Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Joe Dunford admitted yesterday, despite Obama’s insistence that the US presence in Iraq is only as non-combatants, that US troops are indeed “fighting and dying” in the war-torn country, and elsewhere in the Middle East. He confirmed that the March 19 death of Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin was in combat.
“Was he killed in combat?” Sullivan, a Marine reserve officer, asked.
“He was killed in combat, Senator,” Dunford responded.
Army Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, who was killed by ISIS fire on Oct. 22 in Kirkuk province, Iraq, also died in combat, Dunford said.
“When our [Joint Special Operations Command] troops conduct [counter-terrorism] missions in that part of the world, are they conducting combat operations?” Sullivan pressed.
“Why then, Sullivan asked, did the White House refuse to acknowledge that troops were in combat?”
“Why does the administration go through these crazy somersaults that the entire country knows is not correct to say our troops are not in combat when they’re in combat? The chairman of the Joint Chiefs just stated that pretty much everybody in the Middle East is in combat. So why does the president not level with the American people, why does the White House spokesman continually say they’re not in combat,” Sullivan said.
This is a massive admission in the face of the recent backlash the Obama administration has been receiving over the “no-boots-on-the-ground” fiasco. The administration has at every turn claimed that no further troops have been or will be deployed; and at every turn, they have been shown to be lying, as state department spokesperson John Kirby fervently, and unsuccessfully, tried to claim that there was a difference between “special forces” boots and typical boots, as they somehow do not qualify as “boots on the ground.”
The admission is quite damning for those involved, as US officials have been continually dancing around the question of “combat troops” by manipulating the narrative and presenting them as only “advisors” or “trainers” when officially discussed. Some feel this to be a gross insult to the troops who are in fact in Iraq risking their lives in combat situations as their country denies their efforts.
Sen. Dan Sullivan pushed hard on the matter speaking out on how he believes the attempt to present Iraq as “non-combat” only serves to belittle the efforts of those overseas risking their lives.
“I also think it diminishes the sacrifice of the American troops and their families,” Sullivan added. “We know they’re in combat; why can’t we level with the American people and say they’re in combat?”
Despite the obvious admission to combat casualties, and the clear role that the US is playing within this dynamic, the White House chose to continue denying the life-risking efforts these American troops are putting forth. In a Tuesday briefing, White House spokesman Josh Earnest, ironically gave a response lacking any earnest conviction, and simply reiterated their previous stance:
“[U.S. troops are] not in a combat role, but they are in a role that puts them in harm’s way,” he said. “They are armed for combat. They are armed to defend themselves if necessary. But the role that they have is to offer advice and assistance to forces on the ground fighting ISIL in their own country.”