By Chris Parker
By Jesse Marx
By John Baichtal
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Jesse Marx
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Tatiana Craine
By Judy Keen
Unfortunately, the reconstruction funds were never spent. If you just look at the record, I think it was $18 billion appropriated by Congress for reconstruction, of which this administration only spent 5 percent. They spent more than seven times that much money on non-bid contracts to Halliburton. And this is the kind of stuff that got me upset. I think the final screw for me was...there's a Marine general named Anthony Zinni. He wrote a book called Battle Ready with Tom Clancy, who obviously has a following in conservative circles. I read that book, and then General Zinni came and gave a lecture to the Marine officers at Camp Pendleton where I was stationed in which he made a rather scathing indictment of the incompetence with which the White House was essentially interfering with commanders on the ground.
The thing that General Zinni was talking about was that the White House had appointed spokesmen. I don't know if you recall the press conferences from Baghdad, but there was a guy [from the administration] at every press conference. They spent more time on the information campaign, on deceiving the American people about what was happening in Iraq, than they did on actually trying to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. That's a problem. General Zinni is one of the generals who spoke out and said, Hey, you need more troops for the occupation. And you need better plans for the stability operations after the invasion.
Because everybody knew the invasion was going to go very well, even with the limited number of troops. However, any of the generals who dissented--like Shinseki, he got basically relieved. If you look at what happened yesterday, where it looks like even Bremer on the day he got there said he wanted more troops on the ground, and that what we had was not sufficient to stop the looting. The bottom line is that, even though the argument about weapons of mass destruction and terrorist proliferation was fabricated, the underlying argument, the principle that a free Iraq would be better for the war on terror, still holds true. But you can't even get that done.
And frankly, myself, I have the opportunity to speak out because I'm kind of an odd case. I got back from Iraq completely in one piece and healthy, and was selected to play rugby for the All-Marine Corps rugby team. And I blew out my knee and had reconstructive surgery and got a medical discharge from the Marine Corps on August 15. On August 16 I walked into Kerry headquarters and asked them how I could help out, because I've followed the issues very closely, and Senator Kerry laid out a plan long ago to double the size of the special forces, to increase funding for intelligence personnel and operations, and that's the kind of thing we need to do. It's just common sense. Where do terrorists live? How do they get trained? They get trained in little camps. Or they're a couple of guys in an apartment building. Prior to 9/11, many of them were in Hamburg before the attack happened.
How do you get them? You use special forces, you use intelligence operations, you find a couple of them and drop some black helicopters and guys in black pajamas, and you whack them. And that's the kind of operation we need to launch. This sideshow in Iraq where we send 150,000 teenagers without enough equipment to manage the occupation, and without the kind of international support we needed for that battle on the Iraqi front, it really detracted from our ability globally to stop the spread of terror.
Another issue I had is, in the last 12 months, $3 to $4 billion worth of heroin has been exported from Afghanistan. So that $3 to $4 billion, that's illicit drugs, that's illicit money. And who does that money go back to? It goes back to the former Taliban warlords; it goes back to the people who generated the very first terrorist strike on America anyway.
And that $3 to $4 billion worth of heroin, how does it get exported? It gets exported through clandestine shipping networks--the same kind of clandestine shipping networks that one would need to smuggle weapons of mass destruction. So the bottom line for me is, America is less safe because of the way this administration has prosecuted the war on terror. Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards have laid out real structural plans. They want to add two active duty divisions to the armed forces. They want to double special forces. And they want to rely on the 9/11 Commission, which is something the administration opposed in the first place, to look into those failings and ask how we can make America better.
I guess I used to be what they call "Republican in name only." Kind of a Ramstad Republican, you know--socially liberal and fiscally conservative. Unfortunately, the issues in this election are just too big for that.