Category Archives: Military

Biden Administration’s Objections to $778 Billion National Defense Authorization Act is Roadmap to Defense Policy

While strongly supporting enactment of a National Defense Authorization Act, the Biden Administration took exception to several aspects including funding platforms that cannot be properly modernized, wanting to merge Trump’s Space Force into the Air National Guard instead of an expensive stand-alone, and wanting funding to close Guantanamo. It also addresses Afghanistan and Israel, among others, and is generally a statement of Biden’s defense policy © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

While “strongly supporting” enactment of a National Defense Authorization Act, the Biden Administration took exception to several aspects including funding platforms that cannot be properly modernized, wanting to merge Trump’s Space Force into the Air National Guard instead of an expensive stand-alone, and wanting funding to close Guantanamo. It also addresses Afghanistan and Israel, among others, and is generally a statement of Biden’s defense policy.

The Administration looks forward to continuing to work with Congress to set an appropriate and responsible level of defense spending to support the security of the Nation.  At the same time, the Administration looks forward to working with Congress to provide appropriate resources for non-security investments and security investments outside the Department of Defense (DOD).”

Senator Bernie Sanders said he would vote against the $778 billion reauthorization bill as hypocrisy, when too many in Congress say the nation can’t afford universal health care and pre-K, while allocating $37 billion more than Trump’s last budget, even though the war in Afghanistan is over (where is the “peace dividend”?)

This is a bill that has us spending more money on the military than the next 12 nations combined and more money in real inflation-adjusted dollars than we did during the height of the Cold War or during the wars in Vietnam and Korea,” Sanders declared.

“This is a bill giving an obscene amount of money to an agency – the Department of Defense – with hundreds of billions of dollars of cost overruns and which remains the only federal agency that hasn’t been able to pass an independent audit in decades.

“On top of that, it is likely that Senate leadership will attach a so-called ‘competitiveness bill’ that includes $52 billion in corporate welfare, no strings attached money for a handful of extremely profitable microchip companies” for a combined $1 trillion bill, Sanders stated.

Biden would more or less agree on much of Sanders’ issues:

Here is the Statement of Administration Policy Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY
S. 2792 – National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022

(Sen. Reed, D-RI, and Sen. Inhofe, R-OK)

The Administration strongly supports enactment of a National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for a 61st consecutive year and is grateful for the strong, bipartisan work this year by the Senate Armed Services Committee on behalf of America’s national defense. 

The Administration looks forward to continuing to work with Congress to set an appropriate and responsible level of defense spending to support the security of the Nation.  At the same time, the Administration looks forward to working with Congress to provide appropriate resources for non-security investments and security investments outside the Department of Defense (DOD).  A strong economy is critical to ensuring that our Nation is positioned for strategic competition, and investments in diplomacy, development, and economic statecraft enhance the effectiveness of national defense spending and promote national security.

The Administration opposes the direction to add funding for platforms and systems that cannot be affordably modernized given the need to eliminate wasteful spending and prioritize survivable, and resilient forces that credibly deter advanced threats.  Our national security interests require forces that can fight across the spectrum of conflict.

The Administration looks forward to working with Congress to address its concerns, a number of which are outlined below.  The Administration also looks forward to reviewing the classified annex to the committee report and working with Congress to address any concerns about classified programs.

Optimizing Program Investments and Modernization.  The Administration strongly opposes restoration of funding to systems that limit DOD’s ability to divest or retire lower priority platforms not relevant to tomorrow’s battlefield.  The President’s Budget divests or retires vulnerable and costly platforms that no longer meet mission or security needs, and reinvests those savings in transformational, innovative assets that match the dynamic threat landscape and advance the capabilities of the force of the future.  The Administration strongly opposes language that would limit decommissioning or inactivation of battle force ships before the end of their expected service life (section 135) and retiring A-10 aircraft (section 143).  The Administration also strongly opposes language that would establish minimum inventory requirements of systems such as tactical airlift and fighter aircraft (sections 141 and 142) and would authorize unrequested funding for Expeditionary Fast Transport ships.  Such provisions would limit the Department’s flexibility to prioritize resource investment, delay modernization of capabilities, and impede implementation of the emergent National Defense Strategy. 

Afghanistan Security Forces Fund.  Section 1213 provides authorities no longer needed following the collapse of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF).  Therefore, the Administration strongly urges the Senate to adopt the language in the House bill to enable the responsible termination of the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund (ASFF) by authorizing the use of ASFF for costs associated with the termination of support to the ANDSF.  The termination will involve, at a minimum, closing out several hundred contracts and, in many cases, negotiating financial settlements with the contractors, developing a full accounting for all ASFF-funded equipment and supplies that are outside Afghanistan, and assessing amounts and the use of appropriations for potential contract settlement costs and the cost of transporting and storing ASFF-funded materiel for purposes of treating it as DOD stocks.  More analysis is necessary to develop prudent estimates of these costs and of timelines for completing these actions.

Recommendations of the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military (IRC).  The Administration commends the determined and bipartisan effort reflected by the bill to advance the shared goal of Congress and the Administration to make real and sustainable progress on the prevention of and response to sexual assault and other related crimes, and improve support for survivors.

The Administration supports effective implementation of the IRC’s recommendations focused on accountability, improving prevention, climate and culture, and victim care and support and has developed and instituted a phased implementation plan to build the foundation and infrastructure necessary to do so sustainably.  The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress to clarify Sec. 530B, to allow for alignment with the Department of Defense’s ongoing implementation strategy. Additionally, some of the IRC’s recommendations – such as 4.2 b, which relates to services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs – are beyond the authority of the Secretary of Defense to implement unilaterally. 

The Administration is committed to executing military justice reform, and welcomes efforts by Congress to enact legislation that supports core aspects of the IRC’s recommendations for accountability, namely: that the decision to prosecute special victim crimes (including, but not limited to: sexual assault, sexual harassment, and domestic violence) be made by Special Victim Prosecutors (SVPs) within a fully professionalized judge advocate organization; that SVPs have the requisite litigation experience and specialized training to be able to work with victims of these complex, interpersonal crimes; and that each Military Department establish an Office of the Special Victim Prosecutor (OSVP) that can operate with independence from the command reporting structure and under the direction of the Secretary of the Military Department, without intervening authority.  The Administration believes that each Secretary of a Military Department should have discretion to determine the director of the OSVP, who may be a Senior Executive Service civilian, best suited to carry out the mission of the Office as determined by that Secretary. 

To ensure effective reform, the Administration recommends the date prescribed by section 552, so that adequate time is provided to issue necessary implementing regulations, identify and hire appropriately qualified personnel, train both new and existing personnel, and then place them in newly created positions.

Additionally, effective reform will require an increase in the resources committed to the system.  Accordingly, the Administration objects to section 564, which would require implementation of the military justice reforms using otherwise-authorized personnel and resources.  The Administration will work with Congress to determine the appropriate resource level needed to ensure effective implementation of the revised military justice system. 

In addition to these recommendations from the IRC, the Administration urges Congress to enable military protective orders (MPOs) to be given full faith and credit, and enact legislation that would provide DOD and the Services sufficient time to assess and implement this change.

Limitation on Modifications to Sexual Assault Reporting Procedures.  The Administration strongly objects to section 566, which would prohibit the Secretary of Defense from amending section 4 of enclosure 4 of DOD Instruction 6495.02, relating to Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program Procedures, “or otherwise prescribe any regulations or guidance relating to the treatment and handling of unrestricted and restricted reports of sexual assault, until 30 days after notifying the congressional defense committees of the proposed amendment or modification.”  This provision could delay potential needed updates to DOD’s sexual assault regulations.  The administration is committed to working with Congress in a transparent way on these important matters, but must maintain flexibility to amend internal policies when needed.

Air and Space National Guard.  The Administration does not oppose section 902, which would rename the Air National Guard as the Air and Space National Guard.  This provision would avoid the significant administrative expenses associated with establishing a stand-alone Space National Guard, so DOD can prioritize the development of new space capabilities.  The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress on alternative Space Force concepts that are efficient, effective, and appropriate for space missions.

DOD Contractor Professional Training Material Disclosure Requirements.  The Administration strongly opposes section 818, which would require all DOD contractors to post online or, if they lack an online presence, submit in paper to the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment all diversity, equal opportunity, equity, inclusion, or tolerance training materials or internal policies related to these subjects.  This provision would require the disclosure of intellectual property and proprietary information.  Furthermore, the provision would be a barrier to entry, especially for small businesses or companies contracting with the Department for the first time.  This provision, therefore, would limit the number of entities willing or able to do business with the Department at a time when access to talent, technology, and innovation is a critical determinant of the U.S.’s ability to compete.

Limitations on Use of Funds in the National Defense Sealift (NDS) Fund.  The Administration strongly objects to the removal of funding for used sealift vessels.  The Administration also urges support for the necessary relief to recapitalize the sealift fleet with used vessels by removing existing statutory limitations.  The Administration strongly encourages Congress to remove the statutory cap on the number of used sealift vessels DOD can procure and to remove the statutory link between the use of NDS funding for the purchase of used vessels and the requirement to procure new construction vessels.  This will allow the Administration to recapitalize the sealift fleet, with all used ship conversions taking place in U.S. shipyards, for a fraction of the cost of procuring new vessels.

Basic Needs Allowance for Low-Income Regular Members.  The Administration supports a basic needs allowance.  The Administration needs a more comprehensive data analysis to determine the inclusion or exclusion of basic allowance for housing when considering the calculation of a basic needs allowance.  Using this analysis, the Administration would like to work with Congress to develop an appropriate calculation for targeting recipients of a basic needs allowance.

Prohibition on Missile Defense Agency Production of Satellites and Ground Systems Associated with Operation of Such Satellites.  The Administration strongly objects to section 1510, which would prohibit the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) from authorizing or obligating funding for a program of record for the production of satellites, with an associated limitation of funds. Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor (HBTSS) On-Orbit Prototype Demonstration phase began in January 2021 with contracts awarded to two industry teams.  This program supports unique missile defense requirements to provide fire-control quality tracking data on hypersonic and ballistic missile threats for engagement by missile defense weapons, and is a critical element of the Missile Defense System kill-chain.  Enacting section 1510 would delay delivery of this capability to the warfighter.  Also, consistent with congressional direction, the Secretary of Defense has certified the Director of MDA as the responsible agent for developing the HBTSS capability.

Modification of United States-Israel Operations-Technology Cooperation within the United States-Israel Defense Acquisition Advisory Group.  While the Administration strongly supports strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship, the Administration strongly opposes section 1271, which would make the United States-Israel Operations-Technology Working Group (OTWG) mandatory.  DOD has developed draft Terms of Reference for such a group and is finalizing negotiations with Israel.  However, enactment of section 1271 would eliminate the flexibility the Administration needs to ensure that the terms, membership, and focus of the OTWG are in the U.S. interest.

Enhancement of Recusal for Conflicts of Personal Interest Requirements for Department of Defense Officers and Employees.  The Administration is committed to preventing conflicts of interest, but is concerned that section 1103 lacks any mechanism for the Secretary of Defense to grant a waiver or authorization to authorize participation when it is in the best interests of the Government.  Section 1103 needs to be aligned with existing ethics rules because it introduces new terms, broader standards, and requires the Department to further screen all DOD personnel from participating in “covered matters” involving clients and competitors of an employee’s former employer for four years.  Section 1103 would significantly extend the time and resources needed to make decisions and limit DOD’s ability to hire qualified personnel.

Missile Defense Radar in Hawaii.  The Administration opposes added funding for the Homeland Defense Radar – Hawaii (HDR-H).  The Department had planned to field HDR-H, the Pacific Radar, the Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV), and the Long Range Discrimination Radar by the mid-2020s as a system of systems to improve homeland ballistic missile defense.  The Pacific Radar has been delayed indefinitely due to stalled negotiations with the host nation, and the RKV program has been cancelled.  Hawaii is currently defended against missile threats to the same extent as the rest of the United States, and DOD is currently investing in other capabilities, such as the Next Generation Interceptor, which will support the long-term defense of Hawaii.

Reprioritization of Military Construction Funding to Unrequested Projects.  The Administration opposes section 4601, which would realign military construction funding authorization from priority projects to other projects not included in the President’s Budget.  Contrary to the Administration’s fiscally responsible policy to fully fund projects, the bill proposes to fund 14 military construction projects incrementally, effectively creating an unfunded obligation of almost $1 billion to complete these projects.

Alignment of Close Combat Lethality Task Force.  The Administration strongly opposes section 905, which would prevent implementation of the Secretary of Defense’s decision to realign the Close Combat Lethality Task Force (CCLTF) to the Secretary of the Army, effective October 1, 2021.  Section 905 would prevent the alignment of the CCLTF with the organization best positioned to identify, test, develop, demonstrate, and integrate new close combat capabilities, capacity that is already built into the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence.  Importantly, the CCLTF will remain a joint organization, with a Tri-Service board governing the work of the CCLTF.

Prohibition on Support for Offensive Military Operations Against the Houthis in Yemen.  The Administration opposes section 1272 because it is unnecessary; the Administration already has ceased support for Saudi-led coalition offensive operations in Yemen.  In addition, because DOD does not have the lead for humanitarian aid delivery, the Secretary of Defense is not the appropriate official to provide the requested report.

Prohibition on Reduction of the Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles of the United States.  The Administration objects to section 1543, which would restrict the President and the Department of Defense from reducing the number of deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles below 400.  The Administration objects to this restriction while the force structure is under review as part of the ongoing Nuclear Posture Review (NPR).  This language would constrain the President’s ability to propose the nuclear force he determines is necessary.

Significant New Foreign Policy Provisions.  The Administration is concerned that the bill includes certain sections—specifically 1011, 1201, 1205, 1207, 1208, 1209, 1211, 1242, and 1275—that would require DOD engagement in, analysis of, or reporting on significant foreign policy issues without including sufficient means for the Secretary of State to provide input and ensure that foreign assistance is carried out in a manner consistent with foreign policy priorities.

Coordination Between United States Cyber Command and Private Sector.  The Administration opposes section 1604, as this provision’s relationship to section 1642(b) of the FY 2019 NDAA is unclear. The Secretary of Defense’s authority to “make arrangements with private sector entities, on a voluntary basis” under section 1642(b) is scoped to the four top nation-state threats.  In contrast, section 1604 is not similarly scoped, is not tied to existing authorities, is arguably duplicative, lacks appropriate coordination with the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, and may prohibit internal U.S Government information sharing.

Pilot Program on Public-Private Partnerships with Internet Ecosystem Companies to Detect and Disrupt Adversary Cyber Operations.  The Administration opposes section 1605, which would require the Secretary of Defense to initiate a pilot program to use public-private partnerships to facilitate detection and disruption of malicious cyber activity on private sector infrastructure.  Many of the authorized activities would be achieved more effectively through existing federal activities, such as the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative and several Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement programs. Establishing a separate pilot program led by DOD would further complicate federal efforts to collaborate with the private sector, including “internet ecosystem companies,” in a unified, coordinated manner.

Safe Drinking Water Act Amendment on Cybersecurity.  The Administration urges support for the requested amendment to the Safe Drinking Water Act to enhance cybersecurity and resilience requirements for drinking water systems.  Recent incidents show that cyber-attacks and malicious cyber activity against drinking water systems can disrupt and endanger our critical water infrastructure’s ability to provide safe and reliable drinking water, and put the health and lives of our citizens at risk. 

Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility.  The Administration strongly objects to sections 1031, 1032, and 1033, which would extend the prohibitions on the use of funds to: transfer Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility (GTMO) detainees to the United States (1031); construct or modify facilities in the United States to house transferred GTMO detainees (1032); and transfer GTMO detainees to certain countries (1033).  These provisions would interfere with the President’s ability to determine the appropriate disposition of GTMO detainees and to make important foreign policy and national security determinations regarding whether and under what circumstances to transfer detainees to the custody or effective control of foreign countries.

Constitutional Concerns.  Certain provisions of the bill, such as section 1232, raise constitutional concerns.  The Administration looks forward to working with Congress to address this and other constitutional concerns.

Biden Administration Announces Actions to Address the Health Effects of Military Exposures

On Veterans Day 2021, the Biden Administration announced new actions to address health effects of military exposures on veterans © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

On Veterans Day 2021, the Biden Administration announced new actions to address health effects of military exposures on veterans. The White House provided a fact sheet outlining new initiatives to address health impacts of military service:

Exposure to contaminants and environmental hazards poses a major health concern for veterans of all generations. There are also gaps and delays in the scientific evidence demonstrating conclusive links between known exposures and health impacts, leaving many veterans without access to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits and high-quality treatment to address significant health conditions. For example, it took decades to provide access to compensatory benefits and health care to many Vietnam era veterans for conditions presumed to be related to Agent Orange exposure. For the newest generation of veterans, concerns about burn pits and other exposures continue to mount. While the federal government has taken some steps to address these issues, including implementing registries to track veterans exposed to potentially hazardous substances, the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to doing more to enable timely access to services and benefits for those potentially exposed to hazardous materials.

As we mark Veterans Day and honor those who have worn the uniform of the United States, the Administration is moving forward to support our service members and veterans who may have encountered environmental hazards by:

Developing and testing a model for establishing service connection. It can be difficult for veterans to prove connection for disabilities resulting from environmental hazards. To mitigate this difficulty, VA may create presumptions of exposure in order to establish service connection for various chronic conditions when the evidence of an environmental exposure and the associated health risks are strong in the aggregate but hard to prove on an individual basis. In order to deliver benefits more quickly to veterans who developed disabilities due to exposure to environmental hazards and to lower the evidentiary burden on such veterans, VA developed a new model to accelerate the decision-making process to consider adding new presumptive conditions. This new model takes into consideration not only consensus reports from the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, but also includes analyses of data from other sources as well, including data from the Veterans Benefits Administration and the Veterans Health Administration. The new model relies upon a multi-faceted scale to evaluate the strength of scientific and other evidence and allow VA to make faster policy decisions on key exposures. VA successfully applied this model to examine the association between exposures to particulate matter and three respiratory conditions, as announced last May.

Adding new presumptive conditions. In August, VA began processing disability claims for asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis based on presumed exposure to particulate matter. Veterans who served in the Southwest Asia theater of operations and other areas and who developed these conditions within 10 years of military service are now eligible to apply for disability benefits and access to VA health care. This rulemaking was based upon application of the new presumptive model and involved careful review of a study conducted by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, as well as other evidence assessed by VA subject matter experts.

Applying new model to review evidence of service connection for rare respiratory cancers and constrictive bronchiolitis. VA will further test the new presumptive model to assess potential associations between military environmental exposures and constrictive bronchiolitis, lung cancers, and rare respiratory cancers such as squamous cell carcinoma of the larynx or trachea and salivary gland-type tumors of the trachea. The President has directed VA to complete the review of rare cancers and provide recommendations about new presumptions of service connection within 90 days. Based on the results of this review, the Administration will consider initiating additional rulemaking. Once the process is complete, the Administration will continue to test this model on additional health conditions and exposures to ensure more timely review and consideration of potential service connection.

Improving data on individual exposures. The Individual Longitudinal Exposure Record (ILER) is the primary Department of Defense and VA application to track, record, and assess environmental and occupational exposure to potentially hazardous substances. Currently, ILER is not scheduled to reach full operating capability until September 2023. To ensure full capability of the ILER, DoD plans to expand and accelerate the development schedule—and add additional data—enabling more comprehensive information on health risks of potential exposures to be more rapidly incorporated into service member and veterans medical care and benefit decisions.

Raising awareness of VA benefits related to military exposures. Many veterans are unaware of their eligibility for benefits and services related to potential military exposures. In addition, some claims adjudicators may not have up-to-date awareness of recent policies related to conditions newly presumed to be service-connected. In October 2021, VA launched an outreach campaign to inform service members and veterans about eligibility and benefits related to chronic disabilities that may be due to military exposures while in service. This includes efforts to embed educational and outreach materials into the Transition Assistance Programs (TAP) and as part of the Solid Start program, which reaches out to transitioning service members at regular intervals during the first year following their military separation. VA will also initiate new public service announcements and live events to encourage early and regular engagement with VA and other federal agencies for benefits, health care, and other services. VA also plans to provide refresher trainings for all claims processors, share information related to military exposures, and host a series of Q&A sessions related to implementation of the new presumptive disabilities that were implemented this summer. VA will also revise Frequently Asked Question materials and call scripts to ensure that front line employees are able to better assist veterans through the claims process. 

Expanding training for VA and non-VA providers. Veterans often find that their providers and compensation and pension examiners are not well-trained to understand or treat veterans’ exposure concerns. To address this issue, VA has completed a contract with the American College of Preventive Medicine (ACPM) to provide a five-module certificate training program in military environmental exposures. This will provide a basic level of competence for all VA- and non-VA providers across the nation that will help better treat veterans with concerns about toxic exposures. VA will require all providers to complete the first module of this training for an entry-level understanding of the health outcomes of military exposures and encourage the remaining four modules for certification.

Establishing network of specialized providers and call center. Veterans with concerns about the health outcomes of military exposures experience inconsistent care to address these specific issues, especially outside of VA. Beginning in 2022, VA will launch VET-HOME, The Veterans Exposure Team-Health Outcomes of Military Exposures. VET-HOME will consist of two interconnected parts: a call center for veterans and providers, and a nationwide network of specialists. Veterans with questions about environmental exposures will call into a central location and be guided through the registry exam or environmental exposure process. They would then be referred to one of 40 environmental health providers across the United States who would use a telemedicine platform to assess and if necessary refer the veteran to a VA facility to complete any specialty testing, like a pulmonary function test or other lab work. Providers with questions on military exposures would be referred to one the 40 military environmental heath subject matter experts. The results of the consultation would be shared with the veteran’s primary care doctor, helping to deliver better care to the veteran.

Extending Eligibility Period for VA Health Care. Some Veterans do not have concerns about their health until several years after deployment or leaving service. At present, VA allows veterans to receive free VA health care for up to 5 years after discharge or release for any condition related to service in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan or Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) or Operation New Dawn (OND) in Iraq. This is called an “enhanced eligibility period.” To ensure that veterans who served in these conflicts have access to health care from VA, the Administration will call upon Congress to implement a change to the statute to enable a longer enhanced enrollment period for the 3 million veterans who deployed to support recent combat operations.

Taken together, these actions will improve our understanding of the health effects of military-related exposures, educate providers and veterans about these exposures, and provide timelier access to health services and benefits for individuals who were exposed. The Administration will continue to prioritize efforts to support veterans who were exposed to environmental hazards during their military service. At the same time, the Administration will work with Congress on its encouraging ongoing efforts to ensure we are able to quickly and fairly recognize additional presumptions of service-connected disabilities, in order to live up to our sacred obligation to provide veterans the care they have earned.

Biden Proclaims Veterans Day: ‘Our nation has only one truly sacred obligation: to properly equip military, care for veterans on return’

President Biden pays his respects to the fallen at Arlington Cemetery, April 14, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com via MSNBC

All too often, especially in the Trump years, veterans and active military have been used as props and as pawns to achieve personal and political gain. Trump demeaned Senator John McCain’s heroism as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and later called those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, “losers and suckers” and repeatedly questioned the intelligence of those who serve and couldn’t be bothered to visit the graves of Americans who died in World War I in a cemetery while in France.

Well before Joe Biden became President, he and First Lady Jill Biden were activists on behalf of the military, veterans and military families. As Second Lady, Jill Biden teamed with then First Lady Michelle Obama to create Joining Forces – the White House initiative to support veteran and military families, caregivers, and survivors – to solve many of the problems that military families and veterans face. Now, as President, Biden has advanced policies on behalf of active military, veterans and their families and the First Lady continues her work with Joining Forces.

I often have problems each Veterans Day and Memorial Day because these events shroud the horrors of war in glory – necessary because otherwise no one would sign up. And I have often warned about the difference between lying the nation into war as George W. Bush did to invade Iraq, and Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon did during Vietnam, using war for political gain, as Reagan did in invading Grenada, being used by callous business interests to make their fortune, like World War I, and a justified war like World War II.

This Veterans Day, November 11, 2021, Biden’s Proclamation is genuine and speaks to this administration’s commitment: “Our Nation has only one truly sacred obligation:  to properly prepare and equip our service members when we send them into harm’s way and to care for them and their families when they return home.” — Karen Rubin, news-photos-features.com

VETERANS DAY, 2021

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
 
A PROCLAMATION

For generations, millions of Americans have answered the call to serve — taking the sacred oath to defend and preserve our Nation’s ideals of liberty and democracy.  These patriots represent the best of us.  On Veterans Day, we honor their service, dedication, and valor and are forever grateful for their sacrifice. 

Our Nation has only one truly sacred obligation:  to properly prepare and equip our service members when we send them into harm’s way and to care for them and their families when they return home.  For our 19 million veterans, that means ensuring that they have access to the support and resources for a future of security, opportunity, and dignity.  This is even more important as we continue to recover from the global COVID-19 pandemic. 

Our obligation to support our Nation’s veterans and their families is personal for me and the entire Biden family, and I remain committed to ensuring that every veteran receives the care and support they have earned.  The recently passed bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will create millions of good jobs for veterans and grow opportunities for veteran-owned businesses. My Build Back Better framework also prioritizes improvements to VA health care, ensuring that every veteran — including our often-underserved female and LGBTQ+ veterans — receives competent, world-class health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Last month, the White House Gender Policy Council released the first-ever United States Strategy for Gender Equity and Equality, which included the unique needs and contributions of women service members and veterans.  And the Department of Veterans Affairs is also working to get every eligible veteran the information and opportunity they need to register and vote, protecting their voice in the democracy they fought to preserve. 

Ensuring veterans have timely access to services and benefits is at the center of my Administration’s commitment to fulfilling our sacred obligation.  This includes addressing the adverse health effects of service-related exposures.  In August, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced it will begin processing disability claims for respiratory conditions connected to exposure during military service in Southwest Asia and other areas.  My Administration also added three conditions to the list of those presumptively associated with exposure to Agent Orange, ending the long wait for disability benefits for many Vietnam era veterans.  In the coming months, we are committed to taking additional action to address potential adverse health effects associated with military environmental exposures.  

So many of our veterans carry the scars from their service — both visible and invisible — and it is our Nation’s responsibility to help them heal. Too many veterans and service members have considered suicide or taken their own lives, and addressing this tragedy is a national responsibility. That is why I have made military and veteran suicide prevention a top priority, and earlier this month, I released a new comprehensive, cross-sector public health strategy to reduce military and veteran suicide. Implementing this approach will unite us around a common mission and accelerate meaningful improvements in suicide prevention programs, helping us live up to our sacred obligation to those who have served in our Nation’s Armed Forces.

Fulfilling our Nation’s promise to our veterans and military families, caregivers, and survivors is not only a moral imperative — it is crucial to our national security and to maintaining the finest military the world has ever known.  We are a Nation that keeps our promises.  That is why my Administration is dedicated to a whole-of-government approach in responding to the needs of our veterans and their families, caregivers, and survivors. 

Through the First Lady’s work with Joining Forces — the White House initiative to support veteran and military families, caregivers, and survivors — my Administration is addressing employment and entrepreneurship, military and veteran child education, and health and well-being for veteran families.  Earlier this year, the First Lady met with military and veteran families to learn how we can better support and prioritize their needs, and in September, Joining Forces and the National Security Council released a report outlining the first round of Administration-wide commitments and proposals that support veteran and military families, caregivers, and survivors.  These efforts will honor our sacred obligation to support our veteran families and ensure they receive the resources they need to thrive. 

On Veterans Day, we honor our Nation’s veterans, who have given so much to protect our freedoms and the freedom of others around the globe.  They represent the highest ideals of our country.  While we can never fully repay the debt we owe these heroes, we will honor their service and provide them the care and support they deserve. We also salute and show gratitude for all who ensure our Armed Forces remain strong, united, and unmatched…

I encourage all Americans to recognize the valor, courage, and sacrifice of our veterans through appropriate ceremonies and private prayers.  I call upon Federal, State, and local officials to display the flag of the United States of America and to participate in patriotic activities in their communities. And I call on all Americans, including civic and fraternal organizations, places of worship, schools, and communities, to support this day with commemorative expressions and programs.

Biden Declares Way Forward in Afghanistan: ‘It’s time to end America’s longest war. It’s time for American troops to come home’

President Joe Biden pays his respects to the fallen at Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery where recent war dead are buried, including many of the women and men who died fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. Biden, announcing that US troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan, America’s longest war, by September 11, 2021, 20 years after the terror attacks, keeps a tally of how many have died in Afghanistan, 2,448, and 20,722 wounded © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

On April 14, speaking from the Treaty Room in the White House, President Joe Biden declared that American troops would be out of Afghanistan, America’s longest war, by September 11, 2021, 20 years after the terror attacks masterminded by Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda that left 3000 dead New York, Washington DC and Shanksville, PA. here is a highlighted transcript:

Good afternoon.  I’m speaking to you today from the Roosevelt — the Treaty Room in the White House.  The same spot where, on October of 2001, President George W. Bush informed our nation that the United States military had begun strikes on terrorist training camps in Afghanistan.  It was just weeks — just weeks after the terrorist attack on our nation that killed 2,977 innocent souls; that turned Lower Manhattan into a disaster area, destroyed parts of the Pentagon, and made hallowed ground of a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and sparked an American promise that we would “never forget.”

We went to Afghanistan in 2001 to root out al Qaeda, to prevent future terrorist attacks against the United States planned from Afghanistan.  Our objective was clear.  The cause was just.  Our NATO Allies and partners rallied beside us.  And I supported that military action, along with overwhelming majority of the members of Congress.

More than seven years later, in 2008, weeks before we swore the oath of office — President Obama and I were about to swear — President Obama asked me to travel to Afghanistan and report back on the state of the war in Afghanistan.  I flew to Afghanistan, to the Kunar Valley — a rugged, mountainous region on the border with Pakistan.  What I saw on that trip reinforced my conviction that only the Afghans have the right and responsibility to lead their country, and that more and endless American military force could not create or sustain a durable Afghan government. 

I believed that our presence in Afghanistan should be focused on the reason we went in the first place: to ensure Afghanistan would not be used as a base from which to attack our homeland again.  We did that.  We accomplished that objective. 

I said, among — with others, we’d follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell if need be.  That’s exactly what we did, and we got him.  It took us close to 10 years to put President Obama’s commitment into form.  And that’s exactly what happened; Osama bin Laden was gone. 

That was 10 years ago.  Think about that.  We delivered justice to bin Laden a decade ago, and we’ve stayed in Afghanistan for a decade since.  Since then, our reasons for remaining in Afghanistan are becoming increasingly unclear, even as the terrorist threat that we went to fight evolved.

Over the past 20 years, the threat has become more dispersed, metastasizing around the globe: al-Shabaab in Somalia; al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula; al-Nusra in Syria; ISIS attempting to create a  [caliphate] in Syria and Iraq, and establishing affiliates in multiple countries in Africa and Asia. 

With the terror threat now in many places, keeping thousands of troops grounded and concentrated in just one country at a cost of billions each year makes little sense to me and to our leaders.  We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan, hoping to create ideal conditions for the withdrawal, and expecting a different result. 

I’m now the fourth United States President to preside over American troop presence in Afghanistan: two Republicans, two Democrats.  I will not pass this responsibility on to a fifth.

After consulting closely with our allies and partners, with our military leaders and intelligence personnel, with our diplomats and our development experts, with the Congress and the Vice President, as well as with Mr. Ghani and many others around the world, I have concluded that it’s time to end America’s longest war.  It’s time for American troops to come home. 

When I came to office, I inherited a diplomatic agreement, duly negotiated between the government of the United States and the Taliban, that all U.S. forces would be out of Afghanistan by May 1, 2021, just three months after my inauguration.  That’s what we inherited — that commitment. 

It is perhaps not what I would have negotiated myself, but it was an agreement made by the United States government, and that means something.  So, in keeping with that agreement and with our national interests, the United States will begin our final withdrawal — begin it on May 1 of this year. 

We will not conduct a hasty rush to the exit.  We’ll do it — we’ll do it responsibly, deliberately, and safely.  And we will do it in full coordination with our allies and partners, who now have more forces in Afghanistan than we do. 
 
And the Taliban should know that if they attack us as we draw down, we will defend ourselves and our partners with all the tools at our disposal. 

Our allies and partners have stood beside us shoulder-to-shoulder in Afghanistan for almost 20 years, and we’re deeply grateful for the contributions they have made to our shared mission and for the sacrifices they have borne.

The plan has long been “in together, out together.”  U.S. troops, as well as forces deployed by our NATO Allies and operational partners, will be out of Afghanistan before we mark the 20th anniversary of that heinous attack on September 11th. 
 
But — but we’ll not take our eye off the terrorist threat.  We’ll reorganize our counterterrorism capabilities and the substantial assets in the region to prevent reemergence of terrorists — of the threat to our homeland from over the horizon.  We’ll hold the Taliban accountable for its commitment not to allow any terrorists to threaten the United States or its allies from Afghan soil.  The Afghan government has made that commitment to us as well.  And we’ll focus our full attention on the threat we face today. 
 
At my direction, my team is refining our national strategy to monitor and disrupt significant terrorist threats not only in Afghanistan, but anywhere they may arise — and they’re in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere.

I spoke yesterday with President Bush to inform him of my decision. While he and I have had many disagreements over policies throughout the years, we’re absolutely united in our respect and support for the valor, courage, and integrity of the women and men of the United States Armed Forces who served.  I’m immensely grateful for the bravery and backbone that they have shown through nearly two decades of combat deployments.  We as a nation are forever indebted to them and to their families. 

You all know that less than 1 percent of Americans serve in our armed forces.  The remaining 99 percent of them — we owe them.  We owe them.  They have never backed down from a single mission that we’ve asked of them.

I’ve witnessed their bravery firsthand during my visits to Afghanistan.  They’ve never wavered in their resolve.  They’ve paid a tremendous price on our behalf.  And they have the thanks of a grateful nation.

While we will not stay involved in Afghanistan militarily, our diplomatic and humanitarian work will continue.  We’ll continue to support the government of Afghanistan.  We will keep providing assistance to the Afghan National Defenses and Security Forces. 

And along with our partners, we have trained and equipped a standing force of over 300,000 Afghan personnel today and hundreds of thousands over the past two decades.  And they’ll continue to fight valiantly, on behalf of the Afghans, at great cost.  They’ll support peace talks, as we will support peace talks between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban, facilitated by the United Nations.  And we’ll continue to support the rights of Afghan women and girls by maintaining significant humanitarian and development assistance.

And we’ll ask other countries — other countries in the region — to do more to support Afghanistan, especially Pakistan, as well as Russia, China, India, and Turkey.  They all have a significant stake in the stable future for Afghanistan. 

And over the next few months, we will also determine what a continued U.S. diplomatic presence in Afghanistan will look like, including how we’ll ensure the security of our diplomats.

Look, I know there are many who will loudly insist that diplomacy cannot succeed without a robust U.S. military presence to stand as leverage.  We gave that argument a decade.  It’s never proved effective — not when we had 98,000 troops in Afghanistan, and not when we were down to a few thousand.

Our diplomacy does not hinge on having boots in harm’s way — U.S. boots on the ground.  We have to change that thinking.  American troops shouldn’t be used as a bargaining chip between warring parties in other countries.  You know, that’s nothing more than a recipe for keeping American troops in Afghanistan indefinitely. 

I also know there are many who will argue that we should stay — stay fighting in Afghanistan because withdrawal would damage America’s credibility and weaken America’s influence in the world.  I believe the exact opposite is true. 

We went to Afghanistan because of a horrific attack that happened 20 years ago.  That cannot explain why we should remain there in 2021. 

Rather than return to war with the Taliban, we have to focus on the challenges that are in front of us.  We have to track and disrupt terrorist networks and operations that spread far beyond Afghanistan since 9/11.

We have to shore up American competitiveness to meet the stiff competition we’re facing from an increasingly assertive China.  We have to strengthen our alliances and work with like-minded partners to ensure that the rules of international norms that govern cyber threats and emerging technologies that will shape our future are grounded in our democratic values — values — not those of the autocrats. 
 
We have to defeat this pandemic and strengthen the global health system to prepare for the next one, because there will be another pandemic. 
 
You know, we’ll be much more formidable to our adversaries and competitors over the long term if we fight the battles for the next 20 years, not the last 20. 
 
And finally, the main argument for staying longer is what each of my three predecessors have grappled with: No one wants to say that we should be in Afghanistan forever, but they insist now is not the right moment to leave. 

In 2014, NATO issued a declaration affirming that Afghan Security Forces would, from that point on, have full responsibility for their country’s security by the end of that year.  That was seven years ago. 

So when will it be the right moment to leave?  One more year, two more years, ten more years?  Ten, twenty, thirty billion dollars more above the trillion we’ve already spent? 
 
“Not now” — that’s how we got here.  And in this moment, there’s a significant downside risk to staying beyond May 1st without a clear timetable for departure. 
 
If we instead pursue the approach where America — U.S. exit is tied to conditions on the ground, we have to have clear answers to the following questions: Just what conditions require to — be required to allow us to depart?  By what means and how long would it take to achieve them, if they could be achieved at all?  And at what additional cost in lives and treasure?

I’m not hearing any good answers to these questions.  And if you can’t answer them, in my view, we should not stay.  The fact is that, later today, I’m going to visit Arlington National Cemetery, Section 60, and that sacred memorial to American sacrifice. 

Section 60 is where our recent war dead are buried, including many of the women and men who died fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.  There’s no — there’s no comforting distance in history in Section 60.  The grief is raw.  It’s a visceral reminder of the living cost of war. 

For the past 12 years, ever since I became Vice President, I’ve carried with me a card that reminds me of the exact number of American troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.  That exact number, not an approximation or rounded-off number — because every one of those dead are sacred human beings who left behind entire families.  An exact accounting of every single solitary one needs to be had. 

As of the day — today, there are [2,448] U.S. troops and personnel who have died in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel — our Afghanistan conflicts.  20,722 have been wounded. 

I’m the first President in 40 years who knows what it means to have a child serving in a warzone.  And throughout this process, my North Star has been remembering what it was like when my late son, Beau, was deployed to Iraq — how proud he was to serve his country; how insistent he was to deploy with his unit; and the impact it had on him and all of us at home. 

We already have service members doing their duty in Afghanistan today whose parents served in the same war.  We have service members who were not yet born when our nation was attacked on 9/11. 

War in Afghanistan was never meant to be a multi-generational undertaking.  We were attacked.  We went to war with clear goals.  We achieved those objectives.  Bin Laden is dead, and al Qaeda is degraded in Iraq — in Afghanistan.  And it’s time to end the forever war. 

Thank you all for listening.  May God protect our troops.  May God bless all those families who lost someone in this endeavor.

Biden: ‘No matter what he says or what he claims, you are not safer in Donald Trump’s America’

Vice President Biden said comments attributed to Trump: “affirm what we already know to be true: Donald Trump is not fit for the job of president, or to hold the title commander in chief.. President Trump has demonstrated he has no sense of service, no loyalty to any cause other than himself…And if I have the honor of serving as the next Commander-in-Chief, I will ensure that our American heroes know I will have their back and honor their sacrifice — always.”© Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Using his trademark restraint, Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate for Trump, could not contain his revulsion and distress in condemning in harshest terms Donald Trump’s remarks denigrating POWs and the soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for their nation. The speech was supposed to be about the economy, and despite some favorable jobs numbers which have brought down the unemployment rate somewhat, a take-down of Trump’s incompetent handling of COVID-19 and the economy and lack of leadership which have made the situation so much worse. But the revelations the night before about remarks Trump made concerning the military, on top of Trump’s call to supporters to vote twice, and his refusal, yet again, to say anything against Vladimir Putin, prompted him to say, in response to a question, “I’ve never been as disappointed in my whole career with a leader that I’ve worked with, president or otherwise. If [the Atlantic] article is true, based on other things he has said, it is damnable. A disgrace….

“It is sick. It is deplorable. It is so un-American, so unpatriotic.”

The comments attributed to Trump, he said, “affirm what we already know to be true: Donald Trump is not fit for the job of president, or to hold the title commander in chief.”

Biden declared, “It is a sacred duty to ensure we properly prepare and equip those we send into harm’s way, and to care for them and their families, both while they are deployed and after they return home.

“Duty, honor, country — those are the values that drive our service members.

“President Trump has demonstrated he has no sense of service, no loyalty to any cause other than himself.
 
“And if I have the honor of serving as the next Commander-in-Chief, I will ensure that our American heroes know I will have their back and honor their sacrifice — always.”

And about the jobs report and economic situation, he said, “you can’t deal with the economic crisis until you beat the pandemic.”

“No matter what he says or what he claims, you are not safer in Donald Trump’s America. You are not safe in Trump’s America where people are dying at a rate last seen when Americans were fighting in World War II.

Here are Vice President Biden’s highlighted remarks:

Good afternoon.
 
Before I begin, I wanted to speak to the revelations about President Trump’s disregard for our military and veterans.
 
They are disgusting. They affirm what we already know to be true: Donald Trump is not fit for the job of president, or to hold the title commander in chief. 
 
The president reportedly said that those who sign up to serve — instead of doing something more lucrative — are suckers. So let me be clear: my son Beau, who volunteered to go to Iraq, was not a sucker. 
 
The men and women who served with him are not suckers, and the service men and women he served with, who did not come home, are not losers. 
 
If these statements are true, the president should humbly apologize to every person in uniform, and every Gold Star and Blue Star family he has insulted. 
 
Who the hell does he think he is?
 
Is it true? Well, we’ve heard from his own mouth his characterization of American hero John McCain as a loser, and his dismissal of the traumatic brain injuries suffered by troops serving in Iraq as mere “‘headaches.”
 
He stood by, failing to take action or even raise the issue with Vladimir Putin, while the Kremlin put bounties on the heads of American troops serving in Afghanistan.

It is a sacred duty to ensure we properly prepare and equip those we send into harm’s way, and to care for them and their families, both while they are deployed and after they return home.

Duty, honor, country — those are the values that drive our service members.

President Trump has demonstrated he has no sense of service, no loyalty to any cause other than himself.
 
And if I have the honor of serving as the next Commander-in-Chief, I will ensure that our American heroes know I will have their back and honor their sacrifice — always.
 
And that’s just another marker of how deeply President Trump and I disagree about the role of the President of the United States.
 
The August jobs report came out this morning.
 
I am grateful for everyone who found work again and found a glimmer of hope that brings them back from the edge.
 
But there is real cause for concern, too.
 
The pace of job gains in August was slower than in July — and significantly slower than May or June.
 
More and more temporary layoffs are turning into permanent layoffs.
 
After six months in the pandemic, we are less than halfway back to where we were — with 11.5 Million Americans not yet getting their jobs back.
 
We’re still down 720,000 manufacturing jobs. In fact, Trump may well be the only president in modern history to leave office with fewer jobs than when he took office.
 
Talk to a lot of real working people who are being left behind — ask them, do you feel the economy is coming back?
 
They don’t feel it.
 
That’s why I’m here today.
 
Thank you, Paul Calistro and his team, for hosting us at West End Neighborhood House here in Wilmington.
 
You continue a tradition of doing God’s work for this community.
 
For more than 130 years, through pandemics, wars, and depression, West End has been there for generations of people who are just looking for a chance. Not a handout.
 
Just a fair shot at a good job, a safe place to live, and a better life to pass down to their kids.

And it’s a special place for the Biden family. My daughter Ashley worked here as a caseworker helping young people aging out of foster care. 
 
When he was Attorney General of Delaware, my son Beau came here – right here – to learn more about its job training programs for folks working toward a GED and a certificate for a good-paying job.
 
And when I was Senator and Vice President, there were plenty of economists around to talk about how the economy was doing.
 
But I’d always think about the people who walk through these doors.
 
If working people — white, Black, Brown, Latino — here were doing okay, then I knew the economy was doing okay. If they weren’t, then I knew we weren’t.
 
And that’s what we should think about with the latest jobs report.

But the report reinforces our worst fears and painful truths — the economic inequities that began before the downturn have only worsened under this failed presidency.
 
When the crisis started, we all hoped for a few months of a shutdown followed by a rapid economic turnaround. No one thought they’d lose their job for good or see small businesses shut down in mass.
 
But that kind of recovery requires leadership — leadership we just don’t have.
 
As a result, economists are starting to call this a K-shaped recovery — which is a fancy phrase for what’s been wrong with everything about Trump’s presidency. 
 
The “K” means that those at the top see things go up, but those in the middle and below see things get worse. 
 
That’s no surprise because at the root of this is the fact that Trump has managed COVID to become a K-shaped pandemic. 
 
First, the president’s chaotic mismanagement of the pandemic is still holding us back.
 
And compared to other major industrial countries in Europe and Asia during the pandemic, our unemployment rate has still more than doubled while those nations have only gone up by less than half.
 
Why? Because the president has botched the COVID response. Botched it badly.
 
I’ve said from the beginning, you can’t deal with the economic crisis until you beat the pandemic.
 
You can’t have a full economic comeback, when almost 1,000 Americans die each day from COVID, when the death toll is about to reach 200,000, when more than six million Americans have been infected, and when millions more are worried about getting sick and dying as schools and businesses try to reopen. And we all know it didn’t have to be this bad. It didn’t have to be this bad if the president just did his job.
 
If he just took this virus seriously early on in January and February as it spread around the globe.
 
If he just took the steps we needed back in March and April to institute widespread testing and tracing to control the spread.
 
If he provided clear, national, and science-based guidance to state and local authorities, and if he had just set a good example like social distancing and mask wearing. Not that much to ask.
 
But it’s almost like he doesn’t care because it doesn’t affect him and his class of friends.
 
Anyone with a big enough checkbook can get a rapid test on demand. 
 
If you don’t, you might have to wait in line for hours and weeks for results — if you can get a test at all. 
 
If you have the kind of job where you can work on your laptop — at home, or remotely — your risk of getting COVID at work is small. 
 
This jobs report shows that 37 million workers reported teleworking in August. 
 
But if you work on an assembly line or at a checkout counter orat a meat packing plant, or if you drive a truck or deliver packages — you’re at greater risk. 
 
And the jobs report shows that more than 24 million workers reported that they couldn’t work or lost hours because their employer had to close or lost business due to the pandemic.
 
If you can hire a private tutor, or have live-in child care, you can balance being a parent and remote schooling.
 
If you can’t, you have to do your job and be a teacher all at once.
 
Jill and I just held a briefing on reopening schools safely two days ago, asking the questions we hear from so many parents and educators who feel like they are in an impossible situation: What are we supposed to do with our children when the president has made it so hard for schools to reopen safely? 
 
What’s the alternative when it’s devastating to keep them isolated from their friends and support system?
 
I also said earlier this week, to the shock of many, that we have lost more cops this year to covid than when they’re on patrol. 
 
It’s a reminder how a dangerous job — law enforcement — has gotten more dangerous due to Trump’s mismanagement.
 
What may be just as shocking as that is many other jobs have also become dangerous due to Covid.
 
Being a health care worker is now more dangerous than ever — we’ve lost hundreds of them this year because they weren’t protected from COVID on the job.
 
Being a meat packer is more dangerous — so many have died due to getting COVID at work.
 
Work for waiters and waitresses and transit workers has all become more dangerous with so many dying of COVID.
 
Ladies and gentlemen, no matter what he says or what he claims, you are not safer in Donald Trump’s America. You are not safe in Trump’s America where people are dying at a rate last seen when Americans were fighting in World War II.
 
Donald Trump’s malpractice during this pandemic has made being a working American life-or-death work. 
 
And while there’s a disproportionate impact on Black, Latino, Asian American, and Native American working class communities — white working class communities are being hit hard, too.
 
Opioid deaths, for example, are up during the pandemic —another crisis that President Trump all but ignores. 
 
In the meantime, Trump and his friends have strong views about what the rest of America should do:
 
Cut unemployment benefits to force people to go back on their jobs.
 
Defund Social Security and eliminate Obamacare — in the middle of a pandemic.
 
Reopen public schools without resources or guidance.
 
Reopen businesses without protection for workers so corporations can continue to soar
 
This is their plan?
 
Second, and similarly, the economic pain remains unrelenting for millions of working people of every race and background who aren’t getting the relief they need.
 
Meanwhile the wealthy are doing just fine, if not better than ever.
 
This divergence in fortune is unique to any recession in recent memory.
 
And the painful truth is we have a president who just doesn’t see it.
 
Who doesn’t feel it. Who doesn’t understand. He just  doesn’t care.
 
He thinks if the stock market is up, then everything is great.
 
If his rich friends and donors are doing well, then everyone is doing well.
 
If corporations see their valuations rising — then they must be hiring.
 
But even the best economists know what I know growing up in neighborhoods in Scranton, Pennsylvania and Claymont, Delaware — places where folks aren’t invested in the market like wealthier Americans.
 
The measure of our economic success is the quality of life of the American people. And if our stocks soar as families teeter on the brink of hunger and homelessness — and our president calls that a success — what does that say about what he values?
 
When you see the world in such a narrow way, it’s no wonder he doesn’t see the nearly 30 million Americans on unemployment, and 1 in 6 small businesses that are closed right now.
 
He doesn’t understand what life is like for people walking by their boarded up shop —
educators afraid that doing the job they love will bring the virus home to the people they love —
or a parent searching for health insurance now that the furlough has turned into a layoff.
 
It’s no wonder he doesn’t see the single mom forced to wait in a three-hour food line for the first time in her life because she’s now part of a record 1 in 6 households with children that don’t have enough food to eat.
 
He wants us to believe that we’re doing better — to keep it up while we’re still in a deep, deep hole —and our country faces a historic divergence in our way of life.

Which gets to my third point and final point — and what the American people really need to understand — all the pain and suffering stems from President Trump’s failure to lead.
 
His sheer inability and unwillingness to bring people together.
 
He likes to sign executive actions for photo ops. But they are ill-conceived and could do more harm than good.
 
He says he is protecting renters from eviction, but he’s not giving them any support to pay their rent.
 
Millions of Americans will ultimately be left with a terrible choice between eviction and living on the street — or paying back rent they simply don’t have. 
 
He says he is continuing to provide enhanced unemployment insurance payments — but he cut the amount for everyone on it and will leave them on the edge when it runs out in a few weeks or sooner.
 
What he should be doing is calling Congressional leaders together — immediately — to get a deal that delivers real relief to the American people.
 
If I were president, that’s what I would do — and I’d get it done.
 
Rental, food, unemployment assistance to tens of millions of struggling Americans.
 
Student loan relief, small business support, and aid to schools and state governments. And as long as this pandemic and the accompanying economic catastrophe persist, no one should have their water or their power cut off because they can’t afford to pay the bill.

Bottom line, Mr. President — do your job. 
 
Get off your golf course and out of the sand bunker. Call the leaders of Congress together. Get them into the Oval Office. Make a deal that delivers for working people. 
 
In July, I laid out my Build Back Better plan for an economy that works for everyone.
 
Over the next three weeks, I will be laying out the sharp contrast with President Trump.
 
I’ll be asking the American people three basic questions: Who can handle the pandemic? Who can keep their promises? Who cares about and will fight for working families?
 
Like the people here at West End. Throughout this pandemic, they found a way to keep the center open safely to provide their critical services.
 
No one was laid off. They adjusted their space for social distancing. They started a lending program to help local small businesses.
 
They continued their child care services, which is critical for so many working families. By pure courage, heart and gut, they never give up and they never give in as they pursue the full promise of America.
 
That’s the story of the people of this community and of this country. That’s who we are.
 
Give ordinary Americans just a half a chance and they will do extraordinary things.
 
They’ll never let America down — and unlike the current President — I won’t either.
 
That’s what this election is about.
 
Thank you.
 
I’ll take your questions.

Tammy Duckworth Tells DNC: ‘As President, Joe Biden would never let tyrants manipulate him like a puppet’

Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, speaking to the Democratic National Convention, offered some of the most damning accusations against the incumbent Donald Trump, calling him “Coward-in-Chief who won’t stand up to Vladamir Putin, read his daily intelligence briefings or even publicly admonish adversaries for reportedly putting bounties on our troops’ heads.” She said, “As President, Joe Biden would never let tyrants manipulate him like a puppet. He would never pervert our military to stroke his own ego. He would never turn his back on our troops or threaten them against Americans peacefully exercising their Constitutional rights. Joe Biden would stand up for what’s right… stand tall for our troops… and stand strong against our enemies. Because unlike Trump, Joe Biden has common decency.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, who lost both legs when the helicopter she was piloting was shot down in Iraq, addressed the Democratic National Convention on Joe Biden’s longtime and genuine support for active military, their families, and veterans, both because he lived the experience and because he brings a genuine compassion, dignity, integrity to leadership. She offered some of the most damning accusations against the incumbent Donald Trump, calling him “Coward-in-Chief who won’t stand up to Vladamir Putin, read his daily intelligence briefings or even publicly admonish adversaries for reportedly putting bounties on our troops’ heads.

“As President, Joe Biden would never let tyrants manipulate him like a puppet.
He would never pervert our military to stroke his own ego. He would never turn his back on our troops or threaten them against Americans peacefully exercising their Constitutional rights. Joe Biden would stand up for what’s right… stand tall for our troops… and stand strong against our enemies. Because unlike Trump, Joe Biden has common decency.”
 
Here are Senator Duckworth’s highlighted remarks:

Good evening. I’m Tammy Duckworth.

When I first enlisted in the Army, I was eager to serve my country… yet anxious whether I’d be able to earn my way into the ranks.

But I earned my wings and later commanded my own air assault unit, learning that serving—and leading—in the military is both a privilege and a sacrifice. 

To be a commander, you must always put your Troops first—because one day, you may order them to sacrifice everything for our great nation.

To do that, leaders must command their Troops’ respect—and be worthy of their pledge to protect and defend our Constitution, no matter the cost. 

But military service doesn’t just take sacrifice from those in uniform—it’s required from their families, too.

My husband Bryan was the one who rushed to Walter Reed after I was wounded in Iraq. 

He was the one holding my hand, waiting for me to wake up… 

…when I finally did, he was my rock, getting me through those hours…  weeks… months of unspeakable pain and unending surgeries. 

He was my anchor as I relearned to walk, helping me through every step… every stumble.  

Our military spouses hold their families together… praying for their loved one’s safety wherever they’re deployed, serving as caregivers to our disabled servicemembers, then picking up the pieces and starting again whenever the next tour… or the next war… arises.

Joe Biden understands these sacrifices, because he’s made them himself. 

When his son Beau deployed to Iraq, his burden was also shouldered by his family. 

Joe knows the fear military families live with because he’s felt that dread of never knowing if your deployed loved one is safe. 

He understands their bravery because he had to muster that same strength every hour of every day Beau was overseas.

That’s the kind of leader our servicemembers deserve: one who understands the risks they face and who would actually protect them by doing his job as Commander-in-Chief.

Instead they have a Coward-in-Chief who won’t stand up to Vladamir Putin, read his daily intelligence briefings or even publicly admonish adversaries for reportedly putting bounties on our troops’ heads.

As President, Joe Biden would never let tyrants manipulate him like a puppet.

He would never pervert our military to stroke his own ego.

He would never turn his back on our troops or threaten them against Americans peacefully exercising their Constitutional rights.

Joe Biden would stand up for what’s right… stand tall for our troops… and stand strong against our enemies.

Because unlike Trump, Joe Biden has common decency. 

He has common sense.

He can command… from both experience and from strength.

Donald Trump doesn’t deserve to call himself Commander-in-Chief for another four minutes—let alone another four years.

Our troops deserve better.

Our country deserves better.


If you agree, text “MORE” to 3-0-3-3-0 to elect Joe Biden: a leader who actually cares enough about America to lead.

North Hempstead, Long Island, Commemorates Memorial Day

A dazzling fireworks display by Santore Fireworks went off without a hitch at North Hempstead Beach Park, despite a sudden hour-long downpour © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth and the Town Board hosted its annual the Memorial Day Fireworks and Commemoration Ceremony at North Hempstead Beach Park on Saturday, May 26.

“Each year we look forward to hosting our Memorial Day Fireworks Commemoration and Fireworks at North Hempstead Beach Park,” said Supervisor Bosworth. “This event serves to pay tribute to our veterans, active duty military personnel and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice fighting for our freedom.”

North Hempstead’s Memorial Day commemoration © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

A solemn and respectful commemoration ceremony attended by elected officials from the town, state and local villages, was followed by dazzling fireworks display by Santore Fireworks, musical entertainment from Wonderous Stories and special guests, including recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Denny Laine. After the fireworks, there will be a DJ performance.

During the ceremony, students from Carle Place High School sang the National Anthem and Cub Scouts from Pack 221 led the Pledge of Allegiance.

Here are highlights:

Elected officials from town, state and local government join in North Hempstead’s Memorial Day commemoration at North Hempstead Beach Park © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

North Hempstead’s Memorial Day commemoration © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Cub Scouts from Pack 221 lead the Pledge of Allegiance at North Hempstead’s Memorial Day commemoration at North Hempstead Beach Park © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

North Hempstead’s Memorial Day commemoration © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Veterans at North Hempstead’s Memorial Day commemoration © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

North Hempstead’s Memorial Day commemoration © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth presents proclamations to Pack 221 Cub Scouts at North Hempstead’s Memorial Day commemoration at North Hempstead Beach Park © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth presents proclamations to students from Carle Place High School who sang the National Anthem at North Hempstead’s Memorial Day commemoration at North Hempstead Beach Park © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Memorial Day commemoration fireworks at North Hempstead Beach Park © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

A dazzling fireworks display at North Hempstead Beach Park to celebrate Memorial Day © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Dignitaries Come out to Little Neck Queens 91st Memorial Day Parade, One of Largest in Nation, to Honor Fallen, Vets

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, NYC Public Advocate Tish James, among the dignitaries holding New York State banner at the 91st Annual Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Little Neck, Queen’s presented its 91st Memorial Day Parade, considered one of the largest, longest Memorial Day parades in the nation, with 161 entities participating.

This year’s parade commemorated the centennial of World War I,  65th year since the Korean War ceasefire, 50 years since 1968, the bloodiest year of the Vietnam War. Grand Marshal Brigadier General William Seely, USMC representing the Department of the Navy, the featured branch,  “protecting our shores for 243 years”. The Honorary Grand Marshal was Deborah Crosby, who in 2015, retrieved the remains of her father, Frederick Peter Crosby, USN, from Vietnam.

the 91st Annual Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Among the dignitaries: US Senator Charles Schumer, US Congressman Tom Suozzi, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli New York City Mayor Bill DiBlasio, NYC Public Advocate Leticia James, the Democratic candidate for New York Attorney General.

Elected officials and dignitaries at the 91st Annual Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Also, First United States Volunteer Cavalry “Rough Riders’” Color Guard; Grand Marshal Brigadier General William Seely, USMC representing the Department of the Navy.

US Congressman Tom Suozzi joins the Rough Riders at the 91st Annual Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“At a time when this country is so divided, when there is tension, we have a day where we can come together and remember what our freedom, our democracy is all about.

“This Memorial Day, as we spend time with friends and loved ones, we remember those New Yorkers, from the North Country to Staten Island, who gave their lives for our nation, our values, and our way of life. Our nation’s armed forces have displayed extraordinary courage and made unimaginable sacrifices answering the call to serve, and we owe our eternal gratitude to them and their families.”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo: “At a time when this country is so divided, when there is tension, we have a day where we can come together and remember what our freedom, our democracy is all about. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my sincerest thanks to the brave men and women who have served and continue to serve, and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice.  On this day – and every day – we commemorate those selfless heroes who laid down their lives to protect our freedom and our democracy.”

Here are highlights:

NYC Public Advocate Tish James with Teen and Jr. Teen New York . © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade marked the 65th year since the Korean War ceasefire, 50 years since 1968, the bloodiest year of the Vietnam War © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade marked the 65th year since the Korean War ceasefire, 50 years since 1968, the bloodiest year of the Vietnam War © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade, one of the largest in the nation © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade, one of the largest in the nation © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade, one of the largest in the nation © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Indigent Veterans Burial Fund contingent at 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade, one of the largest in the nation © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Luke G, who was at the Battle of the Bulge, a “young” 94 years old © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Marching for the Jewish War Veterans of Queens contingent at the 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

US Senator Charles Schumer at the 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Francis Lewis High School’s Jr. ROTC at the 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

New York City Mayor Bill DiBlasio at the 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Manhasset-Lakeville Volunteer FireFighters march in the 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Harvest Church of New York at the 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Daughters of the American Revolution at the 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Marching Band of Sullivan High School came from Sullivan, Missouri to march in the 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

For more information, visit www.lndmemorialday.org.

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

Foreign Policy Experts Nance, Stavridis Warn of Global, Domestic Threats to Democracy as Authoritarians Rise

Malcolm Nance (left), a renowned counter terrorism and intelligence consultant for the US government’s Special Operations, Homeland Security and Intelligence Operations, and 4-star Admiral James Stavridi (right)s who was the 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, engage in a dialogue on foreign policy moderated by Errol Louis, a political anchor at NY1 News, took place at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island on March 18, 2018. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

A dialogue between Malcolm Nance, a renowned counter terrorism and intelligence consultant for the US government’s Special Operations, Homeland Security and Intelligence Operations, and 4-star Admiral James Stavridis who was the 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, senior military assistant to the Secretary of the Navy and Secretary of Defense, moderated by Errol Louis, a political anchor at NY1 News, took place at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island on March 18, 2018. It proved to be a seminar on foreign policy, with some tough words for the need to defend democracy against a tide of anti-democratic, authoritarian forces both domestic and foreign. “We have to solve this –at the ballot box.” 

Here are highlights from the provocative discussion:

Errol Louis: Moderator: Both of you were at the Pentagon on 9/11; Nance was even an eyewitness. With the rise of terrorism, how safe are we? 

Malcolm Nance: Since 9/11, we went for a short while in the correct direction in counterterrorism, bringing the world together to confront global threat. Unfortunately the invasion of Iraq in 2003 broke the mechanisms in Mideast that were functioning – poorly, but indigenous – strongman dictators. Once we invaded, we unleashed demons we could not foresee. The ebb and flow of regional solutions all went out the window.

Before, the hardest problem was people trying to solve Palestinian problem. That’s nothing compared to radical Islam. You can negotiate with Palestinians, even Hamas, groups in Iran.

We have a bigger problem: just keeping the democratic norms in the world, not just US. Democracy as an ideology is now under attack, every day.

Admiral James Stavridis: I agree. Go back 100 years – 1918. The world is coming out of World War I, Spanish influenza pandemic sweeping, 40% of world’s population were infected, 20% of those will die. US walking away from Europe, isolating ourselves, rejects the League of Nations, erects enormous tariff barriers – cracked the global economy. You can drop a line from that to the rise of fascism and World War II. That is a dark global picture.

We have mechanisms to deal with many of the challenges but agree [with Nance] that the whole ideology of democracy is wrapped up in great power politics, the rise of two authoritarian figures- Putin [just “re-elected” to a fourth term]. President Xi Jinping isn’t even putting on faux election, he declared himself the new emperor. These authoritarian systems are a challenge to democracies in ways we haven’t dealt with in 100 years.

We have two other concerns: a new pandemic – don’t spend much time thinking – but every 100-200 years of human history, a pandemic rises, despite fact of enormous advances in medicine. We are due for one – ability to manipulate genome can allow dark dark work. [Consider how Trump has cut funding to the CDC, and would likely not step in to stop a new outbreak of Ebola or Zika outside the US.]

Our vulnerability is in cyber. We are utterly dependent on massive cyber systems. We are at great risk – that’s where the two strains – cyber vulnerability and way authoritarian regimes will come after us – those streams are crossing – we have work to do, tools,

So, how safe are we? We have challenges, but I am cautiously optimistic. The question is whether our democracy will put in the right people.

Louis: Pointing to [Trump’s] new direction in foreign policy [and the fact that the State Department is considering removing ‘human rights’ from its mission statement], why is it to our advantage to fight for democracy and human rights and why is this not a form of international charity? 

Nance: NATO, after World War II [was devised] to stop wars by creating a grand alliance – to spread that ideology around the world., not just American democracy, but allow others to develop their own form of republic, democratic governorship, whether a constitutional monarchy or a republic like France. That is under attack. Democracy is in retreat. ‘Democracy’ has been removed from mission statement of the State Department.

When we were struck on 9/11, it hurt me deeply – I spent my life in worst parts of world getting back. Now, that threat is from within – people in our country do not believe in democracy; autocracy, as being pushed by [Putin] former director of KGB, is better alternative to liberal democracy and European parliamentary democracy-Iit’s all under attack.

It is not a charity – America doesn’t do this as charity. We invented globalism – in WWII –we literally dropped it out of airplanes; people wanted our products at the end of war. Now people believe our system of economy is fundamentally wrong, NATO should be disbanded, the European Union should go away and every country in Europe should be its own autocracy with Moscow as polar center. There are people in US government who believe that.

Admiral Stavridis: “Why does democracy work? It’s not simply the value system. There’s a pragmatic element. With democracy, people [who are disaffected, aggrieved] get to change government peacefully – a safety value.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Stavridis: Why does democracy work? It’s not simply the value system. There’s a pragmatic element. With democracy, people [who are disaffected, aggrieved] get to change government peacefully – a safety value. That’s why we worry about authoritarianism –eventually [discontentment] will blow, and when that happens [authoritarian regimes] will go in search of monsters abroad, look for scapegoats, combat operations. We ought to be very concerned about authoritarianism.

What do we do about it? What’s our move? A couple of different things can do – continue to rely on a system of alliances – that’s why we should worry about tariff barriers, and walking away from NATO, that take global structures apart. We need to rely on those. We need to get vastly better at strategic communications, explaining our ideas. War of ideas? It’s a marketplace of ideas. We have to compete – democracy, liberty, freedom of speech, education, assembly, racial and gender equality – we execute them imperfectly but they are the right ideas. We have to communicate that in ways that get beyond ‘We have the right answer.’ Lay it out pragmatically: why it works. Because there are forces pushing against it.

Louis: Trump’s statements about NATO alarmed people, [yet] US deployed troops to Poland as part of NATO task force exercises. Is his rhetoric worse than reality?   

Stavridis: Candidate Trump said NATO was obsolete and he would consider pulling out altogether. Fortunately, on this subject, he [appears to have] listened to General Mattis, the Defense Secretary; General McMaster, National Security Adviser [so far], Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (oops). But on NATO, I am cautiously optimist he has gotten the message that NATO really works.

Nance: NATO is 28 nations, 52% of world’s GDP, 3 million troops under arms, 24,000 combat aircraft, 800 warships, 50 early warning aircraft – it is the richest, most powerful alliance in human history. US spends $600 billion/year on defense, the Europeans $300 billion. To put that into perspective, Russians spend $80 billion, Chinese $150 billion. We outspend in part because of our European allies – they should spend 2%, and are on track to do so in next 3-5 years. The alliance remains fundamental to US – it is pragmatic value for US to be in alliance.

Where did this idea come into Trump’s head that NATO wasn’t a good value, that US was connected to countries not paying their fair share? In November 2013, Trump went to Russia for the Miss Universe pageant and while he was there, he was brought to a private 2 hour meeting arranged by Aras Agalarov, [a billionaire Russian real estate mogul with ties to Putin] who funded the pageant, in a restaurant owned by Galaroff. [Trump] came out of that meeting spouting the Kremlin party line – anti-NATO, anti-globalization, anti European Union, anti treaties and alliances, believing that Russia is the premiere superpower. The only thing we don’t know is whether he believed it or whether some inducement got him to believe – he said it during campaign. Now he seems to have some change of view. NATO [which Admiral Stavridis once commanded] unilaterally evoked Article 5 after [the US was attacked on] 9/11 – for 10 years they gave their blood and treasure to defense of this nation. This is the single greatest force for good since world War II. Russia wants to do away with NATO – they call us Atlanticist, globalist – their philosopher Aleksandr Gelyevich Dugin [who holds fascist views] convinced Steve Bannon, almost the Goebels of the anti-democratic movement, goes around the world, trains, help foster other countries to believe the Atlantic alliance is the problem in the eastern and western hemisphere.

Stavridis: Why NATO matters: 1) The values we share. We will never see another pool of partners who have these values. It is no coincidence because [the Founding Fathers] got them from Europe, from the Enlightenment. 2) The geographic position of Europe matters – why we need those Cold War bases in Europe – those are forward operating stations in the global war on terror 3) It’s the economy and trade between US and the NATO countries.

Also, when I commanded 150,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, the nation that lost the most on a per capita basis was Estonia. Number 2 was the Netherlands. The US was number 3. They were with us in that fight because we had been attacked on 9/11. This is an alliance that stands and delivers for us. (applause)

Louis: What does [Trump’s] firing of [Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson mean in the broader sense. Is it deliberate, a competence question, a larger crisis, an administration not executing?

Stavridis: When Secretary Tillerson got the job, I thought it was a good choice –a  global businessman, contacts all over the world, quiet, laconic, very serious Texan, tough minded. I thought it an interesting choice, it might turn out well. But Tillerson simply was not a very effective Secretary of State. He couldn’t gain real connectivity in the White House – in a state of constant chaos. How can you be Secretary of State for a president who one minute, says, ‘We will solve Korea with fire and fury like never seen – a preemptive declaration of war –and three months later, be ready to go and cut ‘the deal of the century’ – a defensible policy choices but not for same person. So to be Secretary of State trying to articulating that –the work of Sisyphus, boulder rolling down. As a result, morale in the State Department cratered, applications for foreign service are down 50% in the last 2 years. You don’t get that back –you  lose a generation if you can’t fill those slots, let alone, not filling crucial ambassadorships [including South Korea]. This is as bleak a moment for American diplomacy. A chaotic inexperienced White House that sadly doesn’t seem to be getting better in 14 months (feels like 14 yrs).

Malcolm Nance: “Trump thinks diplomacy is a big stick. His way of negotiating is threatening..A generation [of diplomats] is gone. Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams –our first 3 ambassadors – must be spinning in their graves.”
Nance: It appears diplomacy has shifted over to war fighters. Trump thinks diplomacy is not speaking, thinks diplomacy is a big stick, and if everyone sees us as a big stick nation, there will be no communications. The acting Secretary of State is technically Ivanka Trump –Trump is using Ivanka and Jared as an alternate State Department because Trump doesn’t know what the state department is, what diplomacy is. His way of negotiating is threatening –he sees no value in the institution or maintaining. [He is defunding the State Department, institutes]. But the institutes (nongovernmental) are there to help foster democracy and republicanism within countries. They brought about change in countries that would otherwise become a dictatorship – gone. A generation [of diplomats] is gone. Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams –our first 3 ambassadors – must be spinning in their graves.

Louis: Will the opening of US embassy in Jerusalem bring about a cataclysm?

Nance:  It could happen. What’s happening in Mideast – so much change, dynamics. You can even see in how the Israeli-Palestinian problem is pushed off – rise of Iran, Syria, Turks invading northern Syria and setting up against the entirety of Kurds (who we fund), Yemen. Palestine-Israel conflict is the ‘good ol days.’. When the deed is done, and US embassy is moved, Saudis may give head tilt to that. I don’t know if there will be another intifada – the strings were cut after the Iraq invasion.

Stavridis: These kinds of conflicts – religious with a geopolitical overlay – are very dug in, and go on and on. The really bad news is that in middle is our greatest friend and ally in the region, Israel.

What should we do? Four things: stand with Israel – (applause)- the reasons are pragmatic, values, all the same things that make us want to be in NATO, should energize our alliance with Israel – 2) Need to work closely with Sunnis (Saudi Arabia, Gulf States, Egypt, Jordan). The Saudis are giving head nod on the peace plan, drawing closer to Israel, willing to exchange information, intelligence, missile defense, early warning. Why? because both are concerned about Iran (which is Shi’a). We ought to understand the Iranian self-view: we think of them as mid-size power, they think of themselves as inheritors of the Persian Empire which 2000 years ago, dominated the region. That’s what they want to reconstruct. Working with Israel, alliances, better in cyber, insuring missile defense strong, stand with Israel.

Louis: How to address the humanitarian disaster in Syria, knowing Russia is smack in the middle?

Nance: We had the opportunity to crack this nut in 2012 after Assad’s chemical attack. I advocated then to destroy the Syrian air force utterly – that’s the strategic advantage Syria has over the allies. Then you have put Israel in powerful position; limits Iranian involvement (because they won’t have a runway to land), and gives opportunity to show Arab States here is a chance to use ground forces to do humanitarian intervention. Arab League, Egyptians, Jordanians, Saudis have enough forces to be in Damascus in 72 hours out of northern Jordan. But so long as Russia backed and Syria can resist, won’t do it.

Stavridis: We last saw a problem like Syria in the Balkans, 20 years ago: Yugoslavia blew up – forced migrations, 100,000s killed – like Mideast – Catholic Croatians, Orthodox Serbians and Muslim Bosnians – a religious war with geopolitical overtones that was ultimately solved by partition. Yugoslavia was  broken apart and created sub-states. That was imperfect but at the end of the day, that is what will happen in Syria – it is broken now, and won’t go back- that’s 3-5 years away.

Why is Iran in Syria? Iran wants a land bridge so it can move missiles and fighters from Tehran to Lebanon because that endangers Israel. That’s why we need to move to international solution that somewhat marginalizes Iranian influence – can do with leverage over Russia – the White House needs to get tough on Russia. 

Louis: China. The notion they now have a president for life there, with no mechanism to change leadership – if there are internal problems, if there is a falling out within society or economy or ideology in a bad place, what happens?

Stavridis: The good news is that China will continue to grow at 5%. If they do, the population will stay relatively quiescent. But China’s road gets rough in out years- demographics – an aging population, the imbalance between men and women created by the One-Child policy which led to killing baby girls. We’ve never seen a society as ill balanced. Plus, China’s environment is disaster, requiring billions if not trillions to remediate. The housing market is overheated (reminiscent of 2008 in US). With no democracy, there is no way to relieve the pressure. Xi will have smooth run for awhile, but it gets rough in 5-10 years. That’s when we should worry about Chinese foreign policy that is nationalistic, seeks to find a scapegoat outside, and look for conflict in South China Sea. (See the movie, “The Last Emperor,” about Puyi and read Robert Kaplan’s, Asia’s Cauldron”.)

Errol Louis: What is Putin’s end game? © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Louis: What is Putin’s end game?

Nance: Putin has imperial goals – Atlantic Alliance between Washington and European states has since WWII brought economic, cultural influences Russia cannot stand – They believe it has marginalized Russia’s limited economic power.  All the good that has come from NATO, the EU single market, the US flow of traffic across Atlantic does no benefit to Moscow. Putin realizes that 75% of Russians live in the European part (75% of land in Asia). He believes Russia should be the pole in which Europe should do trade – EurAsianism. He is ruling more like Czar Nicolas I – religious orthodoxy, nationalism, autocracy (while France was creating fraternity, liberty, equality). Russia is buying every conservative, neoNazi group in Europe – owned, lock stock and barrel by Moscow.

Last march, for the second time in American history, France saved democracy – had Marine Le Pen won, France would have withdrawn from NATO,broken up the European Union and aligned France with Moscow, bringing along everyone to Moscow.

Stavridis: Putin’s end game: H will be the dominant force in Russia until the day he dies, and Russians accept it. This is Russian custom, history, culture.  Read literature- Dostevsky, Pushkin – how Russians look at powerful male leaders. Sometimes they get a Peter the Great, the next time Ivan the Terrible; sometimes get Stalin, but then get a Gorbachev – they are willing to roll the dice. But the dice have landed on Putin, he will not give up power. We have to deal with this operative. I met Putin a couple of times. Bush Jr. met Putin and was completely taken –he said, ‘I looked into his eyes and saw his soul. We can work with Putin.’ McCain, a true war hero, met with Putin  and said, ‘I saw 3 letters: K-G-B.’ I think McCain got that one right – and that’s what we will deal with.”

Q&A

Is climate change a national security issue?

Stavridis: Climate change is a significant national security threat. Because of global warming, ice is melting in the Arctic, opening up shipping lanes and hydrocarbons, creating a great power competition – on one side is Russia, on the other side US, Canada, Iceland, Norway – they are all NATO; 2) Rising sea levels gradually affect our ports, our ability to operate in major naval bases and ports 3) Global warming will impact our ability to operate globally because of cost – we will have to mediate against environmental concerns, which will put downward pressure on defense budgets 4) What should worry us most is that as oceans heat up, photosynthesis is diminished affecting oxygen in the atmosphere. Vice President Gore called the Amazon the lungs of the earth; Nope, 70% of oxygen comes from photosynthesis in oceans, and we are abusing them. These are major national security concerns.

What if in the next few months Trump abrogates the Iran Nuclear Treaty?

Stavridis: I expect Trump to abrogate the Iran Nuclear Treaty. 1) That will have chilling effect on negotiations with North Korea – they are unlikely to enter into grand bargain having just witnessed the abrogation of the Iran treaty. 2) Iranians will almost immediately restart their nuclear program – they are probably in primed position to do so. 3) The treaty is not perfect but ending it will put Israel at greater risk because of re-energization of the Iranian nuclear program 4) Allies will be furious, it will put enormous strains on the NATO alliance, and probably not lead to European allies walking away, so US will become even more of an outlier. I wasn’t a fan initially – it isn’t a good/bad deal, it is a done deal, the best we could have at this point.

Nance: I spoke with a senior briefer at CIA who briefed Obama on the details that convinced Obama to sign the Iran Nuclear Treaty: The way the agency assessed, Iran was 6-12 months away from developing an atomic bomb, but with the treaty, Iran gave up all components, 90% of its enriched nuclear material and was pushed back 15 years We do not want a war with Iran. Why would we put ourselves in a position to give Iran the ability to have a nuclear weapon? There is no limit to the mischief that would create. And if [unleashed], Iran would go straight to North Korea with $ millions to buy a nuclear weapon.

Malcolm Nance, Errol Louis, Admiral James Stavridis and Rabbi Stephen S. Widom who hosts the Cultural Arts events at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

How to solve the humanitarian disaster that is Syria?

Stavridis: A combination of defense, diplomacy, development – hard and soft power. [This was shown to work in Colombia, after a 60-year insurgency that destroyed the fabric of the country; and the Balkans.] You don’t have to choose hard or soft  power. So often, the long game is combination of all those tools – development, diplomacy and defense when need it – to get balance right, requires leadership. We are very good at launching missiles. We need to get better at launching ideas. We can do both. (Applause)

Nance: That’s smart power. We are a global force for good but have to be global force for diplomacy.

Considering the hollowing out of our diplomatic forces to the benefit of Putin, [possible collusion] in cyberwarfare, why is there reluctance to use the word ‘treason’ in regard to Trump?

Nance: There is a legal definition – Article 3 – to ‘treason.’ You literally have to be at declared war with an enemy and give aid and comfort to enemy. That is rarely invoked – we have sent people to prison for espionage, divulging secrets but the last time anyone was tried for treason was the Rosenbergs. I don’t think that word applies legally – from what we’ve seen.  Where the president violated his oath of office,  you can use ‘treason’ rhetorically if you feel betrayed, or ‘treachery’. I don’t think will be able to use ‘treason’ in legal sense . this investigation started as national counter intel – a spy hunt – still a hunt for citizens in direct communications with foreign intel officers.

What check is there on this president who many think is a madman, is the military prepared to step in and save democracy? 

Stavridis: ‘I solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic – no expiration. The military isn’t going to step in and solve this. We have to solve this –at the ballot box. In 1840, Alexis de Toqueville wrote about this strange new phenomenon of democracy. He was largely laudatory, but the punch line: ‘the tragedy of democracy is that in the end you elect the government you deserve.’ We need to own this problem. No one will solve it for us. We need to get out in November, and again two years later, and we can solve this problem.

Nance: We have entered the greatest period of political activism – I believe it will even eclipse the Vietnam era – 1968. But since World War II, we have gotten fat and lazy and enjoy fruits of democracy.

We have guardrails – you have 246 days to solve part of this problem – but to do that you have to bring yourself and everyone who has not voted in last election.

The military is not designed for coup d’etat. We would really be a third world banana republic. But we can stop stupid – unlawful orders.

Emperor Xi. China building pipelines through Africa into the Stans, helping China, become #1 in world, developing 5G. How will that affect us?

Stavridis: China historically has not had global ambition, but 16 months ago, President Xi gave a “coming out speech” at Davos for China in the 21st century: One belt, one road philosophy – using economic power to further the interests of China. China just built its first overseas military base, at the Horn of Africa. China is on the move. When historians 300 years from how write about the 21st century, how that story comes out will be US and China and the rise of India. We need to be mindful of China, align with India, hold close our global allies, help develop this hemisphere to the south of US. That ought to be our strategy. And China should be top of the list to watch.

Nance: If this administration would understand strategy: China is brilliant. Go to sub-Saharan Africa –that used to be the land of the Land Rover, then Toyota, now you see Chinese Long March and Running Deer pick ups – they are $2000-$5000 but are everywhere. China is colonizing the sub-Sahara economically– buying whole sub-sections of countries to ship food to China. If China develops 5G cell telephone networks before the US gets it into Manhattan, China can export worldwide and own global communications. China is building wind plants, is now the world’s largest producer of solar panels (an industry we used to own). Without a strategy, where you think about where we are, where we will go and put together government resources to get there, we are dead in water. And that requires diplomats.

To what do you attribute Iran’s vitriolic hatred for Israel?

Nance:  Iranians love America –they are held down by an authoritarian regime using Islamic fundamentalism which the bottom 20% believe, not the people who used to run the country or could be, not the youth who all want what all in the Mideast want – a 2018 Toyota Corolla – they want trade, to be involved with world. Hatred for Israel is a schtick.  They don’t really care – they care about religion, family and to be left alone to do what they want. If they see a threat to Al Aksa mosque, they will respond. Palestinians smartest arabs in mide, most educated – everywhere but Palestine – if I were them, would work out public-private partnership to rebuild Palestine as moderate state, so don’t get Islamic cultism of ISIS. If that happens, will be zombie scene, walk into guns. Hopefully Saudi Arabia will focus away from ‘Death to Israel.’

What is impact of Erdogan of Turkey turning his back on western values toward Islamic fundamentalism?

Stavridis: President Erdogan, an authoritarian, is consolidating power rapidly, the most accelerated of all the authoritarian leaders in having taken his nation from functioning secular democracy to one man rule in 5 years. Extraordinary. The bad news is that Turkey is vital to Europe, to US. We need a stable western-looking Turkey – now drifting out of our orbit. We should pay attention, show respect, send high level missions, but behind closed doors, convince Erdogan the trajectory he is on will isolate his nation,. He will never have cozy relationship with Russia or Iran – that won’t work for Turkey. Turkey understands that at a fundamental level. We need to work with Europeans to exert pull on Turkey also. Turkey is more than a bridge (between Asia and Europe), it is a center of power – its population will exceed Russia’s. Turkey is on the move. We need to keep them in our orbit.

The intel community wanted the $120 million appropriated by Congress to fend off cyberattacks on our electoral system. Homeland security issued an alert that Russians already in our computers that run powerplants, and now could turn off electricity. What do we do about that?

Stavridis: We need to reveal more about what we know, to underpin the argument for retaliation –so we can be more aggressive in how we retaliate. We need better private-public cooperation. Government can’t solve this by itself – all our electric grids are intertwined. We have got to get government agencies working together on cyber – agriculture, interior – nobody is focused on cybersecurity.

Considering the rise of authoritarians, what happens If in the next 3 months, Trump fires Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, and a new one fires Mueller. Will Trump be impeached? 

Nance: Trump won’t be impeached before November. But we have guardrails. John Dean said that the day after Nixon fired Watergate investigators, the rest were still at work, he just fired the leadership. If Trump fires [Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein] (and [Special Counsel Robert] Muller), he would have sealed his doom about obstruction of justice and the investigation will continue

Stavridis: I believe Congress, including enough Republicans, would respond – not impeach, but there would be a [Constitutional] crisis and the guardrails would kick in.

In the present nuclear environment, is the doctrine of mutually assured destruction still relevant?

Stavridis: Yes.

_____________________________

© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Trump Outlines ‘New’ Strategy for Afghanistan: ‘We are not nation-building.. We are killing terrorists [and extracting mineral wealth].’

Donald Trump outlines “new” strategy for Afghanistan in a speech before troops at Fort Myer, in Arlington, Virginia on Monday, August 22. © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

In a speech delivered before an audience of troops at Fort Myer, in Arlington, Virginia on Monday, August 22, Donald Trump outlined his ‘new’ strategy for Afghanistan. Most of it may have been new to Trump, but was not actually new, except in one respect: he said that “economic development” of Afghanistan would be conducted in such a way as “to help defray the cost of this war to us.”  

This is the crux of the “New Strategy” and is the reason that Trump is stepping up in Afghanistan: he has realized that there is mineral wealth in Afghanistan, and, as he said of Iraq – that the US should have taken the oil because “to the victor belongs the spoils” – he was angered that China is in Afghanistan extracting mineral resources. And that’s the basis for not disclosing how he intends to increase military presence in Afghanistan: the likelihood is Trump is making a deal with his donor and supporter, Erik Prince who leads Blackwater USA, now known as Academi, a company that provides mercenaries (and was responsible for murdering 17 Iraq civilians). I am betting he intends to “privatize” the protection of US companies taking out Afghan mineral wealth.

Secondly, Trump on the one hand calls upon NATO allies to step up, even though he has dissed them and dismissed them, insulted and attacked nuclear-armed Pakistan (you are either on the side of ‘civilization’ or ….) and called upon nuclear-armed India, Pakistan’s arch enemy, to step up, as well, under threat of economic retribution, using Trump’s singular, transactional approach to everything issue. 

He said that he would use all the tools in the tool bag, except that he has castrated the State Department, making any diplomatic solution an improbability. Because his aim is to widen military action, to refocus attention on Afghanistan (the good war), so that he can get credit as a war president. 

Claiming he was dealt a bad hand, he asserted, “I’m a problem solver.” But in this speech, outlining his “new strategy,” he takes ownership of the war in Afghanistan. 

Here are his remarks, highlighted and annotated: 

9:02 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  Please be seated.

Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Tillerson, members of the Cabinet, General Dunford, Deputy Secretary Shanahan, and Colonel Duggan.  Most especially, thank you to the men and women of Fort Myer and every member of the United States military at home and abroad.

We send our thoughts and prayers to the families of our brave sailors who were injured and lost after a tragic collision at sea, as well as to those conducting the search and recovery efforts.

[Had there been this many fatal accidents-four Navy ships in collisions so far in 2017, fatal crashes of Black Hawk helicopters, soldiers killed in ill-conceived military actions – the right-wing would have been demanding Obama resign as Commander-in-Chief.]

I am here tonight to lay out our path forward in Afghanistan and South Asia.  But before I provide the details of our new strategy, I want to say a few words to the servicemembers here with us tonight, to those watching from their posts, and to all Americans listening at home.

Since the founding of our republic, our country has produced a special class of heroes whose selflessness, courage, and resolve is unmatched in human history.

American patriots from every generation have given their last breath on the battlefield for our nation and for our freedom.  Through their lives — and though their lives were cut short, in their deeds they achieved total immortality.

By following the heroic example of those who fought to preserve our republic, we can find the inspiration our country needs to unify, to heal, and to remain one nation under God.

The men and women of our military operate as one team, with one shared mission, and one shared sense of purpose. 

They transcend every line of race, ethnicity, creed, and color to serve together — and sacrifice together — in absolutely perfect cohesion.  That is because all servicemembers are brothers and sisters.  They’re all part of the same family; it’s called the American family.  They take the same oath, fight for the same flag, and live according to the same law.  They are bound together by common purpose, mutual trust, and selfless devotion to our nation and to each other.

 

The soldier understands what we, as a nation, too often forget that a wound inflicted upon a single member of our community is a wound inflicted upon us all.  When one part of America hurts, we all hurt.  And when one citizen suffers an injustice, we all suffer together. 

[Clearly reading telepromter speech written for him, as he did in the Charlottesville speech that he contradicted in the next day’s press conference.]

Loyalty to our nation demands loyalty to one another.  Love for America requires love for all of its people.  When we open our hearts to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice, no place for bigotry, and no tolerance for hate. 

[This from Trump who has said that transgender soldiers will no longer be allowed to serve; who has said that non-citizen soldiers will no longer be granted citizenship for their service.]

The young men and women we send to fight our wars abroad deserve to return to a country that is not at war with itself at home.  We cannot remain a force for peace in the world if we are not at peace with each other.

As we send our bravest to defeat our enemies overseas — and we will always winlet us find the courage to heal our divisions within.  Let us make a simple promise to the men and women we ask to fight in our name that, when they return home from battle, they will find a country that has renewed the sacred bonds of love and loyalty that unite us together as one. 

Thanks to the vigilance and skill of the American military and of our many allies throughout the world, horrors on the scale of September 11th — and nobody can ever forget that — have not been repeated on our shores.

But we must also acknowledge the reality I am here to talk about tonight:  that nearly 16 years after September 11th attacks, after the extraordinary sacrifice of blood and treasure, the American people are weary of war without victory.  Nowhere is this more evident than with the war in Afghanistan, the longest war in American history — 17 years.

I share the American people’s frustration.  I also share their frustration over a foreign policy that has spent too much time, energy, money, and most importantly lives, trying to rebuild countries in our own image, instead of pursuing our security interests above all other considerations. 

[This is the America First theme.]

That is why, shortly after my inauguration, I directed Secretary of Defense Mattis and my national security team to undertake a comprehensive review of all strategic options in Afghanistan and South Asia.

My original instinct was to pull out — and, historically, I like following my instincts.  But all my life I’ve heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office; in other words, when you’re President of the United States.  

[Like health care, who knew Afghanistan could be complicated and that what you criticized others for their ‘ineptitude’ was in fact the best course at the time?]

So I studied Afghanistan in great detail and from every conceivable angle.  After many meetings, over many months, we held our final meeting last Friday at Camp David, with my Cabinet and generals, to complete our strategy.  I arrived at three fundamental conclusions about America’s core interests in Afghanistan.

First, our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives.  The men and women who serve our nation in combat deserve a plan for victory.  They deserve the tools they need, and the trust they have earned, to fight and to win.

Second, the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable.  9/11, the worst terrorist attack in our history, was planned and directed from Afghanistan because that country was ruled by a government that gave comfort and shelter to terrorists.  A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists, including ISIS and al Qaeda, would instantly fill, just as happened before September 11th.

And, as we know, in 2011, America hastily and mistakenly withdrew from Iraq.  As a result, our hard-won gains slipped back into the hands of terrorist enemies.  Our soldiers watched as cities they had fought for, and bled to liberate, and won, were occupied by a terrorist group called ISIS.  The vacuum we created by leaving too soon gave safe haven for ISIS to spread, to grow, recruit, and launch attacks.  We cannot repeat in Afghanistan the mistake our leaders made in Iraq.

[Once again: US pull out from Iraq was negotiated by George W. Bush because Iraq refused to give immunity to US soldiers.]

Third and finally, I concluded that the security threats we face in Afghanistan and the broader region are immense.  Today, 20 U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan — the highest concentration in any region anywhere in the world. 

[Oh, you mean not Iraq? And yet, Afghanistan and Pakistan are not on Trump’s travel ban.]  

For its part, Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror.  The threat is worse because Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral into conflict.  And that could happen.

No one denies that we have inherited a challenging and troubling situation in Afghanistan and South Asia, but we do not have the luxury of going back in time and making different or better decisions.

[“Blame Obama” meme.]

When I became President, I was given a bad and very complex hand, but I fully knew what I was getting into:  big and intricate problems.  But, one way or another, these problems will be solved — I’m a problem solver — and, in the end, we will win.

[Actually, Obama dealt an even worse hand.] 

We must address the reality of the world as it exists right now — the threats we face, and the confronting of all of the problems of today, and extremely predictable consequences of a hasty withdrawal.

We need look no further than last week’s vile, vicious attack in Barcelona to understand that terror groups will stop at nothing to commit the mass murder of innocent men, women and children.  You saw it for yourself.  Horrible.

As I outlined in my speech in Saudi Arabia three months ago, America and our partners are committed to stripping terrorists of their territory, cutting off their funding, and exposing the false allure of their evil ideology.

Terrorists who slaughter innocent people will find no glory in this life or the next.  They are nothing but thugs, and criminals, and predators, and — that’s right — losers.  Working alongside our allies, we will break their will, dry up their recruitment, keep them from crossing our borders, and yes, we will defeat them, and we will defeat them handily.

In Afghanistan and Pakistan, America’s interests are clear: We must stop the resurgence of safe havens that enable terrorists to threaten America, and we must prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists and being used against us, or anywhere in the world for that matter.

But to prosecute this war, we will learn from history.  As a result of our comprehensive review, American strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia will change dramatically in the following ways:

A core pillar of our new strategy is a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions.  I’ve said it many times how counterproductive it is for the United States to announce in advance the dates we intend to begin, or end, military options.  We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities.

Conditions on the ground — not arbitrary timetables — will guide our strategy from now on.  America’s enemies must never know our plans or believe they can wait us out.  I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will.

[Not new, except for Trump who as candidate had said would end US occupation and years before, had attacked Obama for not drawing down soldiers “years ago”: it is the George W. Bush “strategy”. And timetables were not arbitrary, and were adjusted based on conditions on the ground, as Obama stated when he added personnel to Afghanistan.]

Another fundamental pillar of our new strategy is the integration of all instruments of American power — diplomatic, economic, and military — toward a successful outcome.

[Also not ‘new’ but also not true: Trump has dismantled the State Department’s apparatus to address these global threats diplomatically, actually shut down the Iraq and Afghanistan desk, has no experts left in State Department, and is cutting State Department budget by more than 30%.]

Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but nobody knows if or when that will ever happen.

[Guess that’s where leadership comes in.]

America will continue its support for the Afghan government and the Afghan military as they confront the Taliban in the field.

Ultimately, it is up to the people of Afghanistan to take ownership of their future, to govern their society, and to achieve an everlasting peace.  We are a partner and a friend, but we will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live, or how to govern their own complex society.  We are not nation-building again.  We are killing terrorists.

The next pillar of our new strategy is to change the approach and how to deal with Pakistan.  We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond.  Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan.  It has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists.

In the past, Pakistan has been a valued partner.  Our militaries have worked together against common enemies.  The Pakistani people have suffered greatly from terrorism and extremism.  We recognize those contributions and those sacrifices.

But Pakistan has also sheltered the same organizations that try every single day to kill our people.  We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting.  But that will have to change, and that will change immediately.  No partnership can survive a country’s harboring of militants and terrorists who target U.S. servicemembers and officials.  It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order, and to peace.

[‘Civilization’ in this context means, “The West,” as in Islamists are barbarians and the West are civilized. This is throwing down the gauntlet to Pakistan, and Trump is doing it by simultaneously threatening India, Pakistan’s arch-enemy which is also a nuclear power, to confront Pakistan.]

Another critical part of the South Asia strategy for America is to further develop its strategic partnership with India — the world’s largest democracy and a key security and economic partner of the United States.  We appreciate India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan, but India makes billions of dollars in trade with the United States, and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development.  We are committed to pursuing our shared objectives for peace and security in South Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region.

[Once again, Trump’s entire hand depends on economic extortion.]

Finally, my administration will ensure that you, the brave defenders of the American people, will have the necessary tools and rules of engagement to make this strategy work, and work effectively and work quickly.

I have already lifted restrictions the previous administration placed on our warfighters that prevented the Secretary of Defense and our commanders in the field from fully and swiftly waging battle against the enemy.  Micromanagement from Washington, D.C. does not win battles.  They are won in the field drawing upon the judgment and expertise of wartime commanders and frontline soldiers acting in real time, with real authority, and with a clear mission to defeat the enemy.

That’s why we will also expand authority for American armed forces to target the terrorist and criminal networks that sow violence and chaos throughout Afghanistan.  These killers need to know they have nowhere to hide; that no place is beyond the reach of American might and Americans arms.  Retribution will be fast and powerful.

As we lift restrictions and expand authorities in the field, we are already seeing dramatic results in the campaign to defeat ISIS, including the liberation of Mosul in Iraq. 

[Taking credit for a campaign that was planned and began under Obama.]

Since my inauguration, we have achieved record-breaking success in that regard.

[Hardly record breaking. Need fact-check here.]

We will also maximize sanctions and other financial and law enforcement actions against these networks to eliminate their ability to export terror.  When America commits its warriors to battle, we must ensure they have every weapon to apply swift, decisive, and overwhelming force.

[Again, the attacks on financial networks were a big part of Obama’s strategy and were successful in cutting off funding.] 

Our troops will fight to win.  We will fight to win.  From now on, victory will have a clear definition:  attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge. 

We will ask our NATO allies and global partners to support our new strategy with additional troop and funding increases in line with our own.

[Are these the same NATO allies and global partners that Trump has attacked, insulted, threatened, betrayed and demanded they pay up?]

We are confident they will.  Since taking office, I have made clear that our allies and partners must contribute much more money to our collective defense, and they have done so.

[Again, Trump is taking credit for something that was already in the works before he came to power.]

In this struggle, the heaviest burden will continue to be borne by the good people of Afghanistan and their courageous armed forces.  As the prime minister of Afghanistan has promised, we are going to participate in economic development to help defray the cost of this war to us.

[This is the crux of the “New Strategy” and is the reason that Trump is stepping up in Afghanistan: he has realized that there is mineral wealth in Afghanistan, and, as he said of Iraq – that the US should have taken the oil because “to the victor belongs the spoils” – he was angered that China is in Afghanistan extracting mineral resources. And that’s the basis for not disclosing how he intends to increase military presence in Afghanistan: the likelihood is Trump is making a deal with his donor and supporter, Erik Prince who leads Blackwater USA, now known as Academi, a company that provides mercenaries (and was responsible for murdering 17 Iraq civilians). I am betting he intends to “privatize” the protection of US companies taking out Afghan mineral wealth.]

Afghanistan is fighting to defend and secure their country against the same enemies who threaten us.  The stronger the Afghan security forces become, the less we will have to do.  Afghans will secure and build their own nation and define their own future.  We want them to succeed.

But we will no longer use American military might to construct democracies in faraway lands, or try to rebuild other countries in our own image.  Those days are now over.  Instead, we will work with allies and partners to protect our shared interests.  We are not asking others to change their way of life, but to pursue common goals that allow our children to live better and safer lives.  This principled realism will guide our decisions moving forward. 

Military power alone will not bring peace to Afghanistan or stop the terrorist threat arising in that country.  But strategically applied force aims to create the conditions for a political process to achieve a lasting peace.

America will work with the Afghan government as long as we see determination and progress.  However, our commitment is not unlimited, and our support is not a blank check.  The government of Afghanistan must carry their share of the military, political, and economic burden.  The American people expect to see real reforms, real progress, and real results.  Our patience is not unlimited.  We will keep our eyes wide open. 

[Am I the only one who sees the contradiction of supporting Afghanistan, but only if…. Still, this wasn’t enough for Steve Bannon’s Breitbart which has condemned Trump’s Afghanistan strategy as a “blank check” and “Obama Light.”]

In abiding by the oath I took on January 20th, I will remain steadfast in protecting American lives and American interests.  In this effort, we will make common cause with any nation that chooses to stand and fight alongside us against this global threat.  Terrorists take heed:  America will never let up until you are dealt a lasting defeat. 

[Wow, that has terrorists everywhere quaking in their boots.] 

Under my administration, many billions of dollars more is being spent on our military.  And this includes vast amounts being spent on our nuclear arsenal and missile defense.

In every generation, we have faced down evil, and we have always prevailed.  We prevailed because we know who we are and what we are fighting for. 

Not far from where we are gathered tonight, hundreds of thousands of America’s greatest patriots lay in eternal rest at Arlington National Cemetery.  There is more courage, sacrifice, and love in those hallowed grounds than in any other spot on the face of the Earth.

Many of those who have fought and died in Afghanistan enlisted in the months after September 11th, 2001.  They volunteered for a simple reason:  They loved America, and they were determined to protect her.

Now we must secure the cause for which they gave their lives.  We must unite to defend America from its enemies abroad.  We must restore the bonds of loyalty among our citizens at home, and we must achieve an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the enormous price that so many have paid.

Our actions, and in the months to come, all of them will honor the sacrifice of every fallen hero, every family who lost a loved one, and every wounded warrior who shed their blood in defense of our great nation.  With our resolve, we will ensure that your service and that your families will bring about the defeat of our enemies and the arrival of peace.

[What about the fallen to come? This was the appeal that George W. Bush used to prolong fighting in Iraq – that more deaths were needed to justify the deaths of 4,500 American troops in Iraq, and another 2500 in Afghanistan. When the numbers of body bags start mounting again, with nothing to show for it, what will Americans say then? And where is Congress who is Constitutionally mandated to declare war, to pay for war?]

We will push onward to victory with power in our hearts, courage in our souls, and everlasting pride in each and every one of you.

Thank you.  May God bless our military.  And may God bless the United States of America.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END                9:27 P.M. EDT

___________

© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin