tv Politics and Public Policy Today CSPAN February 12, 2016 12:45pm-2:46pm EST
it goes beyond the literacy. it goes back to the sufficiency of the resources that the generals have. due to a lack of data we do not know right now how many amdsf people will lit rail. our best estimate is it's less than 30%. why? even though we spent $200 million dollars in literacy training, they don't have the ability because they don't have the resources to measure the effectiveness of the literacy program and determine the extent to which overall literacy in andsf has improved. remember, we transitioned the literacy program to the afghans. and once we did that we lost all visibility. so we don't know how many people have been trained. but more importantly, how many of those soldiers and police we trained are still in the
military. and we make a -- as you know, our quarterly report is the largest data call that goes out every year to the u.s. government, or every quarter on what's going on. when we ask these questions, we're not getting answers anymore because stick ka, because our resources in the field are not there to answer them. you're on to a very important part that goes beyond the literacy issue. it goes to the heart of the issue and that is do we have adequate resource to understand the capabilities of the andsf. >> thank you. anyone else want to comment on that? compared to two years ago i think if threat to our personnel who are serving in afghanistan has grown. and i'm particularly concerned about our embassies wity and th inability of our personnel to move around the city of kabul or
even -- well or anywhere else. so my first question is, do you think that the danger there has increased, and what if anything can we do to mitigate those concerns? >> so, since the drawdown of u.s. and coalition forces, the security environment in kabul, i think in general, has decreased. some of that is the withdrawal also came with it, a lack of capital going into the city. and so some of the security environment is influenced not by the insurgent threat but the economic instability. and you know, increased threats of kidnappings and other things in country. so no question the security environment is diminished in kabul. there are different statistics that indicate that the high
profile attacks are actually down overall from last year to this year. but you know what we're very focused on from the d.o.d. perspective, but i think it also affects state, is taking the precautionary measure to ensure that those that are serving in afghanistan on our behalf are adequately protected. there are different costs associated with ground movements that we can defray by doing more air movements. that is one of the calculations that we make in terms of how much access and how much freedom of movement we ask our -- those personnel that are serving in-country to sort of take when they're moving around the city. no question it's a difficult security environment and one that we're very focused as a first order of business on ensuring the force protection of those that are serving there. >> colonel michael, are people in the embassy moving outside of the embassy on foot at all?
>> primarily when they move it's by, you know, by vehicles. there are a couple of spots close to the embassy where people walk. but for the most part if you're moving out of the embassy or any military compound, it's by vehicles. >> is it by vehicles? >> yes, ma'am. >> ma'am, it's both vehicles and air movements, though the air movements have increased over the last year. >> so the question becomes, what can they do if they're really isolated within the embassy compound? and are we placing them at risk by keeping them there. >> so i would defer to state they're going to be able to tell you the frequency of their movements. i would say they're not isolated. we at rs resolute support are not isolated at the headquart s
headquarters. the embassy is not isolated at the embassy. a lot of the government facilities they need to visit are within the green zone, the international zone where there is a goods deal of safety building, to go to the m.o.i. headquarters building, so they are -- advisers are getting out and about. and engaging with their afghan partners on those aspects of our relationship that are most critical. >> mr. saltko. >> i would beg to differ a little bit with my colleague in one respect. they are getting about but it's very limited. and we don't really have an embassy presence to a great extent outside of kabul. we used to have senior civilian representatives located around the country. we no longer have those people there. we still may have a military presence in some of these bases but we don't have the civilian presence. i go there on a regular basis,
and i talk to my colleagues not only my staff but we have about 50 but also talking to state and aid officials, and they're not getting out. there are people who are assigned to our embassy who never leave the embassy except to go for r and r because they can't get out. the last time i was in country went over to the ministry of narcotics and the state department officials from inl have never gotten to the ministry of narcotics because of the security situation. now, i don't want to criticize our security people. as was said they are very concerned about the safety of our american troops, our american civilians, our american contractors. and i defer to them on security. so i'm not questioning these security things. but the reality of the situation is you can get assigned to afghanistan any embassy or aid
and you never leave the embassy. now, that doesn't mean we should shut down because doing diplomacy is not risk-free. just like a soldier t ieier takk when he puts that uniform on and goes overseas, the same thing for aid and state employees and d.o.d., i.g. people and my staff. it's not risk free. you want to try to measure that risk, but the risk is taking its toll on the ability to advise and assist, to train and to get out and oversee the money. that's the reality of the situation there. >> i really appreciate your candor because i think for many of our colleagues there is an expectation that there is movement and that it is less dire frankly than i think it is.
the fact so many of our personnel there really are not able to move outside of being transfer transferred should be of deep concern to us. do you have any more comments? >> i think mr. sopko explained that well. that's certainly been our experience and our staff. >> so, mr. chairman, i have one last question, but it's a big one. i would like to ask each member of the panel to give me two examples of success in afghanistan and two examples of failure. >> i'll start. >> okay. >> two examples of success. first of all, i think this fighting season we've talked a lot about the problems we're seeing in helmand with the 215th corps. we've talked a lot about the
concerns we saw in kunduz when it temporarily fell to the taliban. what we've talked less about are the other elements we've seen from the afghan security forces. the 203rd corps, one of the corps we don't cover as a matter of sort of daily contact -- >> can you repeat that again? what is it called? >> the 203rd corps, which operates in eastern and southeastern afghanistan. did a very good job this fighting season addressing what is a dynamic security environment. they've had isil threats to deal with, al qaeda threats to deal with, taliban threats to deal with. they've conducted a number of clearing operations that were multipillar across multiple different aspects of the complicated force. and they did quite well. in operation iron triangle specifically. i'd also say that the special operations capability that the afghan national security forces are displaying in particular
their aviation capability that supports it has been a critical aspect for this fighting season. and the one place we are sure that investment is paying off. they were critical in retaking kunduz after it temporarily fell to the afghan -- to the taliban. we partnered with them in kandahar -- so showing the investment in that partnership, we really do see that displayed by that core capability and special operations capability in the aviation capability in particular. now, i have mentioned some of the difficulties that we experienced this fighting season. you know, i think that other aspects of what we do in afghanistan are also a mixed bag. there have been very big successes, i think, in our relationship with the afghan
government to counter corruption. i think we have a partner in president ghani who is very focused on being able to have control over those aspects of the government that are prone to corruption. and he wants us to work together to figure out how to discipline the system. that being said, as we've seen in places like helmand, corruption is a significant problem. as we see with things like go soldiers, that is a problem. so we are all focused together. and i think for the first time in a very real way with our afghan partners in addressing that challenge. >> thank you. >> that's a great question, ma'am. thank you. i would keep this very simple. okay. so two examples of success i would take this at strategic and more operational level. at the strategic level i think a measure of success would be seeing the fracture of the taliban leadership. and that may also be precipitated, for example, by
peace talks or negotiations be very public defeats of the insurgency in the field by afghan security forces. my two examples of failure would just be the exact opposite of those two coins i just highlighted to you. so at the operational level that would be to capture or multiple captures several venture capitals inside afghanistan. and at a strategic level that would be seeing a fracture of the political elites that destabilizes the government and maybe a prestage to civil conflict again. thank you. >> thank you. >> ma'am, as we look at successes i would say one success is just the ownership taken. this force here fully
responsible they were the primary land force and the ownership that they took i think and effects that they've had this year. not anoth-- another huge succes the a.l.p. program. we've seen some key successes there. one of the things significant of the a.l.p. program is the folks are from the local area. so wherever you find a.l.p. properly secured and tight with the rest of the afghan security you almost find green bubbles are created because they know who should be there, who shouldn't. and displaces the enemy. the enemy's no longer to hide in plain sight. one of the things that i think failures and things that have got to work on, you know, is the ability to maintain some of the small persistent operations that this required to put pressure on the taliban. so to do well in a big multicorps operations but the
ones that are really have the most impact are the ones that are really being done at a district level. and the ones that are not telegraphed. so the big operations a lot of time the enemy cannot understand it's coming and have the ability to shift. and the final thing i think they need to improve and do better is anticipate in where the enemy's going to be. so for example, you know, we do by typically defending in the east and the south, but we saw this year, you know, some attacks in the north. kunduz was an example. and some attacks in the west. so being able to anticipate and then responding and reacting a little bit quicker when the enemy does something that's, you know, not telegraphed or unexpected. >> thank you. >> i'd like to follow-up on assistant secretary abazaid's comments. the two successes i would like
to highlight deal with the cooperation or the new one has to do with conditionality. they've worked very closely with the new unity government. and i actually met with president ghani and he says i accept conditionality. i want conditionality. let's work together. and i think that's a great success. the prior regime wasn't interested in conditionality. but the new regime is. and so general davis, general zim and general campbell stepped up to the plate and hit a home run on that. the second success is along the same line, when we work together we really do succeed. that is when my agents uncovered the price fixing for the $1 billion m.o.d. fuel case, we immediately went to general campbell, we went to general
semonite, we explained what we'd uncovered because we actually had information of the conspiracy in dubai to rig the price which was going to cost the afghans an extra $250 million which means it was going to cost the u.s. they went over as a team. they briefed the president. the president immediately shut down the contract, fired some generals, did an investigation and then set up a procurement commission that they're looking at other questionable direct assistance contracts. and that's fantastic. that's a success. on the failures, madame congressman, there are so many. but i think one we have ignored up until now and it's the 800 pound gorilla in the room. that is the $8 billion we have spent on counternarcotics. and it's been a total abject failure. the only reason the amount of narcotics coming out of afghanistan are lower this year than last year has absolutely nothing to do with any of our
programs of that $8 billion. it has to do with disease and weather. that is the 800 pound gorilla. if we ignore that what will happen is what ghani warned us, will become a terror state i have not seen anything from the embassy that would stop that. the other issue i think is an abject failure, we really don't know what the capabilities are of the afghan national security forces. we're guessing. and those are two serious failures and serious concerns. >> thank you. >> ma'am, i would discuss as success the intersection of what i think is a strategic improvement based on oversight. and that is beginning with major
general michael williamson. sought out from our organization a look, a hard look at both the nato trust fund and the initial direct funding challenge. and the surprising thing he was able to see in general dunford as well president ghani has said the taliban is not an existential threat. what is an existential threat is the loss of confidence by the contributing nations. and general williamson took our report, which was quite negative, identified many, many problems, but the fact that the united states has a system of an independent i.g. outside the chain of command reporting only to the secretary of defense and ;f congress that could therefore independently assess the
problems. general williamson took that to nato and met with contributing nation partners. and it had an impact that they could then feel at least there is some independent look. and despite the fact that it was bad, it would mean some attempt at improvement. and that has continued. and mr. sopko is a very big part of that. but it is continued to the extent of translating our reports into the language of the afghans so that they would be outbriefed along with the command. and is not simply the command saying this is a problem and it has to be improved, but this is a report that's going to the united states congress that appropriates the fund. so we've had several reports like that. we continue the direct funding. that is what i would say two positive. i would speak only to one negative, and i think it's dramatic, it's an example of the
tragedy there. all the attempts to do good things and to improve. on august 5th, 2014, i was serving in bagram and learned that major general harold green had been killed. he was trying to demonstrate his confidence in the afghans, did not wear the protective equipment. he was meeting with afghan officials. he was a follow-onto general williamson who was followed by general semanite and now inspector general davis. and so attempting to make a big difference, and he was in trying to place beginning conditionality on matters, he lost his life. >> thank you. thank you all very much for your testimony. i yield back. >> ma'am, gentlemen, thank you for being here. i can't speak to everyone that we're training but i can speak to the men we're training in the
a-29 mission. i've been down there, i've met with them, i can assure you the people coming through there that are vetted, they are educated and they're capable of carrying out that mission. that's one mission. but i will speak for that one. and one other suggestion might be working with the people in that country, the leadership of that country. if the best way to handle that drug issue is probably to get some crop dusters over there and to spray the crops. and if we want to be careful about how much we spend, you come to south georgia, we'll sell you one and ship it over there at the right price. thank you for being here and for your service.
dinner in st. paul. it begins at 8:00 p.m. eastern and you'll find it live on c-span. saturday night c-span will have a discussion by silicon valley tech experts on how to improve governments online services. you'll hear from mikey dickerson, the google executive hired to fix healthcare.gov. here's a quick look. >> if you just walk in as an engineer and walk in and look at a bunch of other engineers, all right, and see what they're doing and how they're doing it and it was just total insanity like when you first looked. there were 55 different companies contracted to work on different parts of healthcare.gov, which is a fairly complicated operation but it ain't that complicated. all right. and there were, i don't know, conservatively -- this is another piece of insanity. literally nobody knows how many
people were engineers, developers were going to call them technical roles on the project, there are at least dozens, in different buildings and did not have any kind of habit or custom of working together. they were in most cases explicitly forbidden from communicating with each other because the way contracts are managed through the government. and this was set up -- and there was nobody -- the government reserved for itself the job of coordinating how all this was going to go and the problem is the government doesn't really have that skillset and i'll just leave that where it is. i could elaborate on that, but the government just wasn't really equipped to do that job. and so the -- what was going on just made zero sense. >> he and his team participated in an event at the computer history museum in mountain view, california. you can see the entire event saturday night at 8:00 eastern on c-span.
every weekend on american history tv on c-span3, we feature programs that tell the american story. here are some of the highlights for this president's day weekend. saturday afternoon at 5:00 eastern author margaret oppenheimer talks about her book the remarkable rise of eliz eliza jumel. her unusual life and including a second marriage to former president aaron burr. >> what brought these two celebrities together? on burr's side of the alter the undoubted attraction was jumel's money. a marriage to eliza jumel will give him a big pot of money to spend. jumel had her own motivations for the marriage. on the one hand, she would soon have to begin settling her first husband's estate.
burr, with his knowledge of the law could help her protect her assets. but the main attraction of the marriage for her was the opportunity to enter social circles that had been previously closed to her. >> at 6:00 on the civil war, historian dennis fry on the reactions of both southerners and northerners to john brown's 1859 raid on the federal armory at harper's ferry. this subsequent execution and a nation's divided sentiments as americans headed toward the 1860 election. sunday afternoon at 2:00 historians explore the history of the death penalty in america including the 1976 greg v. georgia u.s. supreme court case that affirm the constitutionality of capital punishment. monday afternoon at 3:30 eastern author and historian james swanson compares the assassinations of abraham lincoln and john f. kennedy. their personal similarities and
differences in their terms in office, the backgrounds of the assassins and the state of the country at the time. he also talks about experiences and reactions of the two widows. >> but jackie was very conscious of history. jfk was very interested in abraham lincoln, knowledgeable about lincoln, so jackie did have very much in mind the lincoln precedent for the funeral. >> for the complete american history tv weekend schedule go to c-span.org. the reality is the best presidents, the greatest presidents have been willing to recognize they weren't the smartest person in the room. and to surround themselves with people they thought were smarter than themselves. >> robert gates discusses his book "a passion for leadership lessons on change and reform from fifty years of public service." mr. gates has served under
several presidents most recently george w. bush and barack obama. >> at the end of the cold war, when i was director of central intelligence, i came to believe very strongly that the american people had given cia a pass on a lot of thing because of this existential conflict with the soviet union. and i believe after the end of the cold war we were going to have to be more open about what we did and why we did it. and even to an extent how we did it to help the american people better understand why intelligence was important to the government and to presidents and why presidents valued it. >> sunday night at 8:00 eastern on c-span's q & a. the president's nominee to be the next commander general of military operations in afghanistan says security challenges remain there. his comments came during testimony before the senate armed services committee.
senator john mccain, the committee's chair and senator jack reed, the ranking member, both support the nominee. this is an hour and a half. >> well, good morning all. and thank you for being here general nicholson. and i would ask the indulgence of the committee to allow our distinguished colleague from illinois, senator kirk, to make a few words of introduction before we begin the committee proceedings. senator kirk. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i am here to give general nicholson my highest recommendation. general nicholson has had three and a half years active duty
service on the ground more than any other general officer in the u.s. military. i have served him several times as a reservist in afghanistan. there's no officer who has as much experience in the u.s. military that he does. and i would note that with him you get a multigenerational input from his father and grandfather and great-great uncle, also given a monument in northern pakistan who led the british forces in the sea port mutiny. when he was asked by afghan leaders are you related to him, he said yes, i am, that was very impressive to them. to be given that much experience of force in afghanistan is unique in this individual. >> well, thank you very much, senator kirk.
i know you have other responsibilities this morning. i want to thank you for taking the time to introduce this distinguished member of the military who we will hear more from today. thank you, senator kirk. senate armed services committee meets this morning to consider the nomination of lieutenant general john nicholson to be the next commander of u.s. and coalition forces in afghanistan. general, congratulations on your nomination. and welcome. and as our tradition, general nicholson, we hope you will take the opportunity before your remarks to introduce any family and friends joining you today. and as senator kirk mentioned you have a distinguished family lineage including your uncle and old friend of members of this committee, jim nicholson and of course your father general nicholson as well. i'd like to begin by thanking you, general, for your many
years of distinguished service and your leadership in afghanistan at a critical time. you've presided over important progress improving the capability and capacity of the afghan military and developed a strong and productive relationship with the afghan unity government. when you saw the progresses and danger, insisted that further troop withdrawals should be based on conditions on the ground. while president obama decided to keep 9,800 u.s. troops in afghanistan beyond 2016, conditions on the ground in afghanistan today clearly demand an immediate re-evaluation of scheduled american troop withdrawals. and this administration's continued adherence to a calendar based withdrawal rather than a conditions based withdrawal which some of us have been urging for for many years. in 2001, american forces went to afghanistan because that was where under the sanctuary of the
taliban regime al qaeda planned and conducted initial training for the september 11th attacks that killed 3,000 innocent civilians on american soil. our mission was to ensure that afghanistan would never again be a safe haven for al qaeda or other terrorist groups to attack the united states. that mission has been successful for 14 years, but it's far from over. american forces are carrying out that mission today by performing two critical tasks, counterterrorism and training and advising our afghan partners. but the reality is that the 5,500 american troops that will be left in afghanistan at the end of this year, after scheduled withdrawals, will be adequate for one or the other of these critical tasks, not both. this similar american force will inevitably be forced to shoulder a -- the smaller american force
will inevitably by forced to shoulder a higher level of risk to be successful. but another way the individual american service member deployed to afghanistan is safer as part of a force of 9,800 than a force of 5,500. the risk to american forces only grow worse as the terrorist threat in afghanistan intensifies. we're now confronting threats from a resur genital bt sps tal isil sanctuary has been deadly enough, we cannot afford another one in afghanistan. this complex and expanding terrorist threat tests both our own counterterrorism capacity as well as the capability and capacity of the afghan military, which is still developing key enablers including intelligence, logistics, special forces, air lift and close air support. by now we should have learned from the precipitous withdrawal from iraq and the disaster that
ensued that wars do not end because politicians say so. nor will any politician be able to schedule an end to the threat of radical islamic terrorism that's emanating from afghanistan or the region more broadly. that's why as the security situation in afghanistan continues to deteriorate, it makes no strategic or military sense to continue the withdrawal of american forces. indeed our military commanders increasingly realize that preventing the reemergence of terrorist safe havens in afghanistan will require a long-term partnership with afghan government and military similar to the u.s. role in south korea or colombia. the world walked away from afghanistan once before. and it descended into chaos that contributed to the worst terrorist attack ever against our homeland. we cannot afford to repeat that
mistake because the threats we face are real and the stakes are high for the lives of the american people, for the stability of the region and for the national security of the united states. president obama cannot turn back the clock on decisions made four years ago in iraq. but he can make decisions now that will empower his successor to do what is necessary to confront the challenges we will face in afghanistan in 2017 and beyond. it's time to immediately halt u.s. troop withdrawals and eliminate any target date for withdrawal. this will allow american forces to perform the vital tasks of eliminating terrorist threats and building the capacity and capability of afghan military. and it will send a powerful signal to the taliban that it cannot simply wait out the united states and that we will not abandon afghanistan to tyranny and terror again.
general nicholson, i look forward to your testimony and your assessment of the way ahead. senator reed. >> well, thank you very much, mr. chairman. let me join you in welcoming lieutenant general nicholson. thank you, sir, for your service and for your willingness to accept the command of resolute support and u.s. forces in afghanistan. i'd also like to join senator mccain in welcoming your family, noreen, thank you. and caroline. and also your father, jack, thank you, sir, for your service. and your uncle jim, thank you for your distinguished service in many capacities. as the chairman pointed out, lieutenant general nicholson is uniquely qualified to assume these responsibilities having spent much of the last ten years focused on the mission in afghanistan including approximately 3.5 years deployed in country. and having held a number of relevant u.s. and nato command positions. your experience is not only impressive but extremely useful as you assume this new responsibility. i recently traveled to
afghanistan. and it is evident that the past year has been one of significant political and security transition for the country. the transfer of security responsibilities from the coalition to the afghan national security forces or ansf, hasn't been without its challenges as evidenced by the temporary seizure of kunduz city and other areas by the taliban. further complicating the security situation has been the emergence of the so-called islamic state or iskp. operations by the pakistani military on the other side of the border were a welcome development have also added to the dynamic security situation by displacing elements of al qaeda, pakistan taliban and other bad actors into afghanistan. lieutenant general nicholson, i look forward to see what you see as the security analysis with all these things that confront in the coming year. the ansf have now have the sole
responsibility fql!íl securing their country for little more than a year, unfortunately have remained cohesive and responsive throughout. the ansf have continued to prove their willingness to fight for and retake areas contested by the taliban while increasing their overall operational capacity under coalition training. lieutenant general nicholson, i would also be interested in your thoughts of what you see as the greatest challenges of building this capacity, because ultimately that is going to be the significant force stabilizing the country in afghanistan and moving forward. with regard to counterterrorism, which is a second mission of our forces, i support the reported recent approval of the white house of targeted strikes against iskp as part of your mission. furthermore, joint operation by afghan and u.s. forces in october to destroy what was according to general campbell probably the largest al qaeda training camp identified since 9/11 is a stark reminder of the group's resilience and the continuing challenge they pose. i again look forward to your assessment of all these
counterterrorism issues moving forward. now, as the president announced in october, it is his intention to maintain approximately 9,800 troops in afghanistan through most of this year with a plan to draw down to approximately 5,500 troops by january of 2017. general nicholson, if confirmed, i will expect and i think you will immediately conduct your own assessment of the withdrawal of u.s. forces based on conditions on the ground. and i believe that that assessment should be given extraordinary weight in any decision made for the retention of u.s. forces in afghanistan. last year is also one of political transition in afghanistan under national unity government of president ghani and c.o. abdullah. like all progress of afghanistan has been challenging. however the national unity government has held together preventing a breakdown in governance provided opportunity for some ambitious reform agendas, some proposals including governance and anticorruption, must be
encouraged by you and the ambassad ambassador. afghans will also have to work very hard with their economy, which is not performing very well at all and also the loss of human capital as many, many young talented people leave the country. these are just a few of the challenges that you will face, but i'm extremely confident that you have the ability, the dedication and the experience to meet these challenges. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you. general nicholson, before we proceed, there's a series of standard questions which we ask for all nominees. i'd appreciate your answer yes or no. in order to exercise its legislative and oversight responsibilities, it's important that this committee and other appropriate committees of the congress be able to receive testimony, briefings and other communications of information of you adhere to applicable laws and regulations governing conflicts of interest? >> yes, sir. >> do you agree when asked to give your personal views even if those differ from the
administration in power? >> yes, sir. >> have you assumed any duties or undertaken any actions which would appear to presume the outcome of the confirmation process? >> no, sir. >> will you ensure your staff complies with deadlines established for requested communications including questions for the record in hearings? >> yes, sir. >> will you cooperate in providing witnesses and briefers in response to congressional requests? >> yes, sir. >> will those witnesses be protected from reprisal for their testimony or briefings? >> yes, sir. >> do you agree if confirmed to appear and testify upon request before this committee? >> yes, sir. >> do you agree to provide documents including copies of electronic forms of communication in a timely manner when requested by a dually constituted committee or to consult with the committee regarding the basis for any good faith, delay or denial in providing such documents? >> yes, sir. >> thank you. please proceed, lieutenant general nicholson. >> chairman mccain, senator reed, members of the committee,
thank you very much. i also wish to thank senator kirk for the introduction. it's a privilege to appear before you this morning, sir. and i appreciate the opportunity to answer your questions regarding my nomination. as the commander resolute support and u.s. forces afghanistan. i thank president obama, secretary carter, general dunford and general milly for their support for my nomination. i also wish to thank my friend general john campbell for his outstanding leadership in afghanistan and for his long service. and if confirmed it would be a tremendous honor to follow him in this critical position. as you mentioned, sir, i would like to introduce my wife, noreen, my daughter caroline and my other family members, my uncle jim, my dad, stepmother for their presence here today and for their love and support of me throughout my career. >> welcome to the family members. i know this is a proud time. >> thank you, sir. my father and uncle are vietnam veterans, and their service has been an inspiration to me and my
generation and our family for years. so much so that three of my cousins and my daughter are all in the family business in the service of our country. most importantly i would like to thank the soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines with whom i've had the honor to serve chlgt their selfless service to our country and to each other is a testament to the strength of our military and our nation. i especially wish to honor the sacrifice of our service members who have died in this noble effort. i also wish to remember the afghan soldiers, afghan police and countless afghan civilians who have suffered so greatly in this conflict. and as i sit before you today, i am thinking of them and their families and sincerely wish to deliver for them. the resolute support mission is a vitally important part of our national effort to protect our homeland from terrorist threats and to enable sustainable afghan capacity to secure their own country. since 9/11 the u.s. campaign in afghanistan has largely defined
my service. i've either been deployed to afghanistan or supported the effort from various duty positions in the u.s. and europe. i've also had the privilege to serve alongside our allies and partners not only in afghanistan but in my four years of service in nato. our common experience in afghanistan has produced the highest levels of cohesion and combat experience inside the nato alliance. it's an honor to serve alongside our allies, alongside our other partners in this 47-nation coalition and of course alongside our afghan comrades. if confirmed i look forward to working with this committee and this entire congress through my chain of command to address the many challenges we face in afghanistan in order to keep americans safe and secure and to protect the afghan people. i pledge that i will make every effort to live up to the confidence that's been placed in me. and i'm very grateful for your consideration. it is an honor to serve. and if confirmed, it would be a distingts honor to serve in this
position. thank you for this opportunity and i look forward to your questions, sir. >> thank you. one of the sources of concern to the members of this committee on both sides is the almost continuous announcements even when there's an increase in troop strength or pause or reduction is an announcement that we will be out of afghanistan. many times in my view in contra vengs the events that happen on the ground, i guess my question to you is, do you believe that the security situation in afg n afghanistan is improving, or
would you argue as some of us do that the -- that we've just completed or nearing the completion of the most significant fighting in the winter that we've seen in many years in afghanistan, significant successes on the part of the taliban, now the presence of isis and including iranian providing weapons to the talib taliban? in other words, the view of many of us is that the security situation in afghanistan has been deteriorating rather than improving. what is your assessment, general, of the overall tactical situation in afghanistan? >> sir, i agree with your assessment. >> so if that is the case,
shouldn't it be wise at least to pause in our plans for further reductions and try to achieve some stability on the ground? >> sir, i agree in your opening statements both you and senator reed discussed conditions based assessments on the capacity that we maintain in the country. and that this capacity, this capability we maintain, should be able to adequately address our two core missions of counterterrorism and train, advise, assist to the afghans. >> and isn't it true that there are as along this line that the afghan military still does not have some capabilities that require years and years of
training and equipping such as air assets, such as intel, such as even things like medevac, but particularly intelligence capabilities that despite their brave fighting -- and i know from your experience you agree that they are very brave and tough fighters, amongst the best. but there are certain capabilities that they simply -- that simply take years and years to develop. and they have not achieved a level of efficiency in those areas. so i guess my question is, is what areas do you think that the afghan military still needs united states assistance to improve their capabilities and perhaps turn this tactical situation around? >> sir, i want to echo your sentiment on the bravery and courage and fighting skill of the individual afghan soldier. and as you mentioned, sir, i've
had the opportunity to fight alongside them. and they're very impressive. as we've seen as senator reed mentioned, this year was a tough year for the afghan security services. they took many casualties. and fighting has continued into the winter. but what we're seeing is an army that has a degree of resiliency, it has not broken. they continue to fight. and they work hard to roll back any taliban gains. to your specific question, sir. you've mentioned some of them, intelligence is certainly a key capability. the provision of air support, rotary wing aviation, fixed wing aviation as you mentioned takes some years to build. the growth of mid-level leaders at the small unit level where tactics matter is extremely important. and perhaps one of the most critical is their casualty treatment and evacuation. although we've seen
improvements, steady growth and all these areas as you mentioned in some areas we have years to go, in particular the aviation area. >> former secretary of state hillary clinton and vermont senator bernie sanders will be in minnesota tonight for a democratic fundraiser. they're speaking at the democratic farmer labor party dinner in st. paul. it begins at 8:00 p.m. eastern. and you'll find it live on c-span. saturday night c-span will have a discussion by silicon valley tech experts on how to improve governments online services. you'll hear from mikey dickerson, the google executive hired to fix healthcare.gov. he talks about the disarray he found when arrived in washington, d.c. here's a quick look. >> if you just walk in as an engineer and walk in and look at a bunch of other engineers and see what they're doing and how they're doing it, and it was just total insanity like when you first looked.
there were 55 different companies contracted to work on different parts of healthcare.gov. which is a fairly complicated operation, but it ain't that complicated. and there were, i don't know, conservatively -- nobody -- this is another piece of insanity. literally nobody knows how many people were engineers, developers, whatever you want to call them, technical roles on the project, but it was at least hundreds. they're in dozens of different buildings. not only did they not have any kind of habit or custom of working together. they were in most cases explicitly forbidden from communicating with each other because of the way contracts are managed through the government. and this was set up. and there was nobody -- the government reserved for itself the job of coordinating how this was all going to go and the problem is the government doesn't really have that skill set and i'll just leave that where it is. i could elaborate on that, but the government just doesn't --
wasn't really equipped to do that job. and so the -- what was going on just made zero sense. >> mikey dickerson and his team participated in an event at the computer history museum in mountain view, california. you can see the entire event saturday night at 8:00 eastern on c-span. american history tv on c-span3 features programs that tell the american story. and this weekend we kickoff a three-week special series on the 1966 vietnam war hearings 50 years later. senate historian emeritus donald rihchie. >> probably some of the most extraordinary hearings ever held by congress. they were hearings an investigation into a war that was still being fought. that the congress and particularly the senate wanted to know why we were in vietnam, what the administration's
policies were and they wanted to hear from opponents of the war. they gave equal status to critics of the war as they did to supporters of the war. it was a real debate. >> this weekend two witnesses who oppose president johnson's vietnam policies. first, a february 1966 abc news special report that includes the testimony of former ambassador to the soviet union george kennon. then retired general james gavin followed by questions from senators. >> in korea we had learned air naval power alone could not win a war. and that inadequate ground forces cannot win one either. it was incredible to me that we had forgotten the bitter lesson so soon that we were on the verge of making that same tragic error. well, general, as far as you know are the conditions in indochina any different today from when they were at that time? >> next weekend we'll hear from special consultant to general
johnson general maxwell taylor. and on saturday february 27th, secretary of state deen rusk gives his testimony defending johnson's vietnam policies. for the complete american history tv weekend schedule, go to c-span.org. during campaign 2016, c-span takes you on the road to the white house as we follow the candidates on c-span, c-span radio and c-span.org. [ applause ] president obama recently spoke at an israeli embassy ceremony honoring four people including americans for risking their lives to protect jews during the holocaust. it's the first time the ceremony's been held at the israeli embassy in washington, and the first time an american president has participated. this is about an hour and 20
minutes. >> mr. president, honored guests, it's a great honor for me to be here this evening with all of you. i'm nina totenburg. some of you may recognize me from television but most of you might recognize my voice from national public radio. we are assembled here at the embassy of israel in washington, d.c. to award medals and certificates of honor of the righteous among the nations. to the late master sergeant roddie edmonds and the late lois gunden of the united states and to the late marila and valerie sbieski of poland who risked
their lives to save jews in the holocaust. the remembrance authority was created by the state of israel in order to gather all information about the holocaust, to commemorate, document, preserve, research and educate. when yad vvashem, those who stod by in the darkest hours of history, struggling with the enormity of loss and grappling with the impact of the total abandonment and betrayal of europe's jews, the state of israel made a point of remembering the rescuers. thus the law establishing yad vashem added another mission to pay tribute to the non-jews who risked their lives to rescue jews during the holocaust. since 1963 a public commission
headed by an israeli supreme court justice, i could say maybe that's why i'm here, but i don't think so, has been responsible for making the decision as to who will be recognized as righteous among the nations. this title is the highest honor that the state of israel bestows on non-jews in the name of the jewish people. our ceremony here today is unprecedented in that this is the very first time that american citizens are posthumously receiving honors on yad vashem on american stage. i'm honored to invite ambassador to the united states from isr l israel.
>> on behalf of the state of israel, my wife and i want to welcome all of you to the israeli embassy in washington. i want to begin by expressing my profound thanks to you, president obama, for being here tonight. mr. president, your presence here on international holocaust remembrance day is a powerful tribute to the memory of the victims as well as a testament to the unique nature of this ceremony in which we have come together to honor two americans and two polls who risked their lives to save jews during the holocaust. your presence is also a testament to the unique relationship between israel and the united states. it is not everyday nor every year nor even every decade that a sitting american president speaks at a foreign embassy. in fact, this is the first time that a sitting president has
ever spoken in our embassy in washington. [ applause ] so, mr. president, i deeply appreciate the message of friendship that you are conveying by being here with us tonight. i want to welcome the chairman. as a child, he survived the concentration camp. he would eventually become chief rabbi of the state of israel. i can think of few individuals who better personify the indomitable spirit of the jewish people. i also want to welcome the chairman of the american society, a child of survivors. thank you and thank your entire
family for everything that you have done to support the mission. i want to recognize someone else who is here tonight who has done so much to preserve the memory of the holocaust and that is steven spielberg. mr. spielberg, thank you for using your talent to spread aware es of the holocaust across the world and across the generations to preserve the memory of tens of thousands of survivors. some of those survivors are here with us tonight, and i would like to ask them is to stand for a moment and be recognized. [ applause ]
finally i want to say something to the nearly 60 members of the families who are here. the jewish people are an ancient people with a very long memory. we forget neither our most wicked enemies, nor our most righteous friends. tonight the names of your four esteemed relatives join the names of oscar schindler, raul wallenberg and other righteous among the nations to become a permanent part of our nation's herita heritage, to be remembered by our people for generations and generations to come. ladies and gentlemen, 71 years after the liberation of au auschwitz we still try to make some sense of the holocaust, we still try to learn some lesson
that will shine a light in the darkness. for some the holocaust represents the nader of man's inhumanity to man and its primary lesson is to be ever vigilant against racism, xenophobia and intolerance. for others, the holocaust shows what can happen when extremist ideologies come to power, and its primary lesson is to always safeguard the cornerstones of a free society to protect the rights of all. for me, the holocaust was the attempt to wipe out the jewish people, and its primary lesson is for the jewish people to never be powerless against our enemies. that is why, like many jews, i take great comfort in the rebirth of a sovereign jewish state in our ancestral homeland
and the jewish people once again having a voice, a refuge, and most important, the power to defend ourselves. but regardless of its meaning and its lessons, the holocaust poses two difficult questions for all of us, questions that challenge both our faith in god and our faith in man. first, how could a compassionate god allow the holocaust to happen? second, how could seemingly civilized societies produce so many individuals who could perpetrate such horrific crimes. in trying to grapple with these two questions, perhaps we should consider two other questions, two much older questions. they are two questions recorded in the bible. they are the first question asked by god and the first
question asked by man. after adam and eve disobeyed god in the garden of eden, we read that they hide in shame as they hear god's voice. where are you, god asks? the sages of "the view"ish people tell us that where are you is not a question god is asking for his sake, it's a question god is asking for our sake. it is a question meant to spur introspection, to instill in us an appreciation that we are moral agents in the world, that we are responsible for the moral choices we make. ladies and gentlemen, the 6 million jews killed in the holocaust were not the victims of an earthquake, a hurricane, or some other random natural disaster that would understandably turn our eyes to
the heavens for answers. the 6 million jews killed in the holocaust were murdered by other human beings, by human beings who had a choice. so perhaps the question "where are you," a question that so many ask god during the holocaust, and what so many of us have been asking god ever since, is not a question for us to ask god, but a question for god to ask us. where was man during the holocaust? where was the moral compass of the millions who simply looked the other way as the nazis and their army of willing executioners perpetrated such monstrous evil. rather than honestly confront this question, people instead try to excuse their inaction.
too often they justify their failure to accept our moral obligations to one another by hiding behind another question. they answer the first question asked by god in the bible with the first question asked by man in the bible. it was the question asked by cane after murdering abel. am i my brother's keeper? am i my brother's keeper? ladies and gentlemen, we are all here tonight to honor four people who were their brother's keeper. we are all here to honor four brave individuals who saw their actions not as an act of courage but as their most fundamental moral obligation to their fellow man, and that is precisely what makes them true heroes.
they are heroes not simply because they had an anticipates to cane's question, they are heroes because they had an answer to god's question. to the question, where are you, these four had an answer. in an age of so much indifference, they acted. in an age of so much cowardice, they were courageous. in an age of so much darkness, they were a source of light. so in honoring these four righteous souls tonight, let us not only recognize their remarkable heroism, let us hope that their light will inspire us to our live lives so we too will be able to give answers to those timeless questions and in so doing build a better world for
all humanity. thank you. >> it's now my honor to call upon rabbi israel mayor lowe, holocaust survivor. >> blessed, barack obama. we will never forget friday morning you visit with the president at that time, shimon peres, prime minister netanyahu. your remarks is unforgettable for us. thank you for joining us tonight. our host, ambassador of israel and his wife, thank you for host
ing the ceremony for honoring righteous among the nations. all we could say about you is nothing, is zero. what you deserve for your families knowing that your faes fathers or grandfathers did, not only for the jewish people, but for mankind at all. you are a symbol that a man can be good even in an evil period of time. we were in that dark tunnel six years. i
the first ghetto located in poland was in our city. october '39 started the misery, the sufferings, the separating of families, the liquidation. in those six years, we thought that he conquered the whole world. being later and book involved, every day a new transport came. from where? from hungary. from romania. from bulgaria. from greece. from tunisia. we disconnected for six years, didn't hear a voice of a radio, what did we think? that he conquered the whole
world. and in this dark tunnel there were some stars. the righteous among the nations. stars. many of us owe their lives, their survival, to those stars. a recent professor at loyola university, kenneth walsh, he found a document by the gustapo, there is a prisoner of war in russia. he is risking his life in barrack number eight to rescue the life of a jewish child, that's me. why? you have to investigate.
may why is he doing this? four months. risked his life to save me. he was a star. and how many like this? from the whole world, we had about 26,000 names. after all the investigations we found them at the end right there. e medal of righteous among the nations. 26,000. from a containment of so many millions of people. they owed us a lot. our doctors, our educators, our merchants, our industrials. whatever.
26,000. inclu including from japan. sweden. germany. poland. no more than 26,000 after 70 years. mr. president, we have a long history speaking about righteous among the nations. because as the ambassador mentioned, we have a good memory. 3,300 years ago we didn't have bread. there was no time to wait for bread. we had mazzos. the same date, over 3,300 years. the same menu. four glasses of wine, everything. what a memory. 2,200 years about, they found
some oil in the temple. happy hanukah. happy hanukah. on the same day, the 25th, every year to these two events we had already a righteous among the nation. order was given which the king, all born will not survive. right and left, boys and girls. it is kind of a final solution. there was a baby of three months put in a box on the nile. his mother couldn't hide him anymore. and the doctor of pirro, not the jewish doctor, opened the box
and said this must be a jewish child. a jewish baby. she took him from the river, from the nile, and he was brought up on the knees of her father. he is the first child survival in mankind's history. and the daughter is the fairest, the righteous among the nation. daughter of the king who made the final solution. she saved him. we will never forget. and i want to say one word. as far as we are unable and not authorized to forget the horror, we are commanded to remember
people who rescue their lives -- who risk their lives to save us. we will never forget what you did. we will never forget anyone whose assistance and helps for the mortality and the eternity of the jewish people. thank you. [ applause ] >> let me call to the stage now chairman of the american society. >> good evening, friends. it is a pleasure and an honor to address you on such an auspicious occasion. mr. president, you truly honor
the state of israel and our courageous heroes with your presence. your participation, along withy that of the ambassador, rabbi lowe, and mr. spielberg underscores the singularity and significance of the event. we thank you for that. in the years after the holocaust when the jewish people were still grappling with the aftermath of the horrors they endured, there was an understanding that along with memorializing and documenting the mass murders and destruction, the jewish people would honor an remember the unknown and silent heroes, the rarest of men and women who did not go along or stand silently by as their neighbors, friends and countrymen were rounded up and targeted for death. at risk to their own and their families' lives, master sergeant roddy edmonds, lois gunden were
guided by a strong sense of morality to save jewish children and adults whose descendants and families are here tonight. in doing so, they are identified by the state of israel as righteous among the nations. true exemplars of courage and heroism for us and our children. many elements of this ceremony makes it distinctive. it is the first time in history that an american president has joined with the state of israel to honor united states citizens as righteous among the nations. it is also the first time that american citizens are being recognized on american soil. it is the first time that a u.s. soldier has been so recognized, and it is only the fourth and fifth time that americans are being recognized as righteous among the nation. as a son of two holocaust survivors, this event with its bond to american citizens who demonstrated enormous acts of bravery to a polish couple who
saved their child who would go on to build a life in america, gives me a strong sense of pride. my family and i have dedicated ourselves to furthering holocaust research and education, both in israel and the united states. as chairman of this society, i am humbled by the great task we have before ourselves, to ensure the world never forgets. tonight not only do we give hon more to these incredible men and women we also proclaim that despite the years that have passed, these stories carry timeless lessons for us all gathered here tonight, and indeed for all humanity. thank you again. >> if you would now turn your attention to the video monitors on each side of the room for a video greeting from prime minister benjamin netanyahu.
>> president obama, ambassador, rhoda, former chief rabbi lowe, and all the family members whose relatives are being honored tonight, today mark the 71st anniversary of the liberation of auschwitz. today we remember the 6 million jews murdered in the holocaust. we remember the 1 1/2 million jewish children who never had a chance to grow up. today is also a day when we can be especially grateful for the establishment of the state of israel. the jewish people were once powerless and stateless. now we are again a sovereign, independent nation with a capacity to defend ourselves. but as we defend ourselves, we know that we do not stand alone. while israel counts other nations as friends, we know we have no better friend than the united states of america. on behalf of the people of israel, i want to thank you, president obama, for coming to
our embassy to mark this important occasion, and i thank you for your commitment to continue to work with us to bolster israel's security over the coming decade. your being here reflects the unbreakable bond of friendship between america and the jewish state, and it is a worthy tribute to the four brave individuals whom we honor tonight. the jewish people owe a profound debt of gratitude to them because of the jewish children and jewish soldiers who were saved thanks to their bravery. their courage was a special courage. they not only risked their own lives but the lives of their families and the life of their soldiers. there is no greater courage. god bless you all.
[ applause ] >> so as we turn to the presentation of the righteous among the nations honors ceremony, i'd like to invite ambassador dermer and rabbi israel lowe to the stage. you coming to the stage? it is my honor has a cousin of holocaust survivors elizabeth wilk to read the story of her rescue by righteous among the nations in poland. on july 22nd, 1942, the germans began the mass deportations from the warsaw ghetto. by september 21st, yom kippur, some 260,000 inhabitants of the ghetto had been deported to the
extermination camp where they were murdered. she and her daughter managed to flee from the ghetto and to go into hiding. i'm actually named after my aunt yanina because my father thought by the end of the war when i was born that she was dead. my aunt and her daughter stayed for two months at the home of acquaintanc acquaintances. my aunt then brought her daughter to the home of valley and marila until my aunt was able to rent an apartment under a false name and take her daughter back. despite the enormous danger, the germans publicly announced
cousin elizabeth wilk who was rescued in poland by valerie and marila. >> i'm here today because of acts of tolerance, kindness, and heroism. when the war started, i was not even three years old. during the time of the nazi occupation of poland, there were feelings of fear, malice and terror. when jews were ordered to moved towards the ghetto, my parents and i did so in spite of urging
by friends with offers of help. my father said that he will go where his people go. he died there at the age of 41. my mother and i were helped by polish underground to escape from the ghetto. once outside, we didn't know where to go. my mother knocked at the apartment door of friends from before the war who took us in without hesitation. we stayed with them until bombardment destroyed their house. we did not have a place to live and my mother slept one night here and one night there. she feared for my safety. she turned to maryla, friends from before the war.
they took me in their home and i settle for some time with them and their children and i do not know how my mother managed during this time. on everywhere there were notices by occupiers that anyone who fed a jew, knew about a jew in hiding, and did not report it or hid a jew would be executed together with their entire family. there was always a possibility that someone might notice something or a child might say one word too many. these families who helped, we survived the war because of people like them and others, some of their names i cannot even know. in time of and unspeakable horror, they all showed heroism
and humanity in the highest sense of the word. history repeats itself and i am frightened by aggression, hatred and a lack of tolerance. we cannot forget our humanity and the lessons of the past. thank you. [ applause ] >> i now invite to the stage mark kalish, son of a holocaust surviv survivor, who is here with us this evening to read the story of her rescue by righteous among the nations from the united states of america, lois gunden. [ applause ]
>> 1941. lois gunden, a 26-year-old teacher of french from goshen, indiana, volunteered to work for the mennonite central committee in southern france. she established a children's home which became a safe haven for a number of children, including jews whom she helped smuggle out of the nearby int internment camp. there lois pleaded with the parents to give the children to her in order to safe them from deportation and almost certain death. jeanette, my mother, who is with us tonight, is one of -- just one of the several children saved by lois. my mother said, at the time i was 12 years old and certainly scared. but lois gunden was kind and
passionately determined to take me and other jewish children to protect us from harm. gunden fearlessly sheltered the children when the french police arrived and she ran the children's home even after the united states entered the war and she herself became an enemy alien. she continued her work until january 1943 when she was detained by the germans, fortunately to be released in 1944 in a prisoner exchange. i, my sister elizabeth, and jeanette's grandson, eric, are all here today representing the scores of jewish descendants of the children lois saved. through lois, we are bound in gratitude to the gunden family. thank you. [ applause ] >> i'm honored now to call upon
ms. mary jean gunden, niece of the late lois gunden, righteous among the nations, to receive the medal and certificate of honor and to offer some remarks. [ applause ] >> on behalf of my late aunt, lois mary gunden, her family, friends, and her broader mennonite community, i express our deep gratitude to the people
of israel for this great honor. our family was blessed to have lois among us. she possessed an inspiring spiritual dignity and grace. humble about her many achievements, we knew little about her war time activities. her fluency in french allowed her to communicate with the 60 children in the home and their parents. lois was grateful for every opportunity to, in her words, add just another ray of love to the lives of these youngsters who have already experienced so much of the misery of life. from contact with other relief workers from organizations such as the american friends service committee, or afsc, and the german organization, lois knew the dangers her children faced. after a visit from her colleague from the afsc on august 9th, 1942, she wrote, "mary elms
informed me of the return of polish and german jews to poland where death by starvation awaits them. learning that three children sought by police had been saved from deportation on september 3rd, 1942," she wrote. "when i heard of how the landisman children were finally snatched from the fate hanging over them, i felt as if god must have had a hand in preventing anyone from coming after them during these two days. had they been taken to camp, all efforts to save them would have arrived too late for any good." marking a year on october 31st, 1942, she wrote, "but my year's experience in relief work has taught me more than ever that one has to live one day at a time. god's faithfulness towards those who put their trust in him can be counted upon throughout the particular problems of the day.
without the assurance of his abiding presence and his sustaining help, i would feel lost in an impossible tangle of circumstances." lois refused an offer by the resistance to leave france and avoid german detention. she, a pacifist, would not risk physical danger to those helping her, nor others that might be harmed in retaliation. this young woman not much older than the children she strove to save is truly an american hero. [ applause ] >> i'm 3407b nhonored now to ca lester tanner who will tell the story of how he and his fellow
p.o.w.s were rescued by righteous among the nations from the united states of america, master sergeant roddy edmonds. >> good evening. i am honored tonight to present this narrative of my commander and my friend, master sergeant roddy edmonds of knoxville, tennessee, participated in the landing of the american forces in europe and was taken prisoner by the germans. in january, 1945, the germans
ordered all jewish inmates in the stalin 9a p.o.w. camp to report the following morning. understanding the imminent danger in which this would place his fellow jewish prisoners, like myself, master sergeant edmonds ordered all of the p.o.w.s -- jews and non-jews alike -- to report when the german officer in charge, he was major siegbaum saw that all camps' inmates standing in front of barracks, he said, they cannot all be jews.
i remember standing by his side when edmonds retorted, "we are all jews." edmonds did not waver, even when the german took out his pistol and threatened to shoot him. according to the geneva convention, said edmonds, we have to give you only our name, rank and serial number. if you shoot me, you will have to shoot all of us because we know who you are, and after the war, you will be tried for war crim crimes. the german finally gave up and left the scene.
and the jewish p.o.w.s saved from certain death. roddy could no more have turned 200 of his men over to nazi persecution than he could stop breathing. my fellow p.o.w. who is with us tonight, paul stern -- raise your hand, paul. [ applause ] paul was one of the jewish p.o.w.s saved by roddy edmonds and he recalled, although 71 years have passed, he could still recall the words he stayed to the german camp commander.
according to edmonds' diary, these events took place on january 27, 1945. 71 years ago today. and tonight my comrade, paul stern, is celebrating his 92nd birthday. [ applause ] i would also like to you meet one of my other comrades, he's actually the kid among us. he celebrated lhis 909th birthdy last august. sergeant irwin fox. would you stand up, sonny?th bi
last august. sergeant irwin fox. would you stand up, sonny? sonny's actually a tv star. he was president of the national academy of television arts and sciences. and at 90, he's still a consu consultant. thanks to roddy for saving us, and thank you. god bless america. [ applause ] >> all i can say, is i want to look like these guys when i'm 90. i'm very honored to call upon american pastor chris edmonds, son of the late master sergeant roddy edmonds, righteous among
the nations from the united states of america, to receive the medal and certificate of honor on behalf of his father, and to offer some remarks. [ applause ] >> lester, you did good. thank you. ambassador dermer, mr. president, might i say, it is an incredible honor to have you here. it is one memory that our family
will cherish always. and i might also say, it is my first time speaking at the embassy as well. [ applause ] rabbi, senator alexander, senator corker, the gunden family, the -- i'm going to mess this up, i'm from tennessee -- say it for me. distinguished guests. tonight on this noble occasion, my mother maryann who could not be with us, and my family are blessed to receive this remarkable honor. righteous among the nations on behalf of my father, roddy
edmonds. thank you for our treasured friendship and bestowing your richest and highest honor on dad. as the first u.s. service mman receive the award and the first recognized for protecting american jews, our family is forever grateful. more personally, our family extends warmest thanks to our dear friends larry and barbara goldstein who shared that story with you and they could not be here tonight as well. being named among the righteous is a fitting tribute to dad, a man who lived by a sincere christian love and an infectious love for everyone. we're humbled and proud that he joins a small minority of people who mustered extraordinary courage to uphold the goodness and dignity of humanity. my dad, like miss gunden and the others are heroes.
in a defining moment when evil demanded their conscience and even their very souls, they refused to join the masses, but instead bowed to no one and chose what is right regardless of the risk. choosing right by their creator and right for god's children. what they did is right today. it's right tomorrow. and it's right always. as we honor these enduring lives, it is especially fitting that you have favored dad on january 27th, international holocaust remembrance day. for as lester shared, on this day 71 years ago, my dad fearlessly stood with his jewish and non-jewish brothers and told the nazi commander, we are all jews here. we're blessed to know dad's story and blessed by his actions. but most blessed to know some of
the men he saved. remarkably, you've met them. they've joined us tonight. along with their beautiful families and their three jewish-american veterans who stood strong and defiant with dad that bitterly cold january morning. staff sergeant lester tanner of new york. tech sergeant and medic paul stern of virginia. happy birthday, sir. sergeant sonny fox of california. two men who were unable to attend but wishing us well, tech sergeant hank friedman of georgia and tech sergeant skip friedman of ohio. we must always remember the 1,200 courageous and defiant dough boys of the u.s. army who stood in sharp formation that day with these heroic men and my father. all are heroes. gentlemen, we salute you. thank you for a job well done.
my father's legacy, like all of the righteous, are the children, the grandchildren and the great grandchildren of these men. i'm often asked why would your father do what he did. dad would say, son? what's all the fuss? i was just doing my job. but i say dad's life was guided by one eternal truth -- that there is a god, and that god is good. and god's love, though free, has one essential responsibility -- we must be good to one another, or, as jesus proclaimed, we must love one another. that's what dad did. along with these others who are being honored tonight. and they leave an enduring legacy, along with the tribe we call the righteous. their actions were founded on god's love, and their extraordinary -- and the extraordinary idea that all men
and women are created equal. tonight we celebrate them because they acted on that idea. and though we honored them with words, nothing honors them more than their actions. our duty now is to take strength from their example and resolve to live as they did. laying down one's life for freedom and human dignity. god's word says this -- the godly people in the land are my true heroes. i take pleasure in them. gratefully, we do, too. thank you, may god richly bless all of you with his grace and his mercy. [ applause ]
>> it's my great honor now to call upon academy award winning director and producer steven spielberg who will introduce the president of the united states of america. [ applause ] >> thank you, nina, and good evening, mr. president, ambassador dermer, rabbi, the families of the righteous among nations who we honor today, and the families of those saved by these righteous souls, and distinguished guests. i'm humbled to be part of this historic gathering particularly given the significance that this is international holocaust remembrance day. and i am here tonight to introduce my good friend,
president obama. now in these times with humanity worldwide buffetted by crisis after crisis, when the need for redemptive action has never been more urgent, i was very eager to join you here in washington to commemorate the righteous among the nations. many of those in attendance today are here because of courageous acts. . descend ants of victims of survivors, second and third generations, they make a significant portion of world jewery today. it is from generation to generation and these in particular i think are a living testament to the love of humankind and the refusal to become complicit in evil that drove the righteous to risk their own lives to save jews. we gather tonight to honor four righteous persons, masterer e s
sergeant roddy edmonds, lewis gunden, and valerie and marila -- i practiced that the whole way here. when we remember and honor the selflessness and bravery and loving kindness of the righteous among nations, we are actually committing our lives to their legacies by promising simply to listen to their stories because they can help us find our voices. i have found my own voice at a very early age where i was barely able to reach the top of the dining room table from where i could watch my grandmother teaching hungarian holocaust survivors english. there was no sesame street back then, but i learned my numbers on the forearms of survivors of auschwitz. they taught me how to count. this is an indelible memory, and
it set me on the path as a person who begran to lan to lis everything and i have always believed you can't find your own voice for speaking on behalf of the world or speaking against those who would destroy the world if you can't hear what the world is saying. and with that in mind, i wanted to make a film about the importance of not being a bystander as history passes close to you, giving all of us a chance to do something before it passes us by. and so that film was "schindler's list." oscar schindler is one of the righteous among the nation. saved more than 1,100 jews and made life possible for their offspring. from that film came the institute for visual history and education which houses more than 53,000 survivors and witnesses' testimonies in 39 languages gathered from 63 countries
ensuring that we will never stop listening, that their stories will live on for future generations, and their voices preserved in perpetuity. and now, it is a great honor for me to introduce to you a man who truly understands what it means to find your voice. time and again, he has honored the memories of the victims and survivors by lifting up their stories and by standing firm against bit tri and hatred that fuels violence and genocide. in 2014 i was privileged to present president obama with the usc shoah's foundation ambassador for humanity award. that night the president quoted what a holocaust survivor, who worked to improve the world drop by drop by drop. and i believe that, too, is the president's life-long mission.
it's why some have said that this president has a jewish soul. he showed this when he created the atrocities prevention board. and when he declared th]á prevention of mass atrocities a national security interest. he demonstrates this in his steadfast support for the state of israel at a time when israel has many enemies and when anti-semitism focuses its hatred on a nation that emerged in the wake of tragedy to offer hope and a future for the jewish people. the president's support is needed and appreciated more than ever, and in his commitment to seek a humanitarian response to the syrian refugee crisis, and every time he stands up for people who have been attacked because of their identity, and denounces anti-semitism, islamophobia, racism and hatred in every form. he demonstrates that never again means we cannot be bystanders when people are stigmatized,
oppressed, excluded or attacked because of their identity. the president makes sure that phrase never again is not a hollow declaration by giving it a powerful voice in his every day life. so it means a great deal to have the president of the united states take part in the first righteous among the nations ceremony to be held on u.s. soil at the embassy of israel, and it's my distinct privilege to introduce my good friend and president of the united states, barack obama. [ applause ] >> thank you. thank you. good evening.