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Obama’s GOP backers talk military policy


Story by Chris Graham
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I knew that Brett Hayes and John Martin had a couple of things in common when I set up my interviews with them for this week’s Top Story on “Republicans for Obama.” The headline gives the two key ones away – both are Republicans, and both are actively supporting Democratic Party presidential candidate Barack Obama in the November elections.

But there’s a lot more in common between the two than I originally suspected. Both made their calls on their presidential picks before the presidential nominations were settled, one. And two, both are military veterans – Hayes, an Greater Augusta businessman, having served in Operation Desert Storm in 1990-1991, and Martin, a New York law student, having served recently in Afghanistan.

The military connection interested me because of the clear line of demarcation between Obama and Republican John McCain regarding our military engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq. How did our Republicans for Obama reconcile the Obama position calling for a withdrawal from Iraq, for example, with the GOP party line that we have to take the fight to the terrorists in the Middle East?

“Obama has made it clear that he wouldn’t make any rash decisions. He is going to listen to commanders on the ground. He’s not going to do anything that would put troops at risk. He’s not going to have any rush pullout. Even with his estimates saying having most of our combat troops out in 16 months, I think he’s going to be flexible on that if necessary,” said Martin, who jumped on the Obama bandwagon in December 2006 and runs a website dedicated to Obama called republicansforobama.org.

“Barack Obama was one of the first people to speak the truth about Afghanistan, saying that the problem there really has to do with the problems across the border in Pakistan. People are starting to realize that now, but Barack Obama has been honest about talking about what the challenges are in Afghanistan,” Martin said.”A lot of people still think that Saddam Hussein was in league with the terrorists. He wasn’t,” Hayes said. “He had no weapons of mass destruction because he’d complied with what what we’d asked him to do, and the UN had asked him to do, because he didn’t want to get toppled. He saw what we had done during the first Gulf War, which I was a part of. We annihilated his army. A hundred hours on the ground, and we annihilated the third-largest army in the world, and they walked home, those that survived. Where they a threat to us? No. And I think a lot of our problems in the current administration is we overestimate the threats of our enemies and the people that they describe as being our enemies.”

Hayes made his break from George W. Bush in 2004. “I was one of the three people in Augusta County to vote for the Libertarian candidate for president,” he told me, then smiled and laughed. His break with the GOP in 2008 is due in part to John McCain’s decision to tie himself to the failed Bush policy in Iraq. “The almost 5,000 Americans that have been killed in the conflict thus far, and the 30,000 that were wounded, about a third of them really bad, is a waste. It’s a terrible waste. John McCain should recognize that,” Hayes said.

“When we go to war, it’s because the politicians and diplomats have failed, failed miserably. Because never is there a war where things work out good. There’s always a problem. And I think somebody who has an aversion to war is better than somebody who wants wars,” Hayes said.



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