Barack Obama is No Jack Kennedy

Over 50 years ago, President John F. Kennedy announced, “Ich bin ein Berliner” (I am a Berliner) from the steps of the Rathaus Schoneberg in West Berlin, making a clear and direct statement to the Soviet Union that he would not allow them to strangle West Berlin into submission.

President Barack Hussein Obama has the same opportunity now, in the defining moment of his foreign policy career, to declare, “I am from Baghdad!” The forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria are knocking on Baghdad’s door, and are solidifying an Islamic caliphate from northern Syria across northern Iraq (sans Kurdish enclaves), down to the outskirts of Baghdad.

US President Barack Obama makes a statement on Iraq from the press briefing room at the White House in Washington, DC, June 19, 2014. Obama said Washington was prepared to send up to 300 military advisors to study how to train and equip Iraqi forces and had already increased its surveillance and intelligence capabilities in the country. AFP PHOTO / Jim WATSON JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
US President Barack Obama makes a statement on Iraq from the press briefing room at the White House in Washington, DC, June 19, 2014. Obama said Washington was prepared to send up to 300 military advisors to study how to train and equip Iraqi forces and had already increased its surveillance and intelligence capabilities in the country. AFP PHOTO / Jim WATSON
If Obama had an ounce of the courage and fortitude of Kennedy he would be on the next plane to Baghdad International Airport and then declare from the tarmac that the U.S. is back to stay this time.

We still have troops and bases in countries we defeated in World War II, some 70 years ago. Germany, Japan and Italy are among the world’s leaders in economic strength and stability, and have enjoyed peace and prosperity, because of our committed presence since the end of the war.

The United State of America used to be known for its steadfast reliability and straightforward diplomacy. Kennedy also stared down the Soviets over ballistic missiles in Cuba, blockading that country and issuing an ultimatum to the Soviets to remove their missiles or face global nuclear war.

Obama waffles (red line in Syria), blunders (Benghazi), caves (Ukraine), and even seems to play for the other team (release of five Taliban leaders from Gitmo for one alleged deserter). In short, the man can’t seem to get out of his own way when it comes to foreign policy. It would be laughable if it weren’t so tragic.

Never before in the history of our great nation have we had a commander in chief who is so ill prepared, poorly advised, and downright incompetent when it comes to dealing with other countries. I can just see him in the kindergarten sand box giving all his toys to the pretty girls and bullies and then sitting in the corner letting them throw sand in his face.

This undated file image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 shows fighters from the Al Qaeda linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) marching in Raqqa, Syria. (AP Photo/militant website, File)
This undated file image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 shows fighters from the Al Qaeda linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) marching in Raqqa, Syria. (AP Photo/militant website, File)
“Pathetic” does not even begin to describe the destitute image we now must carry; not just with our enemies, but with our friends as well, because of his floundering and fumbling on the world stage.

He announced recently that we were sending 300 advisors to establish joint operations centers with the Iraqis, but failed to comment on the reason he gave for not establishing a status of forces agreement in 2011 before he pulled out the last U.S. combat troops. He said then that Iraqi President Nuri al-Maliki demanded that U.S. personnel be subject to Iraqi justice, and Obama walked and took his toys with him. No negotiation in good faith, just up and left.

I want to know NOW what the status is with regard to U.S. forces in Iraq. Are they or are they not subject to the Iraqi justice system? That MUST be settled before even ONE U.S. advisor steps out of the Green Zone U.S. Embassy area in Baghdad. If it does not, then Obama has once again violated his own promise not to put U.S. troops in jeopardy over that issue.

If the demand is lifted, then we MUST return to Iraq, en force, crush ISIS and the Sunni uprising, and then settle in for a very long stay. Nothing else makes sense. Which is the problem with Obama and foreign policy – nothing makes sense.

We cannot afford another Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl situation; Obama would empty Guantanamo Bay in the blink of an eye. We must commit the 82nd Airborne Division IMMEDIATELY, followed by United States Marines (air and sea assets) in support and then retake the country.

U.S. Army Sgt. Kyle Whalen, 22, from Plover, Wis., playfully taps his helmet with an Iraqi boy’s donated toy football helmet during a visit to the boy’s school in Mosul, 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq on Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2008. Iraqi Army troops donated school supplies to children who attend the school. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
U.S. Army Sgt. Kyle Whalen, 22, from Plover, Wis., playfully taps his helmet with an Iraqi boy’s donated toy football helmet during a visit to the boy’s school in Mosul, 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq on Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2008. Iraqi Army troops donated school supplies to children who attend the school. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
We need to insist on a status of forces agreement as if Iraq were forced into an unconditional surrender in the spring of 2003. We MUST establish a Middle East Marshall Plan that includes the subsidizing of Iraq’s defense and infrastructure to a point where they can stand solidly on their own two feet, but never move far enough away so as to miss them if they were to fall.

We need a presence on every Iraqi border, in every Iraqi town, and on every Iraqi road. We need to cut off and then blockade Iranian political and military influence of the Shia led government. We need to force a shared power framework where all groups are represented fairly in the government.

Iraq is the high ground in the global war on terror, which still rages white hot, whether or not Obama says it’s over. The results of his withdrawal in 2011 proved the war on terror is alive and well and created a security and leadership vacuum happily filled by ISIS and other Islamists.

The American military is trained to COMPLETE the MISSION above all else. My brothers and sisters who served before, after, and with me in Iraq shall not have served or died or been maimed in vain. For once since the end of WWII our political and military goals and objectives need to be one in the same. All Islamists must be killed or pursued until they no longer have the means or will to kill us.

The only question now: Will Obama take a page from the history of Kennedy by declaring a stop to ISIS’s progress, protect our troops from arbitrary enforcement of Iraqi laws, and then re-do Iraq – the right way this time? Our future and that of our friends, neighbors and children depend on it.

I am the author of “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior,” and three times mobilized U.S. Army Reserve Major (Retired). Twitter @mjgranger1

Back to Iraq? One Soldier’s View

“The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug.” – Chris Hedges

That opening quote from “The Hurt Locker,” the Academy Award wining best picture of 2008, directed by Kathryn Bigelow and staring Jeremy Renner, is a truism that most soldiers who’ve been in combat can relate to.

Soldiering in general can be addictive, but even more so in a war zone. To be ultimately effective one must resign oneself to death. Accepting one’s death is an emotionally significant event that finds one mourning and going through the typical stages of accepting death and dying.

Shock. Disbelief. Anger. Bargaining. Acceptance.

For some each stage is distinct and vivid. For others, they blur. For soldiers, reaching the final stage, acceptance, can mean the difference between life and death, for oneself and/or for one’s comrades.

The addictive part is truly the essence of the culture of soldiering. Life is simple. You don’t have to worry about what you will be eating, where you will be going, or what you will be doing.

You have your uniform, your gear, and your weapon. Also known as your skin, your stuff and your best friend.

Every day is so similar that it’s difficult and even superfluous to count days or pay attention to the calendar until you get “short” and have very little time left. Time-wise, the battle rhythm in combat is the only thing that matters. Being on time and hitting start points and checkpoints is mission critical. And make no mistake; the MISSION isn’t just EVERYTHING it is the ONLY thing.

This is the root of the devastating pain of having left Iraq BEFORE THE MISSION WAS COMPLETE. We are still in Germany and Japan nearly 70 years after the end of WWII because the objective of the mission was LASTING PEACE. Those two countries, former deadly enemies, are now more prosperous and peaceful than nearly any other on earth.

The eradication of the enemy, unconditional surrender, and the taking away of the will and means for the enemy to resist, were military and political goals in the 1940’s. Today, the military and political goals of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) are polar opposites. Our president and his administration of rookies with respect to military and foreign policy matters are at war with our own military – ideologically speaking.

Barack Hussein Obama is completely ambivalent to the military mission in the GWOT, and even denies that it exists. He, cavalierly stated upon the exit of the last of the U.S. forces from Iraq in December 2011, “Anyone trying to derail the progress in Iraq will fail,” a completely impotent and foolish statement.

Today we are looking at an Iraq that has politically and militarily failed. Mozul and Tikrit have fallen to ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), an Al Qaeda off-shoot of Sunni Muslims, or, more accurately, Islamists, who claim responsibility for the taking of these Iraqi cities and forcing over half a million resident Iraqi citizens to flee for their lives.

The Islamists are threatening the capital city of Baghdad, now vulnerable and exposed.

Who will save Iraq?

Will the U.S. go back to finish the job it started and then abandoned?

I would; were I not married with five children, 52 years old and retired six years from the military, my addiction would have its way with me. The burning desire to FINISH the mission in Iraq would take me over and draw me back to the smoldering heat, dust, and infectious smiles and gratefulness of the Iraqi people.

You wouldn’t know it from reports by the Mainstream Media, but the average Iraqi was quite grateful for our presence in Iraq. We had helped them rebuild and then improve the entire infrastructure we destroyed upon entry in 2003.

We had suppressed Al Qaeda.

And then Barack Hussein Obama was elected and the whole thing went down the toilet. The military mission that had started so brilliantly, turned into SNAFU (firing of the Iraqi Army), and then was fixed (surge); and then after we left rapidly deteriorated and then just went away, like the end of a dust storm, quiet, so quiet, and clear, and still.

But, it didn’t take long for the wolves to smell the carcass and then come running for a taste. Bombing began almost immediately upon the dust settling behind the last U.S. military vehicle crossing the border back into Kuwait. And then a crescendo of killing recently when bombings murdered scores of innocent Iraqi citizens, paying the price for their ambivalence toward the lack of a deal with the U.S. for security and a lasting peace.

Everything was “fine” back in 2011, just like the eerie calm before the tornado hits. And hit it did, and hard, and it looks like the “Big One” is yet to touch down in that desolate place, a place of blood and sand.

I am the author of “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior,” and three times mobilized U.S. Army Reserve Major (Retired). FB Twitter @mjgranger1

Was Bergdahl Addicted to Heroin? Why is he Being Sequestered? Detox?

While serving at the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as an Army Captain, and the ranking U.S. Army Medical Department officer with the Joint Detainee Operations Group, in February 2002, I was aware of a detainee we called “Wild Bill” who came to us from Afghanistan a drug addicted schizophrenic.

It took us a while to figure out what his problems were. We were distracted by his bizarre behavior: eating his flip flops, hanging objects from his genitals, making strange, random sounds, and, like many other detainees, when they got the chance, throwing urine and feces on the guards.

Once it was determined that this detainee was ill, and his story stuck, he was determined to no longer be a threat to the United States, nor of any intelligence value, so he was scheduled for release.

As it turned out, “Wild Bill,” or Abdul Razaq, admitted to me and a few of my unit mates through an interpreter while hiding from the press before delivering him to his freedom bird on the leeward side of Gitmo, that he was a heroin addict in Kandahar when the Taliban came through and offered to support his habit if he picked up an AK-47, and then fought with them against the Northern Alliance and U.S. forces in the fall of 2001.

Razaq’s bizarre behavior at Gitmo was a result of a combination of schizophrenia and cold turkey withdrawal from his heroin addiction. The Taliban had used drugs to control him.

It was weeks after he was released that we saw a picture of Razaq in an online Newsweek article written by Sami Yousafzai, picturing him on a psychiatric hospital bed in Kandahar, and telling the interviewer about how well he was treated at Gitmo.

Fast forward to 2009, and the bizarre behavior of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. He walked off his U.S. Army post in Afghanistan, and then went in search of the Taliban. It was overheard on a radio monitored by members of his unit that Bergdahl was looking for the Taliban and that a villager thought he might be “high after smoking hashish,” a concentrated hallucinogenic drug. Bergdahl subsequently spent over five years with the Taliban off shoot known as the Haqqani.

While with the Haqqani, Bergdahl was observed carrying a loaded weapon and taking target practice with the Haqqani. Other reports indicate that Bergdahl “happily” played soccer with the Haqqani, and “bounded around the soccer pitch like a mad man.”

We have seen video of Sgt. Bergdahl both when he was with the Haqqani during his absence from his unit, and upon his release, when he was handed over to U.S. Special Forces personnel. In general Bergdahl appeared in decent health, yet mentally subdued and calm. While walking from the vehicle he was brought to his release in, towards the U.S. Blackhawk helicopter that took him away, he seemed to be able to walk brusquely and on his own power. Upon his release the White House even said that he was in “good” condition.

Why then has Bergdahl been sequestered since his release to the point where he has not even been reunited or in communication with his family, namely, his parents who were trotted through the Rose Garden by President Barack Hussein Obama upon the announcement of their son’s return to U.S. custody?

The Taliban are known to sedate hostages with drugs. U.S. Senators commented after seeing a “proof of life” video of Bergdahl that he “had been drugged.” It was reported that during Bergdahl’s time with the Haqqani he escaped and then spent five days away from them, and then after his recapture spent time in a “cage.” Could his return have been due to his need for drugs?

It is possible that Bowe Bergdahl has been drugged regularly either before and/or after his recapture by the Haqqani. It is possible that one of the reasons for his being sequestered since his return, and hospitalized in “stable condition,” is because he is going through detoxification. Until this is done it is highly unlikely that he is being debriefed vigorously regarding his five years with the Haqqani, which would be the next logical step in his reintegration into western and American military culture.

It is almost certain that Bergdahl’s enlistment contract has expired. He has been passed over for automatic promotion to Staff Sergeant probably both for the circumstances surrounding his disappearance from his unit in Afghanistan, and the lack of a non-commissioned officer evaluation, which requires no “flags” on his record and certain achievements to have been accomplished. A “flag” could be applied from an unsatisfactory physical fitness test or height and weight evaluation, performance deficiencies, or misconduct.

The next step after detox and debrief could be a hearing before a military Judge Advocate General (JAG) magistrate to first determine his status. Is Bergdahl legally still in the military? Was he summarily discharged during his absence? Why was he never categorized as either a Prisoner of War (POW) or Missing in Action (MIA)? Will the United States attempt to declare Bergdahl an enemy combatant?

If the latter occurs, Bergdahl could be denied habeas corpus (due process rights) and then subject to trial by military commission. This would be the case if it were determined that he collaborated with the enemy and/or considered himself a “mujahid,” as some reports claim. It could also put him in jeopardy of being charged with treason; aiding and giving “comfort” to the enemy.

Heroin or other drugs may complicate Bergdahls status hearing. His attorney’s may argue that Bergdahl was a victim of being drugged and therefore cannot be held completely responsible for his actions. If he was summarily discharged he may be entitled to civilian representation, or either way may choose to represent himself.

It’s accurate to say there are many things we don’t know about Bowe Bergdahl and his current circumstances, but for me, based on my experiences and clues in the evidence available so far, I believe it’s possible he’s a drug addicted enemy combatant. We may only find out what the truth is when the U.S. government wants us to know. Until then, watch and listen for leaking clues to what may turn out to be the most fascinating military defection in history.

I am the author of “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior,” and three times mobilized U.S. Army Reserve Major (Retired). Twitter ID: @mjgranger1

Obama, Bergdahl and the Betrayal of America

Let’s forget for a moment that President Barack Hussein Obama negotiated with terroristsbroke the law requiring Congressional notification when releasing a detainee held at Guantanamo Bay, and by releasing five of the most dangerous enemies held at Gitmo. And let’s remember it cost American LIVES to capture those unlawful combatant Islamists in the first place

And it cost American LIVES (at least six) to look for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, for whom the Gitmo Five were released.

Honest military personnel don’t like it when their lives are taken for granted, or besmirched by a suspected deserter. It’s not good for morale to add to the already 600-plus RELEASED Gitmo detainees29 percent of whom are RECIDIVISTS. By the way, NONE of these detainees were executed, beheaded, hacked to death, blown up or dragged naked and lifeless through the streets, things our enemies did to previous captives, except for Bowe Bergdahl.

FILE - This file image provided by IntelCenter on Wednesday Dec. 8, 2010 shows a frame grab from a video released by the Taliban containing footage of a man believed to be Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, left. The nearly five-year effort to free the only American soldier held captive in Afghanistan is scattered among numerous federal agencies with a loosely organized group of people working on it mostly part time, according to two members of Congress and military officials involved in the effort. An ever-shrinking U.S. military presence in Afghanistan has re-focused attention on efforts to bring home Bergdahl, who has been held by the Taliban since June 30, 2009. (AP Photo/IntelCenter, File) MANDATORY CREDIT: INTELCENTER; NO SALES; EDS NOTE: "INTELCENTER" AT LEFT TOP CORNER ADDED BY SOURCE

Among other ethos, the Soldier’s Creed insists that a U.S. Army soldier, “will always put the mission first,” “will never accept defeat,” and “will never quit.”

After just a few short days after his release, U.S. Army Sgt. (promoted in absentia from private during his captivity) Bowe Bergdahl’s warrior ethos is in question.

The circumstances surrounding his disappearance from his unit while serving in Afghanistan are suspect at best. In fact, there are no reports of him being taken by force by the Taliban. Sources contend that he left his post, walking away without his weapon, body armor or ammunition. Reports say he took only water, a compass, digital camera, personal diary and a knife.

From Wikileaks to those who say they served with Bergdahl, it appears that he just up and left his unit. In military terms, that’s called desertion, an offense punishable by death according to Article 85 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Furthermore, he may be suspected of committing treason, a Constitutional offense, also punishable by death, for providing “aid and comfort” to the enemy. This is something he may have done when questioned by his Taliban captors in relation to his unit’s strength, size and movements.

Reports also indicate that in the subsequent months, while his unit and others searched for Bowe,at least six U.S. soldiers died at the hands of the Taliban.

On Aug. 18, 2009, Staff Sgt. Clayton Bowen and Pfc. Morris Walker were killed by an improvised explosive device in the search for Bergdahl. Staff Sgt. Kurt Curtiss was killed on August 26; 2nd Lt. Darryn Andrews and Pfc. Matthew Michael Martinek were killed after being attacked in Yahya Khail District on September 4; Staff Sgt. Michael Murphrey was killed September 5 by an IED at the Forward Operating Base, Sharana.

This undated image provided by the U.S. Army shows Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. The Taliban proposed a deal in which they would free the U.S. soldier held captive since 2009 in exchange for five of their most senior operatives at Guantanamo Bay, while Afghan President Hamid Karzai eased his opposition Thursday June 20, 2013 to joining planned peace talks. Credit: AP

His former unit mates indicate that after Bergdahl’s disappearance patterns developed in their searches for him, patterns that were immediately exploited by the enemy in increased IED attacks and base assaults when troops left to search for the missing American.

There are some who call for calm and empathy towards Bergdahl, including Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, who said, “We will give him all the support he needs to help him recover from this ordeal.”

He also justified the exchange of five former detainees who were held at Gitmo, by saying, “Sgt. Bergdahl’s return is a powerful reminder of the enduring, sacred commitment our nation makes to all those who serve in uniform.”

This “sacred commitment” included the release of probably the highest-ranking enemies held at Gitmo who were not currently on trial for war crimes. The Long War Journal lists these detainees backgrounds and associations, but briefly they are:

  • Abdul Haq Wasiq, former Taliban intelligence official, central to the Taliban’s efforts to form alliances with other Islamic fundamentalist groups to fight alongside the Taliban against U.S. and Coalition forces after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
  • Mullah Norullah Noori, senior Taliban military commander who was engaged in hostilities against U.S. and Coalition forces in late 2001.
  • Mullah Mohammad Fazl, one of the Taliban’s most experienced commanders prior to his capture in November 2001. Gitmo officials warned in a February 2008 memo that is Fazl was released “he would likely rejoin the Taliban and establish ties with [Anti-Coalition Militia] elements participating in hostilities against U.S. and Coalition forces in Afghanistan.”
  • Mullah Kairullah Khairkhwa was one of Mullah Omar’s closest confidantes, and directly connected to Osama bin Laden prior to his capture. He represented the Taliban during meetings with Iranian officials seeking to support hostilities against U.S. and Coalition Forces.
  • Mohammad Nabi Omari, senior Taliban official who served in multiple leadership roles, member of a joint Al Qaeda/Taliban Anti-Coalition Militia cell in Khowst, Afghanistan, and was involved in attacks against U.S. and Coalition forces. Also maintained weapons caches and facilitated the smuggling of fighters and weapons.

 

Mullah Omar, the spiritual leader of the Taliban, has called the release of the Gitmo Five a “great victory,” which aligns well with Sgt. Bergdahl’s father, Robert Bergdahl’s, Tweet: “I am working to free all Guantanamo prisoners.”

Bob Bergdahl, father of captive U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, speaks at the "Bring Bowe Back" celebration held to honor Sgt. Bergdahl in Hailey, Idaho, Saturday, June 22, 2013. Hundreds of activists for missing service members gathered in a small Idaho town Saturday to hear the parents of the only known U.S. prisoner of war speak just days after his Taliban captors announced they want to exchange him for prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay. Credit: AP

President Barack Hussein Obama seems to be on the same team. Exchanging one dubiously loyal captured American for five of the most dangerous Gitmo detainees seems like the deal of the century, if you’re Taliban.

With this exchange, Obama has continued to nail the coffin shut on the War on Global Terror. He closed the lid when he withdrew all U.S. forces from Iraq and failed to obtain an agreement for a residual U.S. force to remain there.

Obama continues to deny we are at war with an enemy – that is gaining strength and shows no sign of weakness – through promises of ending U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan by 2016, and now the release of five high ranking Taliban officials.

What right-minded person could deny Obama’s complicity in handing Mullah Omar and the Taliban aid and comfort by the release of the Gitmo Five?

The nagging question is, “what now?”

What now shall we do to stem the tide of foreign policy contraction and near literal surrender to the forces of evil and death that flew planes loaded with innocent Americans into buildings full of more innocent victims, and into a field in Pennsylvania? These actions killed more Americans in one day than died at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, or on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

In the conflict that included those two days of infamy we finished the job, concluding World War II with the unconditional surrender of both Germany and Japan. But then afterwards created a road to redemption for both countries and others with our Marshall Plan of aid and infrastructure reconstruction, as well as military defense subsidies with our own troops and materiel. It was this and Ronald Reagan’s steadfast determination not to let the Soviet Union dictate global terms that won the Cold War.

US President Barack Obama attends a military briefing with General Joseph Dunfore, Commander of ISAF and US Forces Afghanistan, at Bagram Air Field, north of Kabul, in Afghanistan, May 25, 2014, during a surprise trip to visit US troops prior to the Memorial Day holiday. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

With U.S. forces currently in over 150 countries world wide, to claim the Global War on Terror is over is pure folly, but Obama doesn’t even mention the global war, or terrorists, or the enemy. To him our presence overseas is a burden to other nations rather than a way to project power and influence to maintain security and to defend our interests and foreign policy goals.

In fact in May, 2013, Obama declared the war “over.” Only he forgot to tell the Taliban and Al Qaeda, who continue to this day to try and kill us.

In other words, the man who is Commander in Chief of the armed forces of the United States of America has abdicated his ultimate responsibility to defend this nation against all enemies – foreign and domestic.

Obama has defiled any semblance of following the Soldier’s Creed himself: he is not putting the “mission first,” has accepted “defeat,” and has “quit,” on his soldiers and on his fellow Americans.

I am the author of “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior,” and three times mobilized U.S. Army Reserve Major (Retired). Twitter @mjgranger1

The Best Way to Honor Those Who Never Came Home: Take Care of Those Who Did

Michelle Obama, in her Open Letter to Veterans, published on Sept. 30, 2013, says, “If you are a veteran who is uninsured and hasn’t applied for [Veteran's Administration] coverage, you may be eligible for [Obama] care through the VA.”

Yet the VA states if you have non-service related ailments or injuries, you don’t qualify for free coverage with the VA, fees and co-pays would apply.

The HealthCare.gov website Mrs. Obama recommends veterans go to stipulates that veterans who are enrolled in the VA system are considered “covered” and therefore do not qualify for care under the new health care law. Similarly, veterans who may be enrolled in Tri-Care, the military health care system, do not qualify to use the new Health Insurance Marketplace.

It’s no secret that “there are an estimated 1.3 million uninsured veterans,” according to Mrs. Obama’s letter. What may be a secret are the estimated 400,000 veterans suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) - a leading cause of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which can lead to social, physical, mental and emotional health complications, including suicide – which claims the lives of 22 veterans every day based on the VA’s own data reported by 21 states from 1999 through 2011. That’s one veteran every 65 minutes.

Mrs. Obama doesn’t even mention these two devastating conditions for veterans, their families and loved ones. The VA backlog and ill-equipped and trained VA service providers barely make a dent in helping those afflicted with TBI and PTSD.

What is the best way to honor our fallen heroes?

“Take care of those who came home,” is the answer given by Dr. Chrisanne Gordon, founder and chairwoman of the Resurrecting Lives Foundation and physical and rehabilitation physician. Who could disagree with making sure veterans, our most noble of citizens, who write a blank check to every man, woman and child in America for everything up to and including their lives, are cared for when they make it home alive?

Dr. Gordon, on her website, states that, “It is estimated that only 36 percent of the veterans returning from the Iraq & Afghanistan wars actually receive treatment through the Veterans Administration, although all are eligible.”

That’s only 792,000 out of 2.2 million returning veterans.

How will the Affordable Care Act provide relief for veterans if the VA can’t do it? How can Obamacare hope to even scratch the surface of treating ailments the government already can’t get out of its own way on?

The HealthCare.gov website claims that if a veteran can’t afford private health care coverage they “may be eligible for Medicaid.” The website also says that “if you’re a veteran who isn’t enrolled in VA benefits or other veteran’s health coverage, you can get coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace.”

But is the Marketplace ready for these special needs patients? And if they are, can the veteran not enrolled in VA health care afford it?

“Getting coverage,” means “paying” for coverage through the Obama Care Marketplace. Why would a veteran, who qualifies for VA coverage, not go to the VA? It doesn’t make sense.

It’s as if Michelle Obama is trying to get “caring for veterans” points with a health care merry-go-round that will deposit the veteran exactly where s/he got on!

Veterans need to be directed to the VA, and then some need to have their hands held to even get them to sign up. Medicaid should cover the non-service related costs should the poor veteran not be able to afford these costs, however, because the Supreme Court ruled last year it would be up to the states to decide whether or not to implement Medicaid expansion, an estimated 284,000 poor veterans, who would have qualified for Medicaid under the expansion, will not be able to access it.

Obamacare has NOTHING for the veteran, nor should it. But why the smoke and mirrors towards those who already are faced with a daunting, bureaucratic labyrinth and well deserved mistrust of the efficiency of a government program?

It’s a shame that in this age of returning veterans with complex health care issues we can’t find a better way to address their needs than with just a confusing “open letter” to them about something that can do nothing for them.

What we need is to allow veterans to seek out treatment at any municipal health care facility, just like Medicaid patients can do. Restricting care for veterans only through the ridiculous bottleneck of Veterans Administration facilities, which are inaccessible to most veterans who tend to live far from these facilities, for an estimated 400,000 suffering the effects of service-related TBI alone, is trite, myopic, unnecessary and a dishonor to their sacrifice.

I am the author of “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior,” and three times mobilized U.S. Army Reserve Major (Retired). Author web page: http://sbpra.com/montgomeryjgranger/ Twitter @mjgranger1

Force-Feeding Gitmo Detainees is Legal, Moral and Ethical

Recently, U.S. Federal District Court Judge, Gladys Kessler, found in favor of a motion filed by attorney’s for Gitmo detainee Abu Wa’el Dhiab who asked that the intubation to keep him healthy and alive be stopped.

Why? The detainee’s attorney and liberal left, Islamist apologists say that force-feeding violates international law and “could amount to torture.” Although the judge stopped short of using the “T” word, she described force-feeding as “a painful, humiliating and degrading process.”

I was present when the very first two detainees at the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba were force-fed back in early 2002.

Not only weren’t these self-starving unlawful combatants not eating, they were also not drinking anything. A person can go for several weeks without eating before killing themselves or causing irreparable organ damage, but if a person were to go without drinking for just a few days there would be no turning back once vital organs, such as the kidneys or liver, shut down.

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 24:  Supporters of closing the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base detention facility hold signs and pictures of prisoners being held at the facility while sitting in the audience during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee July 24, 2013 in Washington, DC. The committee heard testimony from a panel of witnesses on 'Closing Guantanamo: The National Security, Fiscal, and Human Rights Implications.' Credit: Getty Images

The military medical Standard Operating Procedures at Gitmo (which I helped write for the detainee mission) mentioned nothing about thirst strikes. We hadn’t thought about it. We only had protocols in place for a hunger strike. So when two hunger strikers were identified as having not had anything to drink for two days we performed an intervention, Gitmo style.

No, we didn’t waterboard them and say “suck it in!”

We appealed to their sense of religion first, if they had any. The detainees claimed to be Muslims, so we approached them with the Navy Muslim chaplain assigned to detainee operations, who spoke with the detainees through an interpreter about Allah’s instructions through the Quran that they should not willfully harm themselves.

The truth is most detainees were only pretending to be Muslims, their murderous and hateful values were acquired through Al Qaeda, the Taliban or other Islamists. In fact, the new official name for self-starvation at Gitmo is “Long Term Non-Religious Fasts.”

That failed to get the desired response, so we told them we would have to give them fluids intravenously. One detainee resisted to the point of physical refusal. We strapped him to a litter and then pushed fluids.

GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA - JUNE 27:  (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been reviewed by the U.S. Military prior to transmission. ) A Public Affairs Officer escorts media through the currently closed Camp X-Ray which was the first detention facility to hold 'enemy combatants' at the U.S. Naval Station on June 27, 2013 in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, houses the American detention center for 'enemy combatants'. President Barack Obama has recently spoken again about closing the prison which has been used to hold prisoners from the invasion of Afghanistan and the war on terror since early 2002. Credit: Getty Images

After several more days they were still not eating and refused to drink. We kept pushing the intravenous fluids, but it was becoming clear that we were going to have to intubate them and force nutrition into their stomachs before permanent organ damage, and then death occurred.

You see there are no military medical protocols that allow detainees to harm themselves, including self-starvation. The procedure for intubation, or forced feeding, is unpleasant, to be sure, but slowly dying because your body is feeding off of itself to the point of organ failure would probably be just a bit more uncomfortable, even torturous.

I pray you THINK about that for a moment. Is it absurd to tell someone to stop saving someone else’s life because it is potentially torturous to do so? We KNOW what happens to the body when it is not fed and nourished properly – it feeds on itself and then shuts down.

I know what you’re probably thinking: “So let the damn bastards starve themselves! It’ll save us taxpayers money and the bloodthirsty Islamists will get what they deserve – a painful and agonizing death! Remember Sept. 11! Remember Benghazi! Death to Akbar!”

A hooded demonstrator is seen at a protest calling for the closure of the Guntanamo Bay detention facility infront of the White House on May 18, 2013 in Washington, DC. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

We need to take a step back and then remember our values. We are the good guys. No matter what anyone else tells you, especially the left liberal, Islamist apologist uber-politically correct crowd who only want to manipulate American political will via self-starving unlawful combatant detainees, we have ethics and morals to uphold, even in the face of absurdity.

U.S. military personnel are trained to care for, and to treat with respect and dignity, any unlawful combatant that we detain, including those who wish to slowly and painfully off themselves. The majority of the U.S. military personnel working at Gitmo are professional, hard working, loyal and trustworthy individuals, who will never, ever disobey their orders to care for the detainees appropriately.

Because of this commitment to honor and integrity, International Committee of the Red Cross physicians with whom I worked at Gitmo and in Iraq told me, “Nobody does [detention operations] better than the United States.”

The Gitmo detainees are LUCKY to be ALIVE, as any or all of them could have been legally killed on the battlefield. They are even LUCKIER to have been captured by the U.S. rather than some other group with far less compassion and humanity (i.e. Al Qaeda, Taliban, or other Islamists); one that might, say, behead them, hack them to death, blow them up or drag them naked and lifeless through the streets, like they did to Daniel Pearl and Lee Rigby.

In this photo reviewed by US military officials, two feeding tubes and cans of Ensure are seen in the US Detention Center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, March 29, 2010. Detainees on hunger strikes or not eating are given enhanced nutrition via the tube. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

The irony drips, in thick globs, as our sworn enemy insists on being slowly and painfully allowed to die because the method being used to keep him alive is tantamount to TORTURE.

I wonder what George Orwell would say about this? I wonder what someone in a coma would say if they could, about being forcibly fed while medical science sorts out the cause of their coma? Did you know they also intubate premature infants? Ever hear that called torture?

Of course not! The act of self-starvation is a CONSCIOUS DECISION made for POLITICAL reasons by a desperate person, in this case an illegal combatant detainee.

Judge Kessler has ordered a temporary cease and desist to the forced feeding of Abu Wa’el Dhiab, and has forbidden his forced removal from his cell at Gitmo for that purpose.

I’d like to see her medical professional credentials, or her crystal ball, which she can guarantee no permanent or life-threatening damage will be done to the detainee during the time the restraint is in effect. The appellate court that sent the original appeal to end the force-feeding back to the District Court mentioned that the force-feeding procedure would “probably be allowed if it is just to prevent injury or death.”

People dress in orange jumpsuits and black hoods as activists demand the closing of the US military's detention facility in Guantanamo during a protest, part of the Nationwide for Guantanamo Day of Action, April 11, 2013 in New York's Times Square. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

It used to be that courts never interfered with military procedures, policies or laws. Gitmo has risen to a level of incalculable interference by the federal court system because President Barack Hussein Obama mentioned, bathed in both pre- and post-election naïveté, that he would CLOSE Gitmo within a year?

Could it be that he and U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder re-wrote the Military Commissions Act of 2006, to include rights and privileges for unlawful combatant detainees virtually identical to what you or I would enjoy in a U.S. Federal court of law?

Back to the intubation: We had the Navy Muslim chaplains and interpreter bedside with the two self-starving detainees before going ahead with the procedure, done in a private section of the detainee medical facility (an integrated and climate controlled tent system called Deployable Medical System), with low lighting and near whispering conversation.

The Muslim Navy chaplain, through the interpreter, tried to convince the detainees that their self-starvation was against Allah’s wishes, and that it would not be pleasant, and would they please reconsider.

They quietly and timidly refused, and then the Navy nurses, assisted by corpsmen, with a physician standing by, gently placed the feeding tubes through the detainee’s nostrils and then down their throats into their stomachs.

The detainees moaned slightly, winced some, and then opened their eyes wide when the nutritional liquid was slowly poured into them. So tell me, what exactly is inhumane, unethical or immoral about that?

I am the author of “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior,” and three times mobilized U.S. Army Reserve Major (Retired). Twitter @mjgranger1

Congress Reacts to Military Mental and Brain Health Issues: Will You?

When U.S. senators from two political parties come together to introduce legislation, without argument or hesitation, one should take notice.

In the current climate, when political opposites attract one might think money, prestige, or influence are involved, but in the case of the bill to improve military mental health evaluations for service members, Sen.s Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), no such benefits await them. They appear to have only altruistic and patriotic motivation for seeing that our heroes receive the comprehensive medical attention they need and deserve.

The Medical Evaluations Parity for Service Members Act of 2014 (S. 2231 or MEPS Act,) states that before anyone can become enlisted or receive a commission in the armed forces of the United States they shall receive a “mental health assessment” that will be a “baseline for any subsequent mental health evaluations.”

Alex Burgess gets emotional while visiting the gravesite of an old friend who was killed in Iraq, in section 60 at Arlington Cemetery, May 27, 2013 in Arlington, Virginia. For Memorial Day President Obama layed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, paying tribute to military veterans past and present who have served and sacrificed their lives for their country.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

This would bring mental health and “brain health” issues to parity with the physical evaluations conducted prior to admittance into the military.

If passed, the law would also include a comprehensive physical and mental and brain health evaluation when the service member comes off of at least 180 days of active duty or separates from the service. This would include screening for Traumatic Brain Injury, recently found to cause most instances of Post Traumatic Stress, which could lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. TBI is a “brain hurt” as opposed to a “mind hurt” issue that is more physiologic than mental.

We are finally addressing TBI issues, the signature issues of our returning heroes. Brain injury is not synonymous with “mental illness,” and the treatments for mental illness are often detrimental to TBI, hence the distinction is very important.

It is estimated that over 400,000 Global War on Terror veterans suffer from TBI, and most go undiagnosed and untreated, which leads to PTS and then possible PTSD.

AP photo.

Veteran and former U.S. Army Military Police non-commissioned officer, Curtis Armstrong was given a routine exit physical which didn’t connect the dots between his symptoms of memory loss, headaches, and thought process problems, since identified as being associated with TBI.

We can all imagine that if you’re not looking for something, and don’t know what it looks like even if you were, you’re not going to find anything. That’s exactly what happened to Curtis, and hundreds of thousands of his comrades.

The Resurrecting Lives Foundation, founded by Dr. Chrisanne Gordon, has been trying to gain the attention of politicians in Washington, D.C., for several years now. They have a panel of experts and have been advocating for the establishment of proper screening and treatment for veterans with TBI. Moving forward, the most encouraging event to date has been the MEPS Act introduction in the Senate.

When I inquired as to the catalyst for Sen. Portman’s introduction of the MEPS bill his staff replied:

“[T]he MEPS Act is a response to the clear need for better monitoring and assessing of service members’ mental health. While recent tragedies like the shootings at Fort Hood and the Navy Yard raised the profile of these issues, the need to address it has been apparent for far too long…Last summer, Senator Portman’s [Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee] subcommittee held a hearing on improving access to health care, including mental health care, for rural veterans. To help correct this, Sen. Portman introduced an amendment to the FY14 defense authorization bill requiring [the Department of Defense] to report on the current status of telehealth initiatives within [the Department of Defense] and plans to integrate them into the military health care system. Sen. Portman and Sen. Rockefeller also attempted to introduce language requiring mental health screenings for exiting service members. This language is now included as part of the MEPS Act.”

At the risk of seeming too giddy about these latest developments, which bring not just mental health, but “brain health” issues of military personnel into a broader light, it has been far too long that these issues have stayed in the shadows.

Soldiers like Curtis deserve better, and we as a country need to pay close attention to how we can help. Encouraging our own legislators, local, state and national, to support and pass the MEPS Act is just a start; there needs to be more resources allocated to ensuring our best and brightest are also well cared for, especially after their deployment service has ended.

AP

Among the several professional organizations endorsing this bill is the Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. According to Dr. Gordon, rehabilitation specialists would be included in the evaluations and in the program of reintegration.

“Sen. Portman did that, inviting collaboration with the private sector – the way to solve the TBI epidemic,” she said.

We can’t afford a legacy of forgotten warriors. We cannot endure the nightmare of neglected veterans. We are better than that. We, each of us, have an obligation to care for those we depended on to protect our ideals and us. Nothing less than a full accounting of every suffering veteran should be acceptable.

The Veterans Administration can be a hero here instead of the villian. If Secretary of Veterans Affairs retired general Eric Shinseki would pay attention to what’s going on in Congress, he could beat legislators to the punch: He could ask for funds to implement the essence of the MEPS Act within VA policy and practice.

Beginning with the new fiscal year in October 2014, he could seize the initiative in the war against mental and brain health issues in the military. You could suggest this to your legislators when you encourage them to sign on as co-sponsors and then pass the MEPS Act.

It’s important to remember that enshrining mental health evaluations for military personnel in law would ensure implementation in a timely manner, but if the MEPS Act gets held up in committee or is defeated, having the VA move forward with policy and practice changes through budgetary requests for fiscal year 2015 would honor the commitment our heroes deserve and should expect.

I am the author of “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior,” and three times mobilized U.S. Army Reserve Major (Retired). Twitter @mjgranger1.