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Obama Operatives or Straight Shooters? [IAVA and the Obama Campaign]

Posted By Blackfive • [October 10, 2008]

    "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled, was convincing people he didn’t exist." - French poet, Baudelaire, February 7, 1864

Operation Truth was up and running in 2004.  They had a lot of support from the left and from people like Joe Galloway.  At the time, I thought it was mostly a Winter Soldier II effort on behalf of John Forbes Kerry who was up for election in a four or five months.  I believe that Paul Rieckhoff, one of the two founders of Operation Truth, supported the Kerry Campaign.

Some of you may wonder why I give people a chance to respond on Blackfive, why I gave Paul Rieckhoff the opportunity.  For one, I respect his service.  And second, just because you have a different viewpoint on the war, does not necessarily mean that we will disagree on veterans issues like PTSD, TBI, GI Bill, etc.

I tend to give vets a voice as much as I can.  I tend to cut as much slack as I can (except for the IVAW, etc.).

So, back to Operation Truth and the IAVA.  When OpTruth got started, I asked Jimbo about it.  He said, "I don't know them, but I don't trust anyone who claims to corner the market on 'truth'".  Typical Jimmy, he nailed it.

Operation Truth's mission was:

...Operation Truth will educate the American public about the truth of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from the perspective of the soldiers who have experienced them first-hand. We will provide returning veterans with national, regional, and local podiums from which they will expose the preventable hardships that they endured as a result of failures at the top levels of leadership. We intend to publicize how poorly-planned policies and approaches have manifested themselves as problems on the front lines and back at home...

Rieckhoff did ten months in Iraq in Baghdad with the 3rd ID and the 1st AD.  After returning home, he started OpTruth and hit the airwaves.  Most notable was his response to President Bush's weekly radio address in 2004, but he spent most of the response addressing the "Mission Accomplished" speech from the previous year.  And, by the way, Rieckhoff officially responded on behalf of the Democratic Party.

The late, great, Tony Snow, worte this about the response:

While we’re talking about poseurs, what about 1st Lt. Paul Rieckhoff? Rieckhoff delivered last weekend’s Democratic response to the president’s radio address – an address quickly posted on the John Kerry website. If Rieckhoff doesn’t have Kerryesque political ambitions, I’ll be stunned. Upon returning home from a ten-month stint in Iraq, he quickly contacted his alma mater, Amherst College (where he was the 1998 student body president and where he delivered a speech last month), CBS (which featured him on "60 Minutes"), and the Kerry campaign (which helped sign him up for the radio address.) I have no doubt the lieutenant has expressed frustrations of soldiers, who don’t like getting shorted on basic supplies. The problem with this radio address, which Rieckhoff says he wrote himself, is that it copies almost verbatim from the Kerry and Democratic-party scripts.

He complains about the president’s May 1, 2003 speech aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, claiming falsely that the president had declared, “Mission Accomplished!” While the president seemed naively confident about the future, he also noted, “We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We’re bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous…. The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done.” (Here’s the entire speech.) More to the point, he never used the words, “Mission Accomplished.” That banner was hung on the Lincoln in tribute to the fact that its mission – which included having to stay several extra months in the Gulf region – had been accomplished.

The lieutenant also repeats Kerry’s kvetch about the lack of bulletproof vests (due not to presidential negligence, but to the fact that manufacturers just can’t produce them quickly enough). At any rate, Rieckhoff is right about one thing: The mission isn’t accomplished yet. Let’s hope he supports its ultimate accomplishment...

For some reason, perhaps because of the tainted view vets were having of Operation Truth, it morphed into Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).  Here is a screen shot (via the Internet archive) of the announcement.  Notice that it states that the mission of Operation Truth will continue on...

Iavafromoptruth

Did Operation Truth's mission really carry on into the IAVA?  From the IAVA site:

Our Mission: IAVA’s mission is to improve the lives of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families.

The Need: The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are in their fifth and sixth years respectively. More than 1.5 million American troops have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, and thousands have been deployed multiple times.

IAVA addresses critical issues facing new veterans and their families, including mental health, Traumatic Brain Injury, a stretched VA system, inadequate health coverage for national guardsmen and reservists, and outdated GI Bill educational benefits.

IAVA is dedicated to educating the public about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, advocating on behalf of those who have served, and fostering a community for troops, veterans, and their families.

Not the same as Operation Truth.  So, is the IAVA saying one thing but doing another?

So now to the IAVA, which lists Phil Carter, of Intel Dump, as a Founder.  We took issue with Phil, as Director of Veterans for Obama, passing off the IAVA scorecard without disclosing that he is a Founder of the IAVA.  The scorecard is clearly slanted in favor of Democrats and Senator Obama. 

On October 8th, Paul Rieckhoff published a response here to the vets concerns over at This Ain't Hell:

...And as for Phil Carter, it is no secret that he is an IAVA member. We have tens of thousands of members—and Phil is one of them. And we have clarified Phil’s role at IAVA on this page just so there is no confusion. He is not and never has been a paid staff member of IAVA...

So let's look at this more fully.  Phil is just one of tens of thousands of members?  Or is he a Founder?  Call me simple, but isn't there a difference?  Seems like there is...

Further, regarding the affiliation between Phil Carter and the IAVA...

  1. The IAVA site refers to Carter as an “IAVA representative” on multiple occasions.
  1. Phil Carter is listed as a member of the “Host Committee” of the IAVA 2nd Annual Heroes Gala.

In May 2008, Phil Carter wrote in his Washington Post blog, Intel Dump, that IAVA was “mine”:

...Today, as it deliberates over the supplemental funding bill for the war, the House of Representatives will consider the new GI Bill legislation proposed by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.). The bill has broad bipartisan support from 330 senators and represenatives, along with the support of every veterans' service organization and advocacy group, including mine, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. And yet, the legislation's fate appears uncertain, because of opposition from the White House, the Pentagon and Sen. John McCain...

Just one of those tens of thousands of members?

Phil Carter attacked John McCain in a blog post on the Washington Post in May of 2008. That’s not terribly surprising to me now.  But note that he didn’t disclose anywhere on his blog post – or in his bio – that he was affiliated with the Obama campaign. 

In January of 2008, Carter referred to “my colleagues from the Obama campaign”, and acknowledged being “part of the Obama veterans policy committee.”

So, the Washington Post gave an Obama campaign operative a regular platform on their site and allowed him to take shots without disclosing conflict of interest.

That sounds awful politician-like and not very soldierly to me...Soldiers are supposed to give it to you straight. Why not declare your affiliations?

By July 2008, Carter was the National Director of Veterans for Obama.

Are Phil Carter and Paul Rieckhoff playing us for fools?

I think so. 

And that would be a big mistake...

Update:  It's been brought to my attention that, should Senator Obama become President, that Phil Carter will likely be very influential.

I'm sure he will.  I like Phil.  I just don't like non-disclosures...


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