Marines stand by version of Medal of Honor battle
December 15th, 2011
03:21 PM ET

Marines stand by version of Medal of Honor battle

By CNN's Charley Keyes

The Marine Corps is fighting back against a newspaper report that it exaggerated the bravery of a hero of the Afghanistan war who received the nation's highest military honor.

President Barack Obama awarded Cpl. Dakota Meyer the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony in September and spoke about Meyer's heroism in trying to rescue fallen comrades, returning again and again to the middle of an ambush to aid both Americans and Afghan troops.

McClatchy Newspapers, which conducted an investigation into the accounts, said on its website that parts of the Marine Corps' account of the battle were "untrue, unsubstantiated or exaggerated."  The article noted the exaggerations probably were unnecessary and that Meyer did deserve the medal for his heroic acts.

In a statement Wednesday, the Marine Corps said it firmly stands behind "the Medal of Honor (MOH) process and the conclusion that this Marine rightly deserved the nation's highest military honor."

The Marines say the award is "entirely appropriate and well-deserved," and that their investigation as part of the award process focused on direct eyewitness accounts and other recorded information.

But the Marines do admit that over the course of a six-hour battle, not every witness had "equal and accurate visibility or situational clarity on every activity." FULL POST

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Filed under: Marines • Medal of Honor • Military
U.S. wants Russian help on Syria
December 13th, 2011
07:10 PM ET

U.S. wants Russian help on Syria

By Charley Keyes

Amid continued expressions of outrage Tuesday over violence in Syria, the U.S. State Department singled out Russia for blocking a United Nations response.

"We are again calling on our partners on the Security Council to be willing to take action and speak out for the innocents in Syria who are suffering at the hands of the regime, including Russia," spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at her afternoon briefing. "And frankly, we think it is past time for the U.N. Security Council to speak up."

Nuland said a chorus of countries, including the United States, is calling on Russia and other countries on the Security Council to respond. Russia, a long-time ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, was one of four Security Council countries voting against a resolution condemning Syria.
FULL POST

December 9th, 2011
06:10 PM ET

Blunt talk on Pakistan from U.S. military

By Charley Keyes

U.S. relations with Pakistan in the wake of last month's NATO attack on a border post are "a mess," America's highest-ranking officer said Friday.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Martin Dempsey, dismissed Pakistani government claims that the attack was planned.

"What I can say, absolutely, and I can't imagine anyone in this room wouldn't believe me: We did not attack a border post, a Pakistan military border post, intentionally," Dempsey said in a speech in Washington. "If you think we did, I'd have to ask you in return, what in the world would we hope to gain by doing that? So I can say that categorically."
FULL POST

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Military • NATO • Pakistan • Panetta • Panetta • Pentagon • Secretary of Defense
U.S. General says Iraq vulnerable from the air
US soldiers leaving Iraq for Kuwait
December 7th, 2011
07:05 PM ET

U.S. General says Iraq vulnerable from the air

By CNN's Charley Keyes

The U.S. military is on a carefully orchestrated fast track to the exits in Iraq but a top U.S. General admitted Wednesday that the Iraqis are still vulnerable, especially from the air.

“The Iraqis understand that they have a gap - they have a gap in being able to defend their airspace if someone wanted to come inside that airspace that didn't want to be seen,” Lieutenant General Frank Helmick said. “How they deal with that gap is really up to them.”.

As all U.S. forces complete their withdrawal by the end of the year deadline, Helmick’s could be the last of a series of military briefings beamed from Iraq to the Pentagon briefing room.

As Deputy Commander of U.S. Forces-Iraq, he praised U.S. and Iraqi efforts to build up Iraqi security forces, but pointed to several potential weaknesses.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Iraq • Middle East • Military
Syrian president's statement on security forces 'ludicrous,' U.S. says
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
December 6th, 2011
05:49 PM ET

Syrian president's statement on security forces 'ludicrous,' U.S. says

By CNN's Charley Keyes

The State Department was quick Tuesday to challenge comments by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that he did not have control of his country's security forces amid the bloody crackdown on his political opponents.

"I find it ludicrous that he is attempting to hide behind some kind of shell game, but also some sort of claim that he doesn't exercise authority in his own country," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

"He has had opportunities in the past to end the violence," Toner said, listing initiatives presented by the Arab League, Turkey, other countries and the United Nations.

"He has rejected all of them, usually through a long, convoluted process where he plays for time" Toner said at his afternoon briefing at the State Department. "There is just no indication he is doing anything other than cracking down in the most brutal fashion on a peaceful opposition movement."

FULL POST

U.S. opens online embassy for Iran
US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman
December 6th, 2011
04:28 PM ET

U.S. opens online embassy for Iran

By CNN's Charley Keyes

The United States unveiled its first "virtual embassy" Tuesday, the latest attempt to reach over the Iranian regime and speak directly to the Iranian people.

The new website - at tehran.usembassy.gov - will provide visa applications, information on how Iranian students can study at American universities and a section speaking directly to the stressful relationship between the two countries.

And State Department officials say they are confident the website, which will be in both English and Farsi, can withstand efforts by the Iranian regime to knock it down.

"Unfortunately the leadership in Iran has a track record of opposing freedom of expression, both online and on the street," Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman said. "The regime has tried to impose an electronic curtain by disrupting cell phones and Internet and social media. This is one more effort to try to get around that curtain and get information directly to the Iranian people."

FULL POST

Treasury sticks to its guns on Iran sanctions
Treasury Department's Assistant Secretary of Terrorist Financing, Daniel Glaser, at a Friday speech
December 2nd, 2011
05:17 PM ET

Treasury sticks to its guns on Iran sanctions

By Charley Keyes

The day after the Senate defied the Obama administration on Iran sanctions, a senior Treasury Department official maintained that the present strategy is working.

"For many years now the United States has almost completely cut Iran off from the international financial system, including the Central Bank of Iran," Daniel Glaser, the department's Assistant Secretary for Rerrorist Financing, said Friday.
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Congress questions post-war aid to Iraq
November 30th, 2011
07:10 PM ET

Congress questions post-war aid to Iraq

By Charley Keyes

Members of Congress clashed Wednesday over continuing to provide money to Iraq as American troops complete their withdrawal by the end of next month.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-California, portrayed the Iraqis as ungrateful for the American expenditure in lives and treasure.

"We shouldn't spend a day more, a dollar more on their behalf," Rohrabacher said.
FULL POST

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Filed under: Congress • Foreign Aid • Inspector General • Iraq • Pentagon • State Department
Medal of Honor hero sues contractor
November 29th, 2011
01:29 PM ET

Medal of Honor hero sues contractor

By Charley Keyes

America's newest Medal of Honor recipient has filed a lawsuit against his former employer, defense contractor BAE Systems, alleging the company and his supervisor there punished him for his opposition to a weapons sale to Pakistan and prevented him from finding other work by portraying him as a problem drinker and mentally unstable.

Dakota Meyer, who was awarded the honor in September, objected to the company's sale of high-tech armaments to Pakistan, according to the lawsuit, saying the U.S. weapons sale is "giving to guys who are known to stab us in the back" and "the same people who are killing our guys."

In response, BAE is carefully pushing forward with defending itself in the case while not personally criticizing the Medal of Honor recipient.
"As an organization whose core focus is to support and protect our nation's troops, we are incredibly grateful to Dakota Meyer for his valiant service and bravery above and beyond the call of duty," Brian J. Roehrkasse, a BAE spokesman, told CNN.  "Although we strongly disagree with his claims, which we intend to vigorously defend through the appropriate legal process, we wish him success and good fortune in all his endeavors." FULL POST

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Lawsuit • Medal of Honor • Military • Pakistan • weapons
November 21st, 2011
04:56 PM ET

Hollowed out military or empty threats?

By Senior National Security Producer Charley Keyes

In the budget clash over national defense, the money is in the billions but the rhetoric soars even higher.

And the gloom-and-doom forecasts of possible military cuts seem to get more alarming by the day.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned that additional cuts would erode national security and even lead to war, encouraging America's enemies to attack.

"In effect, it invites aggression," he said at the end of last week.

"Devastating," is how he described the potential impact of forced cuts, in a letter to senators.

But one of the sharpest critics of the Pentagon, master phrase-maker, Winslow Wheeler, dismisses this as over-excited talk designed to disguise management failure.

"Panetta, (House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard "Buck") McKeon , the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have been babbling the worst strains of hysteria," Wheeler told CNN.  "Now they are saying it will encourage other countries to attack. It's pure babble." FULL POST

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Filed under: Congress • Defense Spending • economy • Military • Obama • Panetta • Pentagon
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