Despite the fact that President Obama declared an end to combat missions in Iraq in 2010 and Afghanistan in 2014, the United States still has thousands of troops on the ground in both countries.
And because of that, some American military personnel are winding up in the ground, even if the Obama White House refuses to admit they’ve died in combat.
Obama’s continued refusal to characterize the actions of our military in those war zones as “combat missions” has infuriated former Secretary of Defense and CIA Director Robert Gates, who has come out swinging at the administration’s word games that, many would argue, amount to outright deception.
This new blast at his boss of the past comes not that long after Gates publicly took issue with Obama as a power-hungry, insecure president who thinks he’s “the smartest guy in the room” and isn’t interested in listening to the people around him.
Appearing on the Thursday edition of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Gates stated, “I think that it is incredibly unfortunate not to speak openly about what’s going on.”
“American troops are in action. They are being killed. They are in combat,” Gates added, deriding Obama’s “semantic backflips to avoid using the term combat” as “a disservice to those out there putting their lives on the line.”
“I have a feeling it’s got everything to do with the politics of — we’ve ended combat operations in Iraq. It’s over. We’re done. We’re out of there,” Gates said. “We’re all of a sudden back there.”
Gaining a distinction he no doubt would not want on his presidential resume, Obama was recently declared the U.S. commander in chief to have been engaged in war the longest. According to the New York Times, the president reached that milestone, in part, because:
“Obama sent American forces back to Iraq in 2014 after the Islamic State seized wide stretches of territory there and was threatening to take Baghdad. In 2015, Mr. Obama, saying he continued to oppose the idea of an “endless war,” said he would keep thousands of troops in Afghanistan to continue to target remnants of Al Qaeda and to help Afghan forces defeat the Taliban.”
In 2014, Obama, in a statement about ISIL, said, “I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan…. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil.”
But even current senior officials — including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — have publicly called it combat. Former Sec. Gates added that current Defense chief Ash Carter acknowledges the troops are in combat, referring to a Navy Seal earlier this month who was killed as a result of direct fire from ISIS terrorists.
“So why the White House can’t bring itself to acknowledge what everybody in the world knows is unfortunate,” Gates said. “And particularly in the message that it sends to those folks out there on the ground.”
“If you’re in a firefight, you’re in combat,” concluded “Morning Joe” panelist Willie Geist.
“I’d say so,” responded Gates.