Latest from The Spokesman-Review
- Tuesday Poll: A plurality of Hucks Nation voted that President Obama should bring all American troops home from Afghanistan now. 54 of 117 respondents (46.15) want our troops home immediately. However, 38 of 117 respondents (32.48%) favors a slow withdrawal that ends in 2014. Also, 19 respondents (16.24%) wants Obama to remove the 30,000 surge troops now; 5 (4.27%) support an indefinite presence in Afghanistan; and only 1 (.85%) backs the choice that Obama likely will follow — withdrawal of 10,000 troops immediately and gradual withdrawal afterward.
- Today's Poll: What kind of message did legislators send by awarding $94,633 in bonuses this year to legislative staffers?
- Monday Poll: A supermajority of Hucks Nation say state Sen. John McGee, R-Caldwell, should be booted from the Idaho Legislature, if he's found guilty of DUI and grand theft auto. 121 of 183 respondents (66.12%) say he should be forced from Legislature. 24 respondents (13.11%) said his Senate District should deal with him at the polls, followed by 23 respondents (12.57%) who think he should be booted from his Senate Republican Caucus chairman post and other leadership roles. 10 (5.46%) said he should simply be censured. 5 were undecided.
- Today's Poll: How quickly should the Obama administration withdraw troops from Afghanistan?
Even before foreign policy heavyweights like Sen. Richard Lugar suggested accelerating U.S. withdrawal on Tuesday, Idaho's freshman 1st District Raul Labrador said the death of Osama bin Laden should hasten America's exit. "I do think this is a great time to declare victory in Afghanistan and to look for a way to get out of there," Labrador told the Idaho Statesman on Monday. We are supposed to start withdrawing this fall, but hopefully we can do it even sooner than that. I think we had accomplished our mission even before (bin Laden's death). We had done certain things to slow down the growth of al-Qaeda, to stop what they were doing"/Dan Popkey, Idaho Statesman. More here.
Question: Do you care what happens to Afghanistan (if we followed Congressman Labrador's advice and declared victory and left)?
President Barack Obama greets members of the military at a rally during an unannounced visit at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan today. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
I thought it was good of Obama to make a surprise visit to Afghanistan today. He gave a nice talk and rallied the troops, as well. Good Presidential effort — HMOffsuite.
Question: What value to you see in President Barack Obama’s visit with American troops in Afghanistan?
Here’s an electronic recap of the Manas-related articles published over the past week in The Spokesman-Review’s print editions:
Tuesday (10.19.2010): Front-line support — A look at a typical refueling mission over the rugged battlefields of Afghanistan.
Thursday (10.21.2010): Rebuilding hope — A look at the humanitarian assistance efforts of U.S. military men and women deployed at Manas, many of them Fairchild volunteers.
And, here’s an SR article from 2009 examining Fairchild’s links to creation of the U.S. base at Manas amid an eventually scuttled eviction notice. Among the tidbits: So many Fairchild airmen were deployed at the base that they staged a makeshift Bloomsday run one year; and an unfortunate mishap involving a fiery collision between a KC-135 and a commercial airliner.
Two F/A-18E Super Hornets from the decorated U.S. Navy attack squadron VFA 105, commonly known as the “Gunslingers,” were among the half dozen fighter jets refueled Saturday above Afghanistan by a Fairchild-based KC-135 tanker and crew on deployment in Kyrgyzstan.
The carrier-based strike fighters rely on the aerial tanker’s wing-mounted refueling hoses rather than the tail boom that most aircraft use for air-to-air fuel deliveries. The fighter jet’s fuel nozzle is located on the nose of the aircraft, which pilots must guide into the hose and keep their speed and course matched up with the KC-135R Stratotanker until the delivery is complete.
The squadron’s jets are easy to spot because its nickname is emblazoned in capital letters across the strike fighters’ massive drop tanks.
The Gunslingers have racked up a number of history-making accomplishments, including first fighter squadron led by a female, Cmdr. Sara Joyner, who also has become the first woman to lead an entire carrier air wing. The squadron is based aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, which has been launching combat sorties in support of U.S. and Coalition forces serving in Afghanistan since this summer.
An SR photo slideshow from the refueling sortie can be found here: http://www.spokesman.com/picture-stories/over-afghanistan/
An electronic version of The SR article published Tuesday about the Manas refueling mission can be found here: http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2010/oct/19/front-line-support/
The ding dongs Michael Baumgartner will hear this weekend won’t be from ringing the doorbells of potential voters.
They will be wedding bells.
(OK, that was dumbest lede ever, sorry.)
Republican Michael Baumgartner will get a break this weekend from the state’s costliest legislative race to get married.
He and his fiancee, British citizen Eleanor Mayne, aren’t just going to the Courthouse. They’re getting hitched in front 200 or so people on Sunday at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes in downtown Spokane. Reception to follow at the Spokane Club.
The unusual timing, Baumgartner said, is related to Mayne’s citizenship. She was granted a fiance visa in August, giving them three months to make it official.
Baumgartner acknowledged at a debate that will air tonight on KSPS that wedding planning has taken him from the campaign trail. But he says he doesn’t regret having to take time from the contentious race.
“I’m excited to be getting married to the love of my life,” Baumgartner said after the debate.
The race between incumbent Democratic state Sen. Chris Marr in the Sixth Legislative District has been highly contentious. Both sides accuse the other unfair, negative campaigning.
Baumgartner said he met Mayne when both worked for Civilian Police International, a company that had a contract to run a wheat seed distribution program in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. Baumgartner was there from December 2008 until August 2009.
A U.S. soldier talks with a driver during a search for two missing U.S. Navy personnel at a joint check post with Afghan soldiers in Pul-e-alam, in the Logar province of Afghanistan, on Sunday.
WASHINGTON – The House prepared Tuesday to send President Barack Obama a major war-funding increase of $33 billion to pay for his troop surge in Afghanistan, unmoved by the leaking of classified military documents that portray a military effort struggling between 2004 and 2009 against a strengthening insurgency.
From Obama on down, the disclosure of the documents was condemned by administration officials and military leaders, but the material failed to stir new anti-war sentiment. The bad news for the White House: A pervasive weariness with the war was still there — and possibly growing. Robert Burns, AP Full story.
A source tells The Associated Press that President Barack Obama has decided to oust Afghanistan commanding Gen. Stanley McChrystal over inflammatory remarks he made about Obama and other high administration officials.
Question: Did Obama have any other choice in this situation, other than to relieve McChrystal of his command? Or is he being thin-skinned?
President Barack Obama, joined by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates at right, tells reporters during a Cabinet meeting that he thinks Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the commander of Western forces in Afghanistan, used “poor judgement” in speaking candidly during an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, Tuesday. Christian Science Monitor story here. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
- Breaking: McChrystal tenders resignation/Toby Harden, UK Telegraph
Question: What do you make of this flap?
President Barack Obama speaks to the media Monday about the airliner bombing attempt on Christmas Day.
It’s not just me. Our president is looking worn out.
WASHINGTON — After a sleepless, overnight flight to Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace Prize earlier this month, President Barack Obama made a not altogether surprising admission. He was tired.
Who could blame him? The president was on his ninth foreign trip to his 21st country; he added a 10th trip the following week. The year had been bookended by the two most intense periods of his young presidency - the early decisions to bail out the nation’s banks and automobile industry, steps the president deemed unpopular but necessary, and his December orders to deploy 30,000 additional U.S. troops to fight the war in Afghanistan. More here.
Would you want his job?
This frame from the video released Friday purportedly shows Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl, 23.
KABUL, Afghanistan – The Taliban released a video Friday of an American soldier captured in Afghanistan, showing him apparently healthy but spouting criticism about the U.S. military operation.
In Idaho, Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl’s family pleaded on Christmas Day for his release and urged him to “stay strong.”
Bergdahl disappeared June 30 while based in eastern Afghanistan and is the only known American serviceman in captivity. Full Story.
Good morning, Netizens…
David Horsey’s cartoon this morning attempts to depict the status quo of President Barack Obama and, although Horsey hits the target, the cartoon leaves the some readers with the same sense of ambivalence that might be responsible for President Obama’s withering polls. According to Fox News, hardly an objective news source when it comes to anything associated with President Obama, the latest Gallop Poll shows Obama has fallen to a 47% job approval rating. If this piece of demography is true, it places President Obama at a lower job approval rating than any of his recent predecessors, including former President George Bush.
The underlying question seems to be what do we do about Afghanistan?
On one hand, if we “stick it out” and continue the battle for dominance over the warring cultures of Afghanistan and Pakistan, if history is our mentor, we will most likely lose, as no one has won a war in that region. As I have said several times, bring me the head of Osama Bin Laden and for my part, the war with Afghanistan is over.
That, too, may be a simplistic and overly idiotic view of world affairs. On the other hand, attempting to wage a war which has, in President Obama’s own words, a predetermined end is inviting our opponents to simply wait us out.
That, our lackluster economy, and now the hotly-contested debate about global warming, the number and diversity of the fires heating up President Obama’s kettles may be even more than the sum of Afghanistan.
Of course, your results may differ.
Idaho Sen. Jim Risch described the situation in Afghanistan as “a Rubik’s cube on steroids” this morning while participating in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in which committee members questioned Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen about the Obama Administration’s new Afghanistan strategy. “As polarized as this country is … this is an issue that we all really, really need to pull together on,” Risch said. “There are no good choices. There are only choices to be made that are in the best interest of the American people.”
Risch asked whether the officials had considered speeding up the troop withdrawal from Iraq beyond the schedule the president already has announced; they said no. “I’d encourage that we keep an eye on that,” Risch said. He also questioned whether the July 2011 date the administration has set for beginning to pull troops back out of Afghanistan, after a 2010 buildup of 30,000 additional troops, is a “hard date” rather than a target. Gates responded that it’s a “firm date that the president has established” for beginning troop withdrawals, but said, “The pace of that withdrawal … will be conditions-based.”
Mullen noted, “This date has also been described as arbitrary - it’s not arbitrary at all.” The date marks the third summer that Marines will be in the Helmand province, he said. At that point, “We will have a clear indication which way this is going.”
Good morning, Netizens…
It’s another wonderful day in the frigid Northwest this morning and cartoonist David Horsey is painting a picture of the obvious after President Barak Obama’s Tuesday night speech on the War in Afghanistan. Until that speech it could easily be said that Obama inherited the Afghan war from his predecessor which, although a thin line of rationale, is a line nonetheless.
However, now that President Obama has tentatively agreed to send more troops to that Stygian wasteland called Afghanistan, he has put his fingerprints all over the war he inherited.
The real questions now as when the war began are:
Where is the head of Osama Bin Laden?
When will we capture or kill him so we can finally see closure for the victims of 9/11?
So as I step through the frost this morning, I cannot help but wonder what others think of President Obama’s plan?
A generation after serving in Vietnam, Rep. Walt Minnick sat in the auditorium at West Point Tuesday surrounded by men and women in cadet gray uniforms being told by a president their lives could be sacrificed in another Asian country.
“It was an honor to be here, a generation later,” said Minnick, an Army veteran who was one of seven members of Congress asked to attend President Barack Obama’s speech on raising troop levels in Afghanistan. “There was rapt attention in that room. Their futures are on the line.”
All four members of Idaho’s congressional delegation issued statements tonight in response to President Obama’s announcement that he’ll send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. Also, the Idaho Statesman’s Washington, D.C. reporter, Erika Bolstad, reported tonight that the troop buildup drew “grudging respect” from the Idaho delegation; you can read her full story here. Below are the full statements from Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and Reps. Walt Minnick and Mike Simpson.
President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrive for the state arrival ceremony in the East Room of the White House on Tuesday. Associated Press photos.
“President Obama is days away from announcing a new Afghan strategy, but his immediate battle could come from liberals within his own party who are vowing to “spank” the president for committing tens of thousands of more troops to the eight-year conflict.
In a prime-time speech Tuesday from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Obama is expected to announce that he is sending up to 35,000 additional troops to Afghanistan beginning next year.
The figure is short of the 40,000 troops his top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, requested — but enough to anger many congressional Democrats who oppose any potential troop surge, arguing that the mission is too expensive and lacks a clear objective.
Nothing like ending the day with a story from Fox news. I do this as a favor to my left bank friends, who may be drowsy from too much turkey and trimmings.
Do you think Obama can craft an Afghan strategy that will garner wide support?
A former soldier pledged to never forget his comrades who sacrificed their lives in Afghanistan. So he’s had the name of every troop killed, tattooed on his back— 232 names, so far.
As the president and Congress face decisions regarding health care and troops for Afghanistan, NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof poses this question: “These two choices have something in common — each has a bill of around $100 billion per year. So one question is whether we’re better off spending that money blowing up things in Helmand Province or building up things in America.”
What do you think?
Joanne Ryan (R), mother of USMC Sgt. James McIlvaine, holds McIlvaine’s daughter Alexa McIlvaine (C) while being comforted by Eric Cembrook (L) during a visit to Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery during the burial service for Spc. Stephen Mace Monday in Arlington, Virginia. McIlvaine and Mace were both from the Purcellville, Virginia area. McIlvaine was killed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in April 2009, and Mace was killed October 3, 2009 along with seven other U.S. soldiers in the Nuristan province of Afghanistan.
Good evening, Netizens…
David Horsey makes a minor point appear quite innocuous while he overlooks one stark fact that somehow has eluded most of the policy-makers in Washington, DC. As far as I know nobody has won a war in Afghanistan. Perhaps I made a minor error in stating this, but thus far, I have not yet found a victor. None.
So if, as Mr. Horsey so aptly put it in his cartoon this morning, Obama is bugged by the Taliban insurgency, so be it.
We either have to discover a viable means of obtaining victory in a country where no one else has, or simply lick our wounds and retreat. Which will it be?
Good morning, Netizens…
I have read rather extensively about life in Afghanistan from a remarkable number of scholarly authors, and in each new book I have read, I have heard how culturally isolated the entire country lives. If you take the modern-day convenience such as television, and compare the number of televisions per citizen, you will realize that once you leave the major cities, televisions, and thus from them, news reports are at best, word-of-mouth. Thus you will see how the people live.
Thus, David Horsey’s cartoon this morning is closer to reality than perhaps we might think.
Then you add the rugged terrain, the number of times Western Civilization has broken promises to the Afghanis and the number of countries who have attempted to defeat them in war unsuccessfully, and then add their dismal employment numbers, you have a country that truly is living in midieval times.
What is truly frightening, however, is through their neighbor Pakistan, they may gain access to atomic weaponry. Stone-age cultures should never have access to such things. Of course, since I cannot speak for the US State Department, and thus speaking from my own opinion, your results may differ.