June 16, 2012
Yesterday afternoon the White House released the text of an unclassified letter sent to Congress reporting on the overseas deployments of U.S. military forces now engaged in combat operations. The introduction to the report states that its purpose is to inform Congress and the American public about U.S. military combat operations overseas. If this was the goal of the report, it failed abjectly.
The report, if you can call it such, is a waste of paper and computer space. You literally learn nothing about the nature and extent of U.S. military combat operations overseas from this discombobulated and poorly written document. Even Adam Sandler movies have more substantive and meaningful content than this letter to Congress.
For example, the brief paragraph devoted to the war in Afghanistan is devoid of any information, noting only that U.S. forces in the country are being reduced from the current level of 90,000 troops to 68,000 by the end of the summer. You would not even know that there is a war going on in Afghanistan if you read this report. There is no mention of the fact that U.S. troops are actually engaged in combat in Afghanistan except for the obtuse statement that U.S. troops are “actively pursuing and engaging remaining al-Qa’ida and Taliban fighters.” And this statement is incorrect because there are virtually no al Qaeda fighters operating inside Afghanistan, and al Qaeda has played virtually no role in the war in Afghanistan in nearly a decade. Why does the Obama administration continue the practice of the former Bush administration in pretending that AQ is our primary opponent in Afghanistan, and not the Taliban???
What is interesting is what the report does not talk about. For example, there is no mention whatsoever of U.S. military covert operations taking place in Pakistan, nor any mention of CIA unmanned drone operations in that country. Granted that the CIA is not a part of the U.S. military, but I could make a pretty good legal argument that what the CIA’s drones are doing in northern Pakistan is a warlike act covered by the War Powers Resolution. Ah, but I forgot! The Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, refuses to acknowledge the existence of the CIA’s unmanned drone strike programs despite the fact that everyone knows that they exist.
There is also no mention of the presence of large numbers of U.S. special forces and support troops (including significant numbers of intelligence personnel) in the Philippines and Colombia, where for the past decade we have been secretly helping the militaries of these countries fight homegrown insurgencies. In the case of the Philippines, it is an Islamist terrorist group called Abu Sayyaf. And in Colombia, it is the leftist insurgent group calling itself the Fuerzas armadas revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC). It is no secret that we are operating in both countries. Hell, even the local newspapers have given lengthy and detail coverage of the presence of U.S. military forces and aerial surveillance systems in their countries. So why does the Obama administration believe that our military presence in these countries is a secret?
We also have a small but increasingly important military presence in Libya, which is engaged in trying to secure that country’s stockpiles of chemical weapons and man-portable surface-to-air missiles (MANPADs), as well as trying to interdict the flow of weapons and military equipment to fighters belonging to al Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in neighboring Algeria, Mali and Mauritania. Doesn’t that deserve a mention in the report?
And finally, there is (of course) no mention of the Stuxnet computer virus that allegedly was used by us to attack the computer systems of one of Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities starting during the latter part of the Bush administration and continuing well into the Obama administration. Using the Stuxnet computer virus against Iran, if in fact the news reports are true, was an act of war. My question is, did the Bush or Obama administrations inform Congress as a whole, or just the top leaders of the House and Senate as in the case of NSA’s domestic eavesdropping programs?
The letter to Congress references the fact that there is a separate secret annex to this report, which may (or may not) discuss the drone strikes and other sensitive military operations taking place around the world. But if the Obama administration is using the same playbook used by the Bush administration, I will bet that this classified annex will be just as uninformative as the unclassified version. To quote the British rock group The Who, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”