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Congress Needs To Take Back Responsibility For Sending Troops To Conflict Zones
On May 19, 2004, anti-coalition forces attacked a U.S. military convoy on the northern outskirts of Samarra, Iraq — a routine resupply mission my platoon made at least twice a week. Those of us back on Forward Operating Base Mackenzie quickly learned we had a KIA, but we didn’t know who. We waited in silence, wondering which one of our friends would not be coming back. Eventually, we saw the silhouette of our platoon sergeant trudging toward us across the loose gravel between the tactical operations center and our platoon that slowed all movement. He knew the name. As he got closer, we could see the tears streaming down his face. “Campbell” was all he said. Michael Campbell, a real cowboy who the year before shared Christmas dinner with my family, died that day.
I always go back to this memory of the first time I faced the loss of a soldier when I hear a service member has died overseas: The ultimate sacrifice made for all Americans regardless of gender, sexual orientation, religious belief, or even political party. Soldiers don’t serve one political party. Enemy bullets do not discriminate between Democrats and Republicans. Soldiers defend all Americans.
Soldiers from 1st Platoon, Company B, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment move into a house to search for weapons and anti-Iraqi forces during operations in the western Ninevah Province City of Tall Afar during the early morning hours of Aug. 1, 2004.DoD photo
Unfortunately, both Democrats and Republicans have turned the tragic deaths of Sgt. La David Johnson and his three comrades who were killed in Niger on Oct. 4 into a political statement that cheapens their sacrifice. Instead, everyone seems focused on what was said during a condolence phone call to a grieving wife and claiming they had no idea we even had thousands of troops in Africa. It’s easy to make angry accusations and feign ignorance, but ultimately the presence of U.S. troops in Niger was public knowledge; many politicians just weren’t paying attention.
For too long, Congress has been more than happy to defer responsibility for troop deployments to the president and Department of Defense, shielding itself with the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, which authorized the president to “use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the [9/11 terror attacks],” and use “necessary and appropriate force” to “prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”
But it’s been 16 years. Rather than argue over the politicization of soldier deaths, politicians should look at the conditions and reasoning behind the deployments. Bin Laden is dead. Saddam Hussein is dead. It’s time for Congress to assess the current strategy and determine whether it remains in America’s interest to expand the forever wars. All soldiers know the risk when they take the oath, but they also put their trust in the American public and their elected officials to properly debate the risks and wisely send them into harm’s way.
A U.S. Army Special Forces weapons sergeant speaks to a group of Nigerien soldiers prior to the start of a buddy team movement class during Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, March 11, 2017.
Each time I deployed, I knew the reason. In Kosovo, I deployed to prevent ethnic cleansing. I delivered ballots in 2005 for the first free Iraqi elections. In Afghanistan, two years later, I fought the Taliban and worked to strengthen Afghan governance. These were goals I understood. Congress authorized those military operations.
By not acting, policy-makers avoid the responsibility of soldiers’ deaths and can simultaneously place the blame on the president by seeming outraged. The decision to send troops to their deaths is not an easy one to make. I understand why Congress shies away from it, but that doesn’t make it right. It is their responsibility. The AUMF needs to be updated. Congress must have their say. Our troops and their families deserve it.
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico has deployed almost 15,000 soldiers and National Guard in the north of the country to stem the flow of illegal immigration across the border into the United States, the head of the Mexican Army said on Monday.
Mexico has not traditionally used security forces to stop undocumented foreign citizens leaving the country for the United States, and photographs of militarized police catching Central American and Cuban women at the border in recent days have met with criticism.
Mexico is trying to curb a surge of migrants from third countries crossing its territory in order to reach the United States, under the threat of tariffs on its exports by U.S. President Donald Trump, who has made tightening border security a priority.
Packages containing suspected heroin were found in the home of the driver charged with killing seven motorcyclists Friday in the North Country, authorities said Monday.
Massachusetts State Police said the packages were discovered when its Violent Fugitive Apprehension Section and New Hampshire State police arrested Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 23, at his West Springfield home. The packages will be tested for heroin, they said.
Zhukovskyy faces seven counts of negligent homicide in connection with the North Country crash on Friday evening that killed seven riders associated with Jarhead Motorcycle Club, a club for Marines and select Navy corpsmen.
'It just happened' — the Iraq War’s first living Medal of Honor recipient recalls his harrowing fight against 5 insurgents
On Nov, 10, 2004, Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia knew that he stood a good chance of dying as he tried to save his squad.
Bellavia survived the intense enemy fire and went on to single-handedly kill five insurgents as he cleared a three-story house in Fallujah during the iconic battle for the city. For his bravery that day, President Trump will present Bellavia with the Medal of Honor on Tuesday, making him the first living Iraq war veteran to receive the award.
In an interview with Task & Purpose, Bellavia recalled that the house where he fought insurgents was dark and filled with putrid water that flowed from broken pipes. The battle itself was an assault on his senses: The stench from the water, the darkness inside the home, and the sounds of footsteps that seemed to envelope him.
With the Imperial Japanese Army hot on his heels, Oscar Leonard says he barely slipped away from getting caught in the grueling Bataan Death March in 1942 by jumping into a choppy bay in the dark of the night, clinging to a log and paddling to the Allied-fortified island of Corregidor.
After many weeks of fighting there and at Mindanao, he was finally captured by the Japanese and spent the next several years languishing under brutal conditions in Filipino and Japanese World War II POW camps.
Now, having just turned 100 years old, the Antioch resident has been recognized for his 42-month ordeal as a prisoner of war, thanks to the efforts of his friends at the Brentwood VFW Post #10789 and Congressman Jerry McNerney.
McNerney, Brentwood VFW Commander Steve Todd and Junior Vice Commander John Bradley helped obtain a POW award after doing research and requesting records to surprise Leonard during a birthday party last month.
Hundreds of Marines will join their British counterparts at a massive urban training center this summer that will test the leathernecks' ability to fight a tech-savvy enemy in a crowded city filled with innocent civilians.
The North Carolina-based Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, will test drones, robots and other high-tech equipment at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center near Butlerville, Indiana, in August.
They'll spend weeks weaving through underground tunnels and simulating fires in a mock packed downtown city center. They'll also face off against their peers, who will be equipped with off-the-shelf drones and other gadgets the enemy is now easily able to bring to the fight.
It's the start of a four-year effort, known as Project Metropolis, that leaders say will transform the way Marines train for urban battles. The effort is being led by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, based in Quantico, Virginia. It comes after service leaders identified a troubling problem following nearly two decades of war in the Middle East: adversaries have been studying their tactics and weaknesses, and now they know how to exploit them.