By Martin Matishak - 06/18/14 07:02 PM EDT
THE TOPLINE: President Obama told congressional leaders on Wednesday that he didn’t expect to ask their approval to initiate military action in Iraq.
The meeting at the White House with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) came as violence escalated in Iraq and the president faced growing pressure to act.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel laid the blame for the deteriorating security situation at the feet of the Iraqi government.
“It wasn’t the United States that lost anything, we turned a pretty significant situation over ... to the Iraqi people when we phased out our military involvements to Iraq,” he told the Senate Appropriations Defense subcommittee.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey added that he felt “bitter disappointment that Iraq’s leaders failed to unite for the good of the people.”
Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.), the chamber’s lone Iraq war veteran, urged his colleagues to cool their calls for military action and said Iraqis should be responsible for their nation’s security.
“Americans cannot afford another Iraq financially or in the human cost,” he said on the Senate floor.
The Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday will receive its second confidential briefing in a week on the security situation in Iraq.
Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the third-ranking House Democrat, said the advance of a Sunni militia group on Baghdad demands Obama launch drone strikes inside the country.
“I’m a great believer in drones and I think that this situation cries out for it,” he said.
ROOMIE SAYS CHARGE BERGDAHL: A retired Army soldier who served with Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl called for him to be charged with desertion, accusing him of intentionally abandoning his post in Afghanistan.
"The facts tell me that Bergdahl's desertion was pre-meditated," Former Army Spc. Cody Full told a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade on Wednesday. "Knowing that someone you needed to trust deserted you in war and did it by his own free will is the ultimate betrayal."
At the hearing, Full said Bergdahl was a “good soldier” at first, but changed after his deployment.
Full, who shared a room with Bergdahl said the soldier spoke about how he "wanted to kill as many Taliban as he could."
After they deployed to Afghanistan in 2009, Full said Bergdahl began to voice disagreements over the way their missions were being led.
Full said Bergdahl told soldiers he didn't understand why the unit was doing "more humanitarian aid drops, setting up clinics, and helping the populace instead of hunting the Taliban."
About a week before his platoon would leave their outpost, Bergdahl shipped his personal items home, according to Full. The day they were scheduled to leave, Bergdahl was gone.
"A couple of days later, we heard over the radio via our interpreter that there was an American looking for someone in the Afghan village who spoke English. The witness said he needed some water and wanted to talk to the Taliban," Full added.
Bergdahl was held hostage by the Taliban for nearly five years and finally freed earlier this month in a controversial prisoner swap. Lawmakers seized on Full’s testimony to slam the Obama administration’s decision to trade five Taliban for Bergdahl.
"We've replenished the enemy in wartime," said Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), a former military lawyer.
Full said if Bergdahl is discharged from the Army with an honorable discharge it would be a “slap in the face to all of us," adding that the former POW would be entitled to backpay.
Andy Andrews, who also testified, said others told him that his son, 2nd Lt. Darryn Deen Andrews, was killed on a mission to find Bergdahl. Andrews said he would not have made a similar trade to bring his son back.
"If my son had been a deserter, then absolutely not. But my son was a man of honor," he said.
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