Green On Blue-- Afghanistan Devolves
One of the questions I pose to congressional candidates seeking Blue America's endorsement is meant to elicit from them their strength of conviction of ending the occupation of and war in Afghanistan. I ask it something like this:
Imagine you're in Congress early next year and Barbara Lee and Jerry Nadler bring up a resolution that defunds operations in Afghanistan other than bringing our troops safely back to America. Anti-war Republicans like Justin Amash (R-MI), Walter Jones (R-NC) and Johnny Duncan (R-TN) start getting more Republicans on board. And then you start getting various levels of pressure from the White House to not back it. They offer you a bridge for your district or a fundraising appearance with Biden for the 2014 campaign. You still say you want the troops out. Then you start getting threats. Eventually you get a call from the President himself appealing to give you "another year to finish up."
Basically all of our candidates have been telling me that they're not going to buckle under any of that pressure. Last year 91 Democrats and 7 Republicans voted for such an amendment. We need more Members of Congress with the spine to say enough is enough.
Wednesday Blue America is officially endorsing Dr. Syed Taj (MI-11) and he'll be joining us for a question-and-answer session live at CrooksandLiars (2pm, ET). This morning he reiterated to me that it's "time to accelerate bringing our troops home from Afghanistan. This," he continued, "isn't a liberal issue or a conservative issue. All Americans need to pull together and we need to get this done. It's tragic and wasteful on so many levels when these young American men and women are dying over there for a unclear goals and a confused policy of nation building in a country we still don't understand. I'll tell you where we need new schools and new infrastructure and some good solid nation building-- right here in Michigan and all through the Midwest where so many jobs have been sent overseas to pitifully cheap labor markets because of unfair so-called 'free' trade policies."
So far this year there have been 31 attacks on NATO forces-- resulting in 39 deaths-- by Afghan military personnel, our supposed allies. 107 "green on blue" deaths since 2007. The latest attacks were on Friday-- two of them, one in Kandahar and one in Farah province.
The two American service members who died were part of a Special Operations team working with the local police in Farah Province in the west of Afghanistan... In both cases, in Farah and Kandahar Provinces, the shootings were carried out by individual attackers, and both were shot and killed, Major Crighton said.
The shootings were the latest in a spate of attacks by Afghan forces on their coalition counterparts.
The assaults have intensified in recent years in Afghanistan, where the military has called them green-on-blue attacks. Recently, however, the military has begun referring to them as insider attacks, including violence by people who are working inside the security force system but who may not be active members themselves. With the two episodes on Friday morning, there have now been at least 31 such attacks in Afghanistan so far this year, including 21 that have resulted in fatalities.
About 11 percent of the “insider attacks” are because of Taliban infiltration into the Afghan security forces, Pentagon officials said on Friday, citing a new analysis by the international military coalition in Afghanistan. The majority of the attacks, they said, are for other reasons, including grudges and conflicts between NATO and Afghan forces.
Ironically, the Pentagon and the Taliban want to claim the attacks are the work of the Taliban, each for their own reasons, the Taliban wanting the glory and the Pentagon hoping to deflect criticism from its own failed policies. The attacks on Friday were not carried out by the Taliban but by members of the Afghan national security forces. Usually these things happen because of cultural differences that neither the American soldiers nor the Afghan soldiers can understand outside of their own context.
Here in L.A. one of our local congressmen is an architect of American Afghan policy, Buck McKeon, chairman of the powerful House Armed Services Committee, and McKeon is an exemplar of cultural confusion and bad decision-making. Last week we talked about his wrong-headed policies regarding the way the military handles rape cases. Right now, it is more likely a female soldier in Afghanistan will be raped by a fellow soldier than killed in action. And McKeon refuses to hold an open hearing about the rapes occurring in the military even after the atrocious acts were discovered at Lackland Air Force base. Maybe he's been hanging out too long with his deranged pal from Missouri, Todd Akin, who serves with McKeon on the House Armed Services Committee and who told KTVI-TV that "from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare... If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” I don't think Akin has been consulting Dr. Syed Taj or Dr. Lee Rogers. I think he's talking to Dr. Frankenstein, Dr. Evil, Dr. Jekyll, Dr. Doom, Dr. Tom Coburn and Dr. Pepper.
McKeon's own district has two families grieving over had 2 green-on-blue related deaths. In April of 2011, Army Spc Rudy Acosta from Canyon Country was killed by an Afghani who was contracted to protect him. The idiocy of a paid Afghani contractor protecting US bases aside, why are we arming Afghan civilians and placing them next to our troops? It's money! McKeon has noted that it is cheaper than using US troops to protect our bases. Acosta's father, Dante, has been actively lobbying McKeon and Congress to stop this practice. How helpful has McKeon been? He wouldn't even meet with Acosta. That angered Acosta and people in McKeon's district. The newspapers blasted him over it. This eventually caused Acosta to enter the Republican primary against McKeon. As soon as McKeon heard that Acosta would challenge him, he drafted legislation to stop the practice of paid mercenaries protecting US troops. It was too late; Acosta entered the race on the filing date and in only 3 months, he won several GOP straw polls and took 18% of the total vote. The second green-on-blue attack is more recent, Andrew Britton-Mihalo from Simi Valley, CA. McKeon hasn't commented on Britton-Mihalo's death or his service to our country. I contacted Lee Rogers, the pro-peace Blue America-endorsed candidate running for the seat McKeon holds.
Congressman McKeon calls himself pro-defense, but he's not in it for our servicemen and women. He's in it for the campaign contributions from the war industry. He's betraying our troops by not moving his bill through Congress to stop armed Afghani's from being in close quarters to them. While McKeon delays, American service members are dying. Anyone concerned with troop safety would consider the management of this issue a dire emergency. One more American lost in a green-on-blue attack is one too many.
This morning the Santa Clarita Valley Signal ran a powerful OpEd by Dr. Rogers about about the brewing scandal of McKeon (and Todd Akin) covering up military rapes from their perchs on the House Armed Services Committee.
When volunteers sign up to defend our country, they don’t expect to be victims of sexual assault.
An epidemic of sexual assaults was recently uncovered at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.
Lackland AFB is where our young Air Force recruits go to be indoctrinated in the military system.
For some women, part of that indoctrination was a rape by an instructor. More than 30 instructors have been removed at Lackland, and more than 70 members of Congress have co-signed a letter calling for an open congressional investigation.
Rape in the military is not only a problem at Lackland AFB. In 2010, an estimated 19,000 sexual assaults took place in the military and a great majority went unreported.
Women are the most frequent victims, but men are also targets.
Today, a female soldier in Afghanistan is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier, than killed in action.
Victims are often silenced by their superiors and the assaulter is usually a higher rank, making it difficult to seek justice.
Survivors of assault are often re-victimized by being blamed, charged with adultery or placed back in the close quarters with their perpetrator.
Some things in the military should remain secretive and stay behind closed doors, but not this issue.
The fact that it remains secretive leads to more sexual assaults because the perpetrators are not prosecuted or are only given minor punishments.
Those in the chain of command have shown that they are not capable of dealing with the situation appropriately.
Victims need a special military division, separate from the chain of command, to report rape and conduct investigations.
I would encourage anyone wanting to explore this issue further to see The Invisible War, a documentary about the mishandling of justice for female victims of rape in our armed services.
It comes from Oscar-nominated filmmaker Kirby Dick and just won at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. It is a moving documentary telling the stories of real women who were raped by fellow soldiers and then told to keep quiet.
Congressional oversight of the military starts in the House and Senate armed services committees.
A nonprofit group, Protect Our Defenders, is leading the charge calling for an open hearing on the assaults at Lackland AFB.
Protect Our Defenders delivered 10,000 signed petitions to Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon, chair of the House committee, asking for an open investigation. McKeon has yet refused.
In a closed briefing, an Army general asked that the committee not “hobble” commanders in the sex assault cases.
Last year, Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, introduced the H.R.3435, the Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention Act, or STOP Act. The bill still awaits action by McKeon’s committee.
We can honor our troops by giving them the protections they deserve.
We don’t tolerate rape as civilians and we can’t condone it in our military.
This is not a partisan issue. Recruits who are raped are both Republicans and Democrats. They are our sons and daughters. They are Americans who volunteer to put their life on the line for our country.
Rape should not be an occupational hazard to serving in our military. Support Protect Our Defenders calling for an open hearing on the sexual assaults at Lackland AFB and let’s help to cast light on this troublesome issue and protect our troops.