Correction: I stand guilty of one of my pet peeves in any kind of journalism, and that’s laziness in research. After I wrote this I came across this May 2nd article on Senator Brown’s announcing his intention to conduct his training in Afghanistan. And Setti Warren announced his official candidacy for the Senate a week after Brown’s “training” announcement.This would be a few weeks before the video mentioned below. So the video and announcement…not related. Setti Warren and the announcement? Still likely related.
Update: I was going to let this go, until I read this interview that Senator Brown gave on 6 September. In his own words:
“It was something I don’t think I’ll ever forget,” he said. “To get over there as a soldier and as a senator, to be able to gain access regular soldiers don’t get. . . . It was humbling.”
Brown freely admits that this was not a training trip, that he had access that “regular soldiers don’t get.” He’s not a “regular soldier” : he’s a new breed, a “Senator-Soldier,” if you will, wrapping himself in a cape of Teflon coated multi-cam that ensures his motives and actions in Afghanistan won’t be challenged by the press. I’m not sure what word I would use to describe a trip like that…pretty sure it wouldn’t be “humbling.”
My least favorite Afghanistan story from the last few days: Sen. Scott Brown returns from Afghanistan. No, not from some congressional junket, but from his seven days of training here.
Seven days. Of “training.” The article comes complete with a picture of him in his multi-cam uniform, kissing his wife at the airport. Normally a moving image for me, having made that trip a couple of times myself, but usually after being gone a little longer than a week.
My attention was first drawn to it by this article in the Army Times. I’ve copied the first article in its entirety below.
U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, back in Boston after serving seven days in Afghanistan as a National Guard officer, said his fellow soldiers worry about pensions, pay and the impact of troop withdrawals announced by President Obama earlier this summer.
“We are in a drawdown. . . . I’m concerned,” he said, grabbing a smooch from wife Gail Huff after landing at Logan International Airport at the end of two days of travel. “They just want to be able to do their job effectively.”
Brown is a lieutenant colonel in the National Guard, where he has served for 31 years as part of its legal arm. In May, he asked to do his annual training in Afghanistan.
From his base in Kabul, Brown said he traveled throughout the country, visiting troops as part of Task Force 2010, which tracks waste, fraud and abuse in the country.
A report released this week blasting defense department contractors for wasting more than $30 billion over the past decade was “perfect,” he said while waiting to retrieve his bags at the Logan terminal.
Brown said he ate with the troops in 116-degree heat in Kabul but said it was wearing heavy body armor that did him in.
“It was really brutal,” he said.
The Honorable Junior Senator from Massachusetts referred to wearing body armor for some of the whole week he was in Afghanistan as being “really brutal.” To help the Senator gain some perspective, there are patrols in Afghanistan that last longer than the entire length of his time in the country. And, unless they’re sleeping, those soldiers on that patrol don’t get to take that “brutal” body armor off.
I’m assuming that the Senator wasn’t legging it over hill and over dale. He’s part of the “legal arm,” which means he’s a member of the Judge Advocate General Corps, or JAG. He’s an Army lawyer, and they don’t tend to spend a lot of time outdoors. This view of the colonel’s week in hell is further compounded by the statement in the article that he was “visiting troops as part of Task Force 2010.”
Task Force 2010 is run by forensic accountants. The sole purpose of TF 2010 is to figure out how much reconstruction money is being stolen or routed to the Taliban. This after the SIGAR somehow couldn’t account for it after SIGAR’s own flailing at the reconstruction abyss. Based on recent reports, TF 2010 and other entities found it. Well, at least where some of it went, not the actual money itself. And that $360 million is such a small part of what’s actually missing, at least acording to reports as a result of failures by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR,as to be laughable. Except that it’s not funny.
“He asked to do his annual training in Afghanistan.”
Which would have been an option in some other years as well…let’s skip 2001, but he could have done this in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, or 2010. For nine years Senator Brown has avoided deploying to Afghanistan. Or Iraq. I’m guessing that’s been an option since at least 2003. In fact, he didn’t even deploy this time: he went for a week. What’s apparent is that this is an obvious self-serving political ploy. I prefer my ploys to be subtle. Like Sarah Palin’s bus.
What’s key here is knowing that Senator Brown is really running for his Senate seat for the first time. The reason he’s a Senator now is because he won the special election to replace Ted Kennedy after Kennedy’s death in August of 2009.
One of Senator Brown’s opponents in 2012 is Seti Warren, who Brown appears to brush off in this video shot during this year’s Memorial Day activities. Granted, it’s a video clip, and not long enough to get the full perspective on what took place, but notice that Mr. Warren’s wearing one of those VFW hats. That’s because Mr. Warren, in 2008, spent a year in Iraq as a Navy reservist.
It’s possible that Senator Brown suddenly developed the urge to visit Afghanistan sometime not long after that video was made. I’m not saying that’s what happened, but another article does reference the fact that Senator Brown asked for this training last spring.
Even without the apparent brush-off, it’s still a pretty stark contrast: vet/not vet. So, Senator Brown, facing re-election in a time of “hate the war, love the troops,” representing a state that’s sent National Guard members over to Afghanistan already, facing an opponent with a combat deployment, manages to get his annual training done (or at least a week of it, since most non-Senator types have to complete 2 weeks) in Afghanistan.
Then there’s this article, where Senator Brown answers some reporters’ questions.
“I had an opportunity to go and speak with the troops and eat with them, train with them, and see what their concerns were, and obviously meet with all the generals and the ambassador and the leaders, to see what the plan is and how the drawdown in particular is going to be affecting our soldiers,” Brown told reporters after arriving on a connecting flight from Kuwait.
Sure, “obviously” you should meet with the ambassador. Sounds like a political trip, and not so much a “training” mission. I can’t think of too many other lieutenant colonels who have the opportunity to meet with the ambassador, generals, and other leaders. In fact, having spent some time around HQ ISAF, I can think of quite a few lieutenant colonels who can’t even get their own desk. Unless your rank has “general” in it somewhere, you don’t get a lot of ISAF love.
I’m going to go out on bit of a limb and guess that he had those meetings because his other rank is “Senator.” I’m slightly in awe, too, how in a week he managed to fly around the country, meet with troops, train with them, meet all those other leaders, and still find time to wear that “brutal” body armor. Suddenly, though, Senator Brown remembers that he’s in uniform, serving in the military (for a whole week) and can’t discuss politics.
But he refused to address a political issue that erupted just before he left for Afghanistan – the admission that his lead spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, was “CrazyKhazei,” the secret author of facetious Twitter posts ridiculing one of Brown’s Democratic challengers, Alan Khazei.
“I’m still on orders and I’m not going to talk about any policy or politics,” Brown said, referring to his military assignment. “I can do that tomorrow, certainly, I’d be happy to do it. Unfortunately, I’m on orders and it’s really not appropriate.”
Bravo, Senator: you’ve managed to do what no Senator before you has done: exploit your own military experience for political gain in a time of war while simultaneously failing to spend any significant time in this country. Your other war-tourist legislative colleagues and Washington should be proud.
Next time just rent a bus. And leave the troops out of it.