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Former GOP Defense Chief Gates Warns Of Ongoing Russian Attack

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

As Republican lawmakers try to pull the wool over America’s eyes on Russia’s continuing attack on our nation, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates has a message for them: Shut. Up.

“The piece of the Mueller report about Russian interference is not ‘case closed,’” Gates, a Republican who served as defense chief for both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, said Sunday on Face the Nation. “And, frankly, I think elected officials who depend on honest elections to get elected ought to place as a very high priority measures to protect the American electoral system against interference by foreigners.” Gates also called Donald Trump’s failure to confront Russian President Vladimir Putin about the incursion in a recent call a “mistake.”

“I think he should’ve said, ‘We’ve had this discussion, the evidence is in and don’t ever do this again or there will be consequences for Russia,’ ” Gates said. “I think he very much should have raised it with him.”

Trump announced Monday that he would once again meet with Putin at the upcoming G-20 conference in Japan in late June. The Russian media had reported the meeting a day earlier, claiming Trump had requested it—which is frankly completely plausible and yet another example of Russia owning the media war with the Trump administration. Surely, the meeting will give Trump another chance to suck up to Putin and chat about his re-election bid while completely ignoring Russia’s 2016, 2018, and upcoming attacks on America’s elections.

Gates declined to speculate on Trump’s motivations for having such a “peculiar relationship with Putin” but noted that most of Trump’s advisers had a slightly more clear-eyed view of Putin. “The interesting thing is everybody around the president actually has a much more realistic view of the Russians, and that includes up on the Hill,” Gates said.

He also recommended returning the favor by creating some problems for Putin at home by informing the Russian people about “the magnitude of corruption of Putin.”

IMAGE: President Barack Obama (2nd L) and Vice President Joe Biden (L), along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011. Also pictured are Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates at right.  REUTERS/White House/Pete Souza/Handout

Bob Woodward Attacks President Obama For Getting It Right

Here’s a president who made all the right calls, even though his decisions were often “opposed by his political advisors” or were “unpopular with his fellow Democrats.” Here’s a president who was hesitant to rubber-stamp his military leadership’s decisions. Here’s a president responsible for “one of the most courageous decisions I had ever witnessed in the White House.”

The Washington Post‘s Bob Woodward read about a president who did these things and decided that former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ new memoir of serving in both the Bush and Obama adminstrations, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, is a “harsh critique of Obama’s leadership.”

Woodward’s summary of the new book focuses on the rift with the president over the Afghanistan War. But it’s clear that the former secretary ultimately recognized that there was little hope of a successful outcome in the conflict that began in the aftermath of 9/11 — but not because of any decision President Obama made.

Gates wrote:

President Bush always detested the notion, but our later challenges in Afghanistan—especially the return of the Taliban in force by the time I reported for duty—were, I believe, significantly compounded by the invasion of Iraq. Resources and senior-level attention were diverted from Afghanistan. U.S. goals in Afghanistan—a properly sized, competent Afghan national army and police, a working democracy with at least a minimally effective and less corrupt central government—were embarrassingly ambitious and historically naive compared with the meager human and financial resources committed to the task, at least before 2009.

Woodward insisted that Gates was “leveling one of the more serious charges that a defense secretary could make against a commander in chief sending forces into combat” by suggesting the president had doubts about a policy that Gates admits was doomed from the beginning because of decisions before Obama was even elected… to the Senate.

Gates also levels one of the most serious compliments a defense secretary could make about a president in his superlative description of the president’s “most courageous” decision to go after Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

The former secretary noted that the president was “determined from day one to win re-election,” thus political factors played into his choices, but were never “decisive.” He also suggests that President Obama, like President Bush, was aloof and uncommitted to forming relationships with Congress or foreign leaders.

The excerpt of Gates’ book, published in the Wall Street Journal, reserves its harshest critique for Vice President Joe Biden — who had been a vocal critic of the Bush administration’s Iraq policy — and the members of the House and Senate. He describes Congress as mostly “uncivil, incompetent at fulfilling their basic constitutional responsibilities (such as timely appropriations), micromanagerial, parochial, hypocritical, egotistical, thin-skinned and prone to put self (and re-election) before country.”

Woodward spent two sentences on that actually harsh critique of the legislative branch.

The New York Times‘ Thom Shanker looked at Gates’ book and found that it was simply a “critique of the president,” whom the secretary depicts as a “rigorous” thinker. Shanker notes Gates’ frustration with the president quickly souring on his own Afghanistan policy. “For him, it’s all about getting out,” he quotes from Gates’ memoir.

That’s an opinion now shared by about 6 out of 10 Americans, which leads to Gates’ conclusion about President Obama. In the final chapter of his book, the man who has served every president since Reagan except Bill Clinton gives his verdict on the president’s strategy in Afghanistan: “I believe Obama was right in each of these decisions.”

Ooh, harsh!

That is, if you’re Bob Woodward and you already decided what you were going to write before you even read Robert Gates’ book.

Gates: Obama Didn’t Believe His Own War Strategy

Washington (AFP) – Former defense secretary Robert Gates has delivered a scathing critique of President Barack Obama’s handling of the war in Afghanistan in a revealing new memoir, the media reported.

In “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary of War,” Gates recounts how Obama appeared to lack faith in a war strategy he had approved and in the commander he named to lead it, according to The New York Times and The Washington Post. He said the president also did not like Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

“As I sat there, I thought: the president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his,” Gates writes of a March 2011 meeting in the White House.

“For him, it’s all about getting out.”

Having approved deploying more than 30,000 forces after an acrimonious White House debate, the U.S. president seemed plagued by doubts and surrounded by civilian aides who sowed distrust with the military, Gates writes.

Obama was “skeptical if not outright convinced it would fail,” Gates writes in the memoir, which is due to be released on January 14.

In contrast to his subdued, even-keeled public demeanor as Pentagon chief, Gates strikes a sometimes bitter tone in his memoir.

The former CIA director whose career dates back to the Nixon administration voices frustration at the “controlling nature” of Obama’s White House, which he says constantly interfered in Pentagon affairs, even though civilian aides lacked an understanding of military operations.

The White House national security staff “took micromanagement and operational meddling to a new level,” he writes, comparing the approach to the 1970s Nixon era.

“All too early in the administration,” Gates writes, “suspicion and distrust of senior military officers by senior White House officials — including the president and vice president — became a big problem for me as I tried to manage the relationship between the commander-in-chief and his military leaders.”

After a tense meeting on Afghanistan in September 2009, Gates says he came close to resigning because he was “deeply uneasy with the Obama White House’s lack of appreciation — from the top down — of the uncertainties and unpredictability of war.”

A statement from National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden later defended Obama’s record on Afghanistan.

“It is well known that the president has been committed to achieving the mission of disrupting, dismantling and defeating Al-Qaeda, while also ensuring that we have a clear plan for winding down the war,” she said.

Hayden also hit back at Gates’s assertion that Vice President Joe Biden had been “wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”

“The president disagrees with secretary Gates’s assessment… Joe Biden has been one of the leading statesmen of his time and has helped advance America’s leadership in the world,” she said.

A White House official separately defended Obama’s record on both Afghanistan and Iraq.

“It’s well known that as a matter of principle and sound policy, President Obama opposed going to war in the first place, opposed the surge of forces and then ended the war in Iraq as president. Any suggestion to the contrary is simply wrong,” the official said.

On Afghanistan, the official said Obama “has always been firmly committed to the strategy that secretary Gates helped designed and that our troops have so ably carried out in Afghanistan, while also insisting that we have a clear plan to wind down the war.”

Gates, however, gives credit to Obama for approving the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, which he himself initially opposed.

It was “one of the most courageous decisions I had ever witnessed in the White House,” the former Pentagon chief writes.

Although Gates heaps praise on former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, he is stunned by an exchange between Obama and Clinton in which the two openly admitted they opposed a troop surge in Iraq in 2007 for purely political reasons.

“To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying,” he says.

Gates helped oversee the deployment of additional troops to Iraq during the Bush administration.

A Republican, Gates served under ex-president George W. Bush and was asked to stay on at the Pentagon for two years after Obama entered office.