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Dec 5

Written by: Diana West
Sunday, December 05, 2010 8:45 AM 

Caption from the Lewiston (ME) Sun-Journal: Chelsea McLain, 20, of Ridge Road in Peru, holds the last family photograph of her and husband Buddy McLain and their son Owen. It was taken in June, about five months before Buddy, a private with the 101st Airborne, was killed along with five other soldiers during an ambush in Afghanistan.

That would be a teatime "ambush," according to reports trickling out, which also give the impression the shooter was killed on the spot by two Americans.

But maybe not. This AP report tells us the Aghan-Taliban "policeman" who killed the six Americans was himself "killed in the shootout in Nangarhar province near the Pakistan border."

What is the real story here? And might the "unusually large group of VIPs" who went to Dover Air Base on Wednesday night know the answer? They better find out if they don't already know given that they -- national security adviser Thomas E. Donilon; Antony Blinken, the top national security aide to Vice President Biden; Michele Flournoy, the undersecretary of defense for policy who recently announced the US-Afghanistan mission would continue with intensity for years; and Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- are key White House and Pentagon officials responsible for the war in Afghanistan. Don't forget, our exit from this (feckless) war relies on the (crackpot) theory that the US can create an Afghan security force, police and military, in the combined image of the Boy Scouts, the 82nd Airborne, Dick Tracy and Smokey the Bear.

Meanwhile, Sen. Olympia Snowe now has the opportunity to find out the answer for all of us. She sent a letter last Thursday to Army Secretary John McHugh asking for a full investigation of the circumstances surrounding the death of Buddy McLain (photo above), who was one of her constituents. The Lewiston Sun Journal reports:

U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe has some questions about the death of Army Pvt. Buddy McLain, who was killed Monday in Afghanistan.

In a letter made public Thursday, Snowe asked Army Secretary John McHugh for a full investigation of the circumstances surrounding McLain's death.

Part of the probe is expected to focus on things McLain may have said to his wife, Chelsea, shortly before he was killed.

A week before he died, McLain expressed misgivings about American soldiers training Afghan Border Police.

“He said he didn't think it was right to train these people and give them guns,” Chelsea McLain said Wednesday.

In her letter, Snowe said she has been told that “Pvt. McLain sent correspondence before his death expressing his distrust of the very forces that killed him.”

If, if, if Olympia Snowe can stick to her guns -- holds hearings to bring these policy-makers and generals to book -- this could open up the whole cracked and disastrous policy to an irresponsibly long overdue public debate, not just cultish veneration.

“I am deeply troubled by these reports and urge you to ensure that all necessary resources are committed to a prompt and thorough investigation,” Snowe wrote. “These reports and others also raise a number of concerns regarding the policies and practices governing the training of foreign soldiers and police forces in Afghanistan.”

She then quoted from a New York Times story published about Sunday's ambush, saying it was "at least the fifth time in 13 months that Afghan soldiers or police officers have turned their weapons on their NATO partners.”

(And that's not counting ambushes and other aid, collusion with, and informing on behalf of enemy forces.)

Finally. A public official appears to be alive out there, at least long enough to write a letter -- which is something. Will she be persistent? This sounds promising, at least..

“Given this information, I request that the Army specify how NATO partners have acted to eliminate the likelihood of future attacks by Afghan soldiers on U.S. troops,” she said.

Snowe urged McHugh to “immediately review all ongoing programs used to train Afghan soldiers and police officers, including the processes used to select, vet, train, and arm such personnel and, in view of this most recent attack, take steps to substantially increase the protection of U.S. service members against such threats.”

Simple. Disarm the Afghans. [Update: OK, too flip. But stop arming and training them as a matter of "exit strategy." At some point the evidence becomes overwhelming: We cannot remake Afghan culture as a prerequisite to our leaving.]  But then we won't be able to train them to carry on the good fight after we leave! Um, what good fight?

She concluded, “It is of the utmost importance that Private McLain's family is immediately and regularly provided information about the details of the incident in which Private McLain was killed, as well as the status and findings of the ongoing investigation.”

Reached at home Thursday night, McLain's wife, Chelsea McLain, said she had heard about the letter but had not seen it. She planned to read Snowe's remarks before commenting.

Poor, poor lady.

 

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