Saturday, August 31, 2013

Obama has Failed to Make a Strong Case for Intervention in Syria

Sacramento, Calif. – The largest pro-troop grassroots group, Move America Forward, has announced their opposition to President Barack Obama’s proposed military action against Assad’s regime in Syria. For the American people to support military action, the President must provide a justification for specific action and clearly define the mission.  Obama has failed on both points.

“President Obama has been unable to demonstrate that military action in Syria would serve America’s national security interests. The President has not shown how entering the Syrian civil war would promote American national security.  While we applaud his decision to take this issue to the Congress, we believe he is required to gain Congressional support before acting. Before the American people will support military action in Syria, the President must bring his case to the Congress for their assent and win their approval.  He cannot and should not act unilaterally.” said Danny Gonzalez, Director of Communications for Move America Forward.

“Our country should have a defined mission outlining the scope of forces to be committed, how long they will be committed for, and a sufficient rationale showing why risking the lives of our military men and women would promote American security interests.

“The American people have many questions that have not been answered satisfactorily. What does America gain from attacking Syria? Who are we helping if we bomb Assad’s military or enforce a no-fly zone? Are we helping the rebels, and is it in our interest to strengthen their hand at the present time? Has al-Qaeda been allowed to co-opt the rebellion and take control of the anti-Assad forces?   Are we now going to ally with al-Qaeda in Syria?

“As has been the case with this Administration’s drifting foreign policy in general, there has been no direction. President Obama seems to be more interested in maintaining his credibility after his fumbled response about ‘drawing red lines’ regarding the use of chemical weapons. We would prefer the President exhibit more aggression when it comes to finding and punishing those responsible for the loss of 4 Americans in Benghazi.

“When our most loyal allies, Great Britain and Canada, won’t support military action, we must question the wisdom of further engaging the U.S. military in the Middle East.  There are auxiliary consequences for our allies in the region, like Israel. Is Obama prepared to defend Israel if Iran attacks, as they have threatened, should we intervene in Syria? 

“There are far more questions than answers, which makes us conclude that the President must make a compelling case to the American people before taking any military action as well as earn the support of Congress.” Gonzalez concluded.

Obama: Strike Syrian Regime, But Have Congressional Debate, Vote

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 31, 2013 – President Barack Obama said today he supports a U.S. military strike against Syrian regime targets in response to the regime’s use of chemical weapons against its own people, but he called on Congress to debate and vote on how America should react to “the worst chemical weapons attack of the 21st century.”

At the White House Rose Garden, Obama spoke of the Aug. 21 attack on Damascus suburbs that, he noted, killed more than 1,000 people, including several hundred children -- “young girls and boys gassed to death by their own government.”

“Ten days ago, the world watched in horror as men, women and children were massacred in Syria,” the commander in chief said. “ … Yesterday, the United States presented a powerful case that the Syrian government was responsible for this attack on its own people.”

The president said U.S. intelligence reports “show the Assad regime and its forces preparing to use chemical weapons, launching rockets into highly populated suburbs of Damascus, and acknowledging that a chemical weapons attack took place. And all of this corroborates what the world can plainly see: hospitals overflowing with victims; terrible images of the dead.”

Obama called the attack “an assault on human dignity” that also presents a serious danger to U.S. national security and “risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons.”

Syria is currently embroiled in a bitter civil war pitting President Bashar Assad and his regime against the rebel opposition. The situation presents a danger to U.S. friends and partners on Syria’s borders, Obama said, such as Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq.

The Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons could lead to their escalated use in the region, he said, or their proliferation to terrorist groups intent on harming the United States.

“In a world with many dangers, this menace must be confronted,” the president said.

Obama said after careful deliberation, he has decided “that the U.S. should take military action against Syrian regime targets.” Such an intervention would be limited in scope and duration and would not place U.S. boots on the ground inside Syria, he said.

“I’m confident we can hold the Assad regime accountable for their use of chemical weapons, deter this kind of behavior, and degrade their capacity to carry it out,” he said.

Obama said the United States has military assets in the Middle East, and he noted that Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “has informed me that we are prepared to strike whenever we choose.”

Dempsey has also advised “that our capacity to execute this mission is not time-sensitive,” the president said.

”It will be effective tomorrow, or next week, or one month from now,” Obama said. “And I'm prepared to give that order.”

Obama added, however, that as president of “the world's oldest constitutional democracy,” he has also decided that as leader of a representational government, “I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people's representatives in Congress.”

He said he has spoken with U.S. Senate and House leaders, “and they've agreed to schedule a debate and then a vote as soon as Congress comes back into session.”

The president said his administration stands ready to inform Congress “what happened in Syria and why it has such profound implications for America's national security.”

He added that he is confident that action need not wait on United Nations inspectors.

“I'm comfortable going forward without the approval of a United Nations Security Council that, so far, has been completely paralyzed and unwilling to hold Assad accountable,” Obama said.

As a consequence, he added, many people “have advised against taking this decision to Congress, and undoubtedly, they were impacted by what we saw happen in the United Kingdom this week when the Parliament of our closest ally failed to pass a resolution with a similar goal, even as the Prime Minister supported taking action.

“And undoubtedly,” he continued, “they were impacted by what we saw happen in the United Kingdom this week when the parliament of our closest ally failed to pass a resolution with a similar goal, even as the prime minister supported taking action.”

Yet, any U.S. military actions against the Syrian regime will be more effective if they follow a debate in Congress and a vote, Obama said.

“We should have this debate, because the issues are too big for business as usual,” he said.

A government that considers even limited military force faces a grave decision, Obama acknowledged.
“I respect the views of those who call for caution, particularly as our country emerges from a time of war that I was elected in part to end,” he said. “But if we really do want to turn away from taking appropriate action in the face of such an unspeakable outrage, then we must acknowledge the costs of doing nothing.”

The president said his question to Congress and the global community is this: “What message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price? What's the purpose of the international system that we've built if a prohibition on the use of chemical weapons that has been agreed to by the governments of 98 percent of the world's people and approved overwhelmingly by the Congress of the United States is not enforced?”

He continued, “… We cannot raise our children in a world where we will not follow through on the things we say, the accords we sign, the values that define us.”

The president said his message to the world is that “an atrocity committed with chemical weapons is not simply investigated, it must be confronted.”

Obama said he knows Americans are weary of war.

“We’ve ended one war in Iraq,” he said. “We’re ending another in Afghanistan. And the American people have the good sense to know we cannot resolve the underlying conflict in Syria with our military. In that part of the world, there are ancient sectarian differences, and the hopes of the Arab Spring have unleashed forces of change that are going to take many years to resolve. And that's why we’re not contemplating putting our troops in the middle of someone else’s war.”

The United States will continue to support the Syrian people through pressure on the Assad regime, commitment to the opposition, care for the displaced, and pursuit of a political resolution “that achieves a government that respects the dignity of its people,” Obama said.

American values dictate that the nation “cannot and must not turn a blind eye to what happened in Damascus,” he said.

“So to all members of Congress of both parties, I ask you to take this vote for our national security,” Obama said. “… I’ve told you what I believe, that our security and our values demand that we cannot turn away from the massacre of countless civilians with chemical weapons.

“I’m ready to act in the face of this outrage,” he added. “Today I’m asking Congress to send a message to the world that we are ready to move forward together as one nation.”

Friday, August 30, 2013

Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Staff Sgt. Michael H. Ollis, 24, of Staten Island, N.Y., died Aug. 28, in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device, small arms and indirect fire. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light), Fort Drum, N.Y.

For more information the media may contact the Fort Drum public affairs office at 315-772-8286.

NYPD Officer Serves in Afghanistan

By Marine Corps Cpl. Paul Peterson
2nd Marine Logistics Group

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan, Aug. 30, 2013 – Before the War on Terror, the toppling of the oppressive Taliban regime in Afghanistan, or the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a young boy from the Bronx knew one thing: he wanted to help.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Afghanistan-deployed Marine Corps reservist Sgt. Jonathan L. Vasquez, who also serves as a New York City police officer, poses for a photo on Camp Leatherneck after sending a video message to show his support for New York City and its people, Aug. 20, 2013. Vasquez is currently serving with Combat Logistics Regiment 2, Regional Command-Southwest in Helmand province. Many of the Marines serving with CLR-2 are reservists from 6th Communications Battalion, a Marine Corps Reserve unit based out of Brooklyn. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Paul Peterson

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Marine Corps Sgt. Jonathan L. Vasquez was that boy in New York City. Today, Vasquez is a Marine Corps reservist currently serving with Combat Logistics Regiment 2, Regional Command-Southwest, in Helmand province, Afghanistan

“I’ve been that way since I was young,” said Vasquez, who spent four years persistently applying to become a New York City police officer after joining the military at the age of 17.

“Both the career choices I made happen to help people. It’s the best of both worlds, I say,” he said.

While already committed to the idea of public service, the attacks on the World Trade Center changed things for the then-12-year-old Vasquez.

“I was in social studies class -- go figure, history,” Vasquez recalled. “They actually brought the TV into the classroom and explained to us the World Trade Center was hit. At first they thought it was an accident, but then they told us it wasn’t. I actually wish I was older, and I had joined right then.”

As Americans paused to grieve and unite, he tightened his focus on the future. It was a five-year wait before he met the age requirements for military service and nearly a decade before he realized his dream of joining the New York City Police Department.

The wait and the right to wear the uniforms were worth it, Vasquez said.
“I don’t want to sound corny. It’s not like Superman or anything like that, but it feels good,” he said. “New York is very patriotic. You get a lot of grace and a lot of thanks. It’s an awesome feeling.”

Not every day is easy. Both jobs come with separation from family, constant stress, and the burden of responsibility. Not all the right choices are clear, Vasquez said.

“You don’t know,” he said. “Sometimes you just have to make a decision and go with it. That’s a trait of being a leader, especially in the Marine Corps where they grow you to become a leader.”

Vasquez said he takes it all in stride. The strain is difficult, but it also forges bonds between him and his fellow service members and police officers. Still, the risks are palpable.

“When you put on that uniform for your shift, you don’t know if you’re coming home,” Vasquez said. “You don’t know if you’ll [experience] a shooting or deliver a baby that day. It’s very stressful, and it’s every day of your life.”

Vasquez balances the stress with an inherent optimism. Whether he’s serving as a vehicle commander on a convoy in Afghanistan or working as a patrol officer out of the 47th Precinct, he’s upbeat.

It’s in his voice every day, a nasal-heavy New York accent even a Midwesterner could appreciate and a snicker-like smile to back it up. On patrol or drenched in sweat inside the sweltering gym at Camp Leatherneck, Vasquez keeps smiling, laughing and joking.

He’s the kind of New Yorker who will interrupt the climax of a perfectly good movie to point out the setting is his city. He’s got “attitude.”

“Not in a bad way,” Vasquez said. “I’m very respectful, and I’ll respect anyone as long as they respect me.”

Vasquez said his family back home worries about him, but their constant support is a source of strength. He said he finds contact with his daughter particularly uplifting.

“She puts a smile on my face,” he said, completely dropping his shield of military toughness. “I can see it in her eyes [when we talk online] that she really misses me … it feels good.”

Vasquez also has deployed to South America, Asia, and Iraq. At every turn, he’s brought his love for service with him.

“I’m grateful for all the things the military has done for me as well as the things I try to do for the military,” Vasquez said. “It’s the same thing for the police department. I’m glad I have a career back home I can go to and also help people.”

Detainee Transfer Announced

The Department of Defense announced today the transfer of Nabil Said Hadjarab and Mutia Sadiq Ahmad Sayyab from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to the Government of Algeria.

As directed by the President's Jan. 22, 2009, executive order, the interagency Guantanamo Review Task Force conducted a comprehensive review of this case. As a result of that review, which examined a number of factors, including security issues, these men were approved for transfer by consensus of the six departments and agencies comprising the task force. In accordance with Congressionally-mandated reporting requirements, the administration informed Congress of its intent to transfer these individuals.
The United States is grateful to the Government of Algeria for its willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. The United States coordinated with the Government of Algeria to ensure these transfers took place consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures.

Today, 164 detainees remain at Guantanamo Bay.

Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

1st Lt. Jason Togi, 24, of Pago Pago, American Samoa, died Aug. 26, in Hasan Karez, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device.  He was assigned to the 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.

For more information, media may contact the Fort Hood public affairs office at 254-287-9993 or 254-287-0106.

Army Casualty

Army Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Sgt. 1st Class Ricardo D. Young, 34, of Rosston, Ark., died Aug. 28, in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit with small arms fire. He was assigned to the 307th Engineer Battalion (Combat/Airborne), 20th Engineer Brigade, XVIII Airborne Corps, Fort Bragg, N.C.

For more information the media may contact the XVIII Airborne Corps public affairs office at 910-489-2774.