again. I look forward to the end of Obama’s single term in office.

  2. collapse expand

    Powerfully and convincingly written, Lorenzo. But historical references can cut many ways. Sadly generals don’t always have the answer. If they did, we wouldn’t need elected representatives. Remember Gen. William Westmoreland and the five o’clock follies in Vietnam? He did not have the answers. Another general, turned diplomat, opposed the escalation of the Vietnam War under Lyndon Johnson. That was Gen. Maxwell Taylor. He wasn’t listened to. We have an interesting parallel this time. Our current ambassador to Afghanistan is Karl Eikenberry. He is a retired lieutenant general. I’m sure his resume is impressive. He opposed sending more troops to Afghanistan with the current corrupt regime. I happen to have a lot of respect for Barack Obama. He’s incredibly smart, even-keel, analytical. I also think he has a penchant for always finding the middle, even when there is none. That can be a political asset. It also can be a leadership shortcoming. I believe he made a terrible call. I hope he proves me wrong.

    • collapse expand

      Thanks, Jerry.
      I agree with you about Generals. I was just struck with the passion in which Gen. Eaton, who lost soldiers under Bush, defended the action about to be taken.
      I really don’t think Obama had any other choice nor should it surprise those of us who voted for him–he said it endless times on the campaign trail and in debates.
      I hope he’s right and gets in there and then gets the guys the hell out once what needs to be done gets done.
      Take care.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  3. collapse expand

    Lorenzo, put on YOUR boots, and follow this dude Obama, who doesn’t have the courage to show the American people his own birth certificate……follow him into battle.

    George Washington led troops into battle…why can’t Obama? In fact George Washington led troops when he was President.

    • collapse expand

      I don’t need to see his birth certificate. I believe he was born where he says he was born. I assume you asked to see the birth certificate of every President elected in your lifetime? Or was this the first time you asked?
      ALL Presidents lead troops into battle when they are President. It’s part of the job description. Even for the African-American one.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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    About Me

    I've written eight books (A Safe Place; Sleepers; Apaches; Gangster; Street Boys; Paradise City; Chasers and--coming in July, 2010-Midnight Angels). I've written a dozen film scripts and a half-dozen TV pilots and am working on my next one now, Night and Day for Lifetime. I also worked as a writer/producer for Law&Order and was managing editor of the CBS series Top Cops. When I was much younger I worked at the New York Daily News and for way too many magazines to list (most of them no longer in business). I love sports, politics, travel, wine, dogs, reading, working out, great Italian food, old friends, history, movies, television, plays. I live in the city where I was born, worry about my kids even though they are adults now and love quiet time in the country with my wife. The older I've become, the more liberal I've become and I don't believe everyone is entitled to an opinion. I believe everyone is entitled to an informed opinion. I hope my posts will bear that out.

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