February 9th, 2009
01:01 PM ET

War in Afghanistan "much tougher than Iraq"?


A top diplomat recently said the war in Afghanistan will be a "long, difficult struggle." A US military raid recently destroyed 270 homes and displaced hundreds of families. (PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

From CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Just in case President Obama doesn't have enough worries at home with the economy, one of his top diplomats is now warning that the war in Afghanistan will be "much tougher than Iraq."

Richard Holbrooke - the special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan - insists that there's no "magic formula" and that it will be a "long, difficult struggle." Holbrooke knows a thing or two about dealing with conflict, he's got a long resume that includes negotiating an end to the war in Bosnia.

The president has made it clear that Afghanistan will be a top priority and his administration is deciding whether to send another 30,000 troops there, which would almost double the current troop strength.

Speaking at the same meeting as Holbrooke, General David Petraeus said there's been nothing easy about Afghanistan. He described the country's many needs - ranging from ground troops to intelligence, surveillance, special ops, you name it. There are high expectations that Petraeus can mirror the progress he made in Iraq.

The U.S. is also calling on the international community to step up its role in the war-torn nation.

Although Afghan President Hamid Karzai acknowledges security problems - he says they've had success in areas like roads and health care. Mr. Karzai insists his country is not a "narco state" or "failed state." It's probably worth noting that he's up for re-election this summer.

Meanwhile, a new poll of the Afghan people shows support for Mr. Karzai's government, the U.S. and NATO plummeting - so President Obama has his work cut out for him.

Here’s my question to you: What does it mean when one top diplomat says the war in Afghanistan will be "much tougher than Iraq"?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Afghanistan • Iraq
January 30th, 2009
05:00 PM ET

Why don’t we take better care of our veterans?


The Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs report that battlefield injuries and deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan have increased significantly. (PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

From CNN's Jack Cafferty:

An article by the group Truthout sheds light on a true national tragedy.

The Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs report that battlefield injuries and deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan are up, way up.

According to data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by the group Veterans for Common Sense, the number of veteran patients now stands at more than 400,000, up from 263,909 in December 2007.

Mental illness, mainly post traumatic stress disorder, is the diagnosis for 45% of them.

Lawmakers have helped some. the Dignity for Warriors Act was passed, which gives veterans up to five years of free health care for military-related conditions.

But getting adequate health care and compensation is still a problem, according to Truthout.

Bob Filner, Chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee released a statement asking for veterans to be considered in the stimulus bill. It's a request that is beyond reasonable.

He said, "We can invigorate the economy by modernizing the 153 existing V-A medical facilities, repairing veterans' cemeteries, constructing new V-A hospitals, addressing the claims backlog, and investing in vocational rehabilitation for our returning combat veterans."

According to Filner, the House version of the bill includes $1-billion for veterans while the Senate allots $3.94-billion. We'll see what passes in the end.

Here’s my question to you: Why doesn’t this country do a better job of taking care of its veterans?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Afghanistan • Iraq
December 15th, 2008
01:34 PM ET

Shoes thrown at Pres. Bush: What does it say about U.S. image?

Like father like son. Just as President Bush's father will forever be remembered for throwing up on the Prime Minister of Japan at a state dinner in Tokyo, so will this weekend's video of our beloved President follow him for the rest of his days.

An Iraqi reporter threw his shoes at President Bush yesterday while he was holding a press conference in Iraqi with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. It was a deliberate insult directed at President Bush. For Muslims, sitting with the soles of your shoes facing someone or hurling them at someone is a sign of contempt.

The reporter, who works for an Egyptian based television network, yelled "This is a farewell... you dog!" in Arabic. He was put in jail where he remains while Iraqi officials decide whether or not he'll face charges for assaulting an official.

As for President Bush, he made light of it and announced to reporters that the shoes were a size 10.

Questions have been raised about the seemingly delayed Secret Service response and why the man was able to throw his second shoe after throwing the first, but President Bush apparently waved off Secret Service officers at first.

Thousands of Iraqis rallied in support of the reporter's actions. Some said he shouldn't have thrown his shoes at President Bush in the presence of the Iraqi prime minister.

Here’s my question to you: What does it say about our image when a foreign reporter throws his shoes at President Bush?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Iraq • Nouri al-Maliki • President George W. Bush
August 6th, 2008
04:54 PM ET

What should be done about Iraq's potential $80 billion oil surplus?

Oil burns at a refinery in Basra, Iraq. (PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

While you're paying $4 a gallon for gasoline, think about this.

Iraq could end up with an $80 billion surplus thanks to its oil exports. $80 billion. Remember how we were told Iraq's oil money would pay for the war? We've spent more than $700 billion of our money including almost $50 billion to rebuild Iraq, and we haven't seen a dime of their oil money for our efforts.

U.S. auditors report that Baghdad had a $29 billion budget surplus from 2005 to 2007, and with the price of crude oil just about doubling in the last year, the surplus for 2008 is expected to hit as much as $50 billion.

Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to pour money into Iraq for reconstruction, repairs to their oil infrastructure, electricity, water and security. How much has Iraq spent? In the last 3 years, they've put less than $4 billion towards similar services.

Senator Carl Levin says it's inexcusable for U.S. taxpayers to foot the bill for projects the Iraqis could pay for themselves. Duh.

Of course Congress continues to approve one spending bill after another for Bush's war despite the Democrats' promise to end the war's funding in 2006.

Here's the bureaucratic explanation for the screwing the American taxpayer is getting. The Treasury Department says the U.S. is working with Iraqis to fix the issue and they believe "progress is being made". What a joke. Progress is Iraq writes the United States a check.

Here’s my question to you: What should be done about Iraq's potential $80 billion oil surplus?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Iraq • Oil Prices
July 9th, 2008
05:03 PM ET

Timetable to get out of Iraq?

Army soldier of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division patrols in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraq. (PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The Iraqi government is finally making its voice heard, and it's not the message the White House was hoping for.

Baghdad is saying there will be no security deal with the U.S. unless it includes a timetable for withdrawing our troops from their country.

This puts the Bush administration in a delicate position. The U.N. mandate that allows American troops to be in Iraq expires at the end of the year. Pres. Bush has long opposed a firm timetable, but he also wants the Iraqi government to stand on its own. President Bush himself has said in the past that he would go along with the Iraqi government's wishes.

U.S. officials now say Iraq has the right to determine its future, but once again insists that a timeline would be a bad idea. Resistance from the Iraqi government will probably make it difficult to finish those negotiations by the end of this month, like the administration wanted.

It might mean that a long-term deal won't be worked out until the next president comes into office. Some believe that the two countries might end up working out a short-term deal.

But, it shouldn't come as a big surprise that Iraq is standing its ground here. A poll conducted this spring showed that 72% of Iraqis oppose the presence of U.S. forces, and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki can't ignore that fact.

Some experts say that al-Maliki may be trying to show his people that he's tough enough to stand up to the U.S. After all, he doesn't want to lose support from Iraqis to the cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, one of his chief rivals. The prime minister's words might also be meant for Iran, who doesn't want the U.S. to use Iraq as a launching pad from which to attack them.

Here’s my question to you: Should the U.S. agree to Iraqi demands for a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Iraq
June 9th, 2008
05:04 PM ET

Should Bush negotiate long-term deal with Iraq?

An Iraqi army soldier stands guard at a checkpoint in the Shiite district of Sadr City in Baghdad, Iraq.(PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Now is not the time for President Bush to negotiate a long-term security agreement with Iraq – that's the message from lawmakers in both Iraq and in the U.S.

More than 30 Iraqi lawmakers who represent parties making up a majority in the Iraqi parliament sent a letter to Congress last week. They said they will reject any agreement that "is not linked to clear mechanisms" obligating U.S. troops to leave "with a declared timetable and without leaving behind any military bases, soldiers or hired fighters."

The Associated Press reports that Iraqi officials familiar with the negotiations warn that a deal is unlikely to be reached before President Bush leaves office unless the administration lets up on some of its demands that Iraqis see as giving U.S. troops way too much freedom and stepping on Iraq's sovereignty.

Here at home, both Democratic and Republican lawmakers are accusing President Bush of trying to tie the hands of the next president when it comes to Iraq. The four senior members of the Senate Foreign Relations committee sent a letter saying the administration hasn't consulted with them on this agreement and that the need for legislative approval "remains an open question."

For its part, the administration insists that this agreement is not a treaty and so it doesn't need to be approved by the Senate. More of the same from George Bush. Do whatever you want whether the people think it's a good idea or not. Officials say the deal won't commit U-S troops to staying in Iraq, won't create permanent bases, and won't pledge to protect Iraq if invaded. Here's the problem: the U.N. mandate that authorizes U.S. presence in Iraq expires in December.

Here’s my question to you: Should President Bush be negotiating a long-term security agreement with Iraq?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Iraq
April 4th, 2008
06:00 PM ET

More than 1,000 Iraqi soldiers deserting

The U.S. military turned over security responsibilities to Iraqi authorities in the mainly Shiite province of Karbala, Iraqi army soldiers rejoice. (PHOTO CREDIT: AP)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Here's something General David Petraeus probably doesn't want to talk about when he delivers his Iraq progress report to Congress next week: More than 1,000 Iraqi soldiers and police refused to fight during the battle against Shiite militias in Basra last week. One senior U.S. military official puts it this way: "They put down their arms, walked away, deserted, whatever you want to call it."

Remember how President Bush said when the Iraqis stand up, the United States can stand down? But what do we do if they just run away? The New York Times reports that the deserters included dozens of officers, including at least two senior field commanders.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki responded by quickly funneling 10,000 recruits from local Shiite tribes into the army. That made Sunni tribe members angry because the government has been less eager to recruit them. And of course it turns out U.S. forces were more involved in Basra than originally thought, with 550 U.S. troops backing up the shaky Iraqi operation.

All this comes as the latest National Intelligence Estimate paints a far more positive picture about progress in Iraq. Congressional sources say the NIE suggests the president's "surge" strategy is working. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a warning to General Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker not to quote "put a shine on recent events" in Iraq when they testify next week.

Here’s my question to you: What’s the U.S. future in Iraq if more than 1,000 Iraqi soldiers refused to fight in Basra last week?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Iraq
March 31st, 2008
04:59 PM ET

Iraq on the campaign trail

Iraqi Madhi army militiamen dance as they stand near a burning Iraqi army vehicle after attacking it on March 30, 2008 in the city of Basra. (PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Iraq is back in the headlines and making its way back into the discussion on the campaign trail. A recent surge of violence in Baghdad and the southern city of Basra has revived the political debate over the war.

According to Iraqi officials, at least two hundred people were killed and another five hundred wounded just in Basra fighting since Tuesday. More than 100 were reported killed in Baghdad as of Sunday. This was the result of a U.S.-supported Iraqi effort to rid Shiite militias from the southern city of Basra.

The radical Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr called a truce yesterday between his Mahdi Army and Iraqi security forces. He wants concessions from the Iraqi government in return. And a curfew imposed by the government as a result of the fighting has been lifted for now. But the fighting could resume at any moment.

And the overriding question remains–is the surge in Iraq working? John McCain, who has staked his political fortunes on his support for the troop surge in Iraq, insists it is. He argues the recent uptick in violence is proof of the dangers of an early withdrawal of troops.

Senator Obama says the surge has decreased violence levels, but has not resolved the underlying tensions that exist in Iraq.

And Hillary Clinton says keeping U.S. troops in Iraq is a clear admission that the surge has failed.

Who is right?

Here’s my question to you: How will the recent violence in Iraq affect the campaigns of the presidential candidates?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: 2008 Election • Iraq
March 19th, 2008
02:35 PM ET

Bush administration making long-term plans for Iraq?

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and the top US commander in Iraq David Petraeus talk at Baghdad airport Monday, March 17, 2008. (PHOTO CREDIT: AP)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Today of course marks 5 years since the United States invaded Iraq, but if it's up to the Bush administration, our involvement there will stretch far beyond the 5 years.

Vice President Dick Cheney has been in Iraq this week playing let's make a deal when it comes to our nation's long-term role in a country we now occupy. Cheney came away from two days of private meetings with promises from Shiia, Sunni and Kurdish officials to firm up a new blueprint for relations between the two countries.

The deal would replace a U.N. Security Council resolution that expires in December – you know, the same time that President Bush leaves office. The administration insists the deal will not create permanent U.S. bases in Iraq, set terms for U.S. troop levels or tie the hands of future presidents.

And in keeping with the arrogant, unilateral way it has conducted business for more than seven years, the administration says it probably will not get Senate approval for this plan. Why should the American people have anything to say about it?

The administration says that's because it's not a treaty that provides Iraq with specific security guarantees. Democrats in Congress aren't happy. Some lawmakers have proposed legislation that would make the administration's agreement null and void without Senate approval. Given the Democrats' overwhelming lack of success in stopping President Bush from doing anything, I wouldn't hold my breath.

Here’s my question to you: Should the Bush administration be negotiating long-term agreements in Iraq without the consent of the American people?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Bush Administration • Iraq
January 23rd, 2008
06:52 PM ET

False pretenses for Iraq war?


President Bush, joined by senior members of his administration, at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2005. (PHOTO CREDIT: AP)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

President Bush and top administration officials publicly made 935 false statements about the risk posed by Iraq in the two years following 9/11 according to a study done by two nonprofit journalism groups.

The study found President Bush led the pack with 260 lies, but he wasn't alone. Other officials listed include: Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, among others.

The study points to at least 532 times where officials said that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or was trying to get them or had links to al Qaeda.

They say the statements “were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses."

The White House called the study "flawed", and repeated the administration's position that the world community saw Saddam Hussein as a threat. President Bush said that at the time he and other officials made the statements, the U.S. intelligence community and other nations thought Iraq had WMD.

But it didn't. And yet we're still there and almost 4,000 of our troops are dead because of it.

Here’s my question to you: What do you make of a study that shows President Bush and his top aides made 935 false statements about the threat from Iraq in the two years after 9/11?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Iraq
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