May 2, 2012

Obama's Night Trip to the War Zone

President Obama arrives in Afghanistan in the dark

I just read a reporter's account of his short trip to Afghanistan with President Barack Obama on Air Force One. Ostensibly, this was a trip to sign a Strategic Partnership Agreement between the United States and Afghanistan, but everyone knows this was merely a "spiking the ball in the end-zone" campaign trip exploiting the one-year anniversary of the killing of Usamah bin Ladin by U.S. Navy SEAL Team Six. To read the reporter's account, this trip was something to be proud of.

I look at it in a different way. I am going to use the reporter's own words to demonstrate the absolute hypocrisy of this presidential campaign trip. I won't identify the reporter in case he ever wants to redeem his self respect on a U.S. military installation in the future. Of course, in newsrooms across America, he may be heralded as "journalist." Having spent five years as a military analyst with a major U.S. news network, I recognize the type - it's either the "news coverage is about me," or "I am a tool for the Obama Administration."

That said, the reportage is instructive - and damning.

"It was a scene from a spy novel. A little after 9:30pm, I arrived at a back gate of Joint Base Andrews. No guard or intercom, I just drove up and it opened. I was in. The security guards verified my identity and I made my way to the rendezvous point. Typically, I would meet traveling White House press aides at the base passenger terminal, but not tonight. Very few people knew what we were doing there, so we met in a dimly lit parking lot."

Having been an intelligence officer, specifically a case officer, one who recruits spies and what most novelists would inaccurately label a "spy," I can tell you that this is a security issue, not an intelligence operation. The young journalist was probably impressed, but this is not cloak and dagger, it's merely database work. Spy novel? Yeah, right.

"We rode a bus onto the tarmac where Air Force One was in shadow. No lights on, inside or out. We boarded. Just before midnight, President Obama arrived. We didn't see him, but more Secret Service agents boarded, the door was closed, and we were off. No lights on in the cabin for takeoff and the initial ascent. All window shades remained down.

"In fact, we would not see daylight for more than 24 hours. The plan was to arrive in Afghanistan after dark and leave before daybreak. As we descended steeply to the runway at Bagram Airfield, again, all inside cabin lights were turned off. We landed at the base at 10:20pm local time and got onto Chinook helicopters that were waiting with rotors spinning. The short flight to Kabul was also in blackout - use of flashlights or phones was prohibited due to their back-lit screens. Pilots and gunners used night vision goggles to navigate.

"After landing at the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) headquarters, we took a short motorcade to the Presidential Palace. In the ornate atrium of the King's Residence, Presidents Obama and Hamid Karzai signed the Strategic Partnership Agreement. We hopped back in the motorcade for the drive back to ISAF and the helicopter lift to Bagram. Again, in blackout conditions.

"In a hangar at the U.S. base, General John Allen, ISAF commander, gave a rousing warm up talk to about 3000 service members, most of them Army from the 1st Infantry Division. The President then spoke to troops, thanking them for their service and making sure they knew that the entire nation is behind them. Obama then spent 45 minutes shaking hands and taking photos with as many troops as possible. During a visit to the hospital on base here, the President gave out ten purple hearts. At 4:00am local time, the President addressed the nation from Afghanistan."

Now aren't we proud? The President slinks into Afghanistan in the dark, holds a night meeting with the Afghan president, gives a nighttime for U.S. troops (who serve there in the daytime as well) and then takes off in the dark before anyone knows he was there. During his address to the troops, he said, "We can see the light of a new day," and that after years of sacrifice the U.S. combat role in Afghanistan is winding down.

Really? Just hours after the sun came up in Kabul, the Taliban attacked foreign targets in Kabul killing at least six people. They claimed it was in response to the Obama visit.

You might ask, "So, how's that 'light of a new day' coming along?" Given the fact that the President of the United States, arguably the commander in chief of the most powerful armed forces on the planet, has to arrive in a third world country after dark and depart before sunrise, I wonder just how well he is prosecuting the war that is leading to that "light of a new day."

I am guessing, but I have to say, it's not going so well.