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"You know Dad, it's easier to start a war than it is to stop one from starting."
This is a quote from Gold Star Dad Fred John Boenig's oldest son, Search Daniel, brother of A1C Austin H Gates 1990-2010 who died in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Search Willson- Brother of A1C Austin H Gates at Arlington National Cemetery
(photo by Fred John Boenig)
This week Boenig, father of Austin H Gates, known to many as the "Anti-War activist that confronted Senator Tom Cotton", R-AR, and Representative Adam Kinzinger, R-IL, for their "Hawkish" rhetoric, decided to contact his own Senator, Pat Toomey, R-PA. Boenig personally went to Senator Pat Toomey's office in AllentownPA just a few miles from Mr. Boenig's Emmaus home, to ask the Senator to explain his position on the Iran Deal. Specifically, what his plan would be on Day 61, since Senator Toomey has said he intends to vote "no" on Day 60 to reject the Iran Deal. Senator Toomey was one of the 47 Senators that signed the Senator Tom Cotton letter to the Iranian Leadership. Many critics, including former Republican officials, condemned the letter as borderline treasonous due to its unprecedented subversion of American foreign policy. The Senator has a voting record of voting for the Iraq War in 2003, and proceeded to vote against 12 bipartisan Veteran's Affairs budgets designed to help our returning vets. The staff at the office told Boenig to email a request, to see if he could get a face to face with the Senator. Mr. Boenig on average, travels to Washington, DC once a month to attend briefings and meet with experts in the field of foreign policy, especially regarding the Iran Deal and has met with many Senators and Representatives from both parties, including many of the people presently running for president.
Later in the week, a phone call from Senator Toomey's staff informed Mr. Boenig that the Senator was too busy to meet, even though Mr. Boenig had offered to go anywhere in the state that the Senator was speaking to meet with him. Boenig and his wife have 5 children- four have served, one died (Austin 19) in Afghanistan in 2010, one son and his wife just finished 4 years in the Marines, and two of their other children are currently serving in the Army and Navy respectively. When Senator Toomey's office replied on Friday by email, Boenig realized clearly that Senator Toomey, an opponent of the Iran Deal doesn't actually have a plan. He, Boenig, proceeded to point out elementary facts of international relations to the Senator in his reply, stating the Senator's Day 61 plan was reliant on a re-negotiation of this deal which is not supported by facts, rather by wishful thinking. Perhaps the Senator thought Mr. Boenig is uninformed, and easily discouraged from finding the truth. That was their first mistake - a father keeping his children from needless harm, knows no limit.
Boenig asked the following two questions: 1) "What's your plan for #Day61?" (referring to the Iran Deal), and 2) "How many Casualties in the past 8 months?" (referring to US military combat deaths). (the answer is two (2) soldiers have died in combat in 8 months)
Below is the text from the email exchange.
Following is an e-mail dialogue between Fred Boenig and Senator Pat Toomey.
Senator Toomey's office acted as intermediary because the Senator was unavailable to talk to Mr. Boenig personally this week.
Mr. Boenig writes:
"I received a reply back from my Senator Pat Toomey- about my two questions- What's your plan for #Day61 and How many Casualties in the past 8 months-- Please Read and See my reply at the bottom-"
The Senator's office writes:
Thank you for following up with us.
To answer your two questions:
On Day 61 - if this agreement is voted down then some of the sanctions automatically take effect again. Senator Toomey supports the re-imposition of these sanctions, and would work to see tougher sanctions placed on Iran. These are the same sanctions that President Obama claims brought them to the negotiating table. Sanctions plus better diplomatic engagement with the other countries to bring them on board with additional sanctions.
That’s Day 61.
And when we posed the question about fatalities, his answer was “I don’t know the exact number, I believe it is very low, probably less than 5 at this point.”
With regard to his schedule, we do not normally share his schedule. This week, Senator Toomey has been traveling in the Northeastern tier of PA and did town hall meetings in Warren and Northumberland Counties, both of which were publicized through local media and press releases sent out by our office.
I hope this information is helpful to you.
If you need anything else, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
All the best,
Marta B. Gabriel
Regional Manager – Lehigh Valley
U. S. Senator Patrick Toomey
1150 South Cedar Crest Boulevard, Suite 101
Allentown, PA 18103"
Mr. Boenig writes:
"Ms Gabriel & Senator Pat Toomey,
Thank you for your reply- but I find the Senator's answer unsatisfactory.
So let me get this straight- The Senator's plan is to increase the ("International"Sanctions) through "diplomatic engagement with the other countries" - except has anyone agreed to that?
The Sanctions which President Obama said brought them to the table- were in conjunction with the UN and the EU- Did Russia- China France- Germany and the United Kingdom agree to maintain those sanctions? Has the UN decided to do that? Here, I will help the Senator to understand why that answer is not in any way truthful or even possible.
"CLAIM 4: THE UNITED STATES CAN CONVINCE THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY TO CONTINUE ITS SUPPORT FOR SANCTIONS AFTER KILLING THE AGREEMENT.
If Congress were to reject the deal, the United States would need to coerce the international community to continue sanctions against their own economic interests. Some opponents of the deal advocate for threatening the international community: You can either do business with Iran or business with the United States. But this threat lacks credibility. As Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew explained in a New York Times Op-ed, 40% of American exports go to the European Union, China, Japan, India, and Korea. By threatening to exclude these countries from our banking system, the U.S. would be placing a significant portion of its own economy at risk. Moreover, the major importers of Iranian oil (China, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Turkey) also account for one-fifth of U.S. exported goods and own 47% of foreign-held American treasuries. Even threatening to terminate this economic connectivity could have negative ramifications for both the US economy and the economies of our allies.
Our negotiating partners will not maintain sanctions that hurt their economies simply because the U.S. Congress insists they do so. Threatening our allies with economic warfare is a ludicrous approach, especially when compared to the practical and widely supported alternative of implementing the agreement."
You know what I find interesting, is that you took the time to write a real Gold Star Dad, with 3 other kids who are currently or have served our country, a note that contained no factual information. There is no agreement with the other nations to Re Negotiate a deal- but the Senator thought his answer was okay for an uniformed individual- Ms Gabriel- please inform the Senator that I too have spoken with and attended many meetings all over Washington for over a year now talking to the experts on these matters- and a pedestrian answer full of rhetoric will not answer my concerns. Ms Gabriel- first I am highly insulted that this was the best answer the Senator has for me, when it is MY Family's CHILDREN who's lives have been lost and will be put at risk- It's clear, if this is the best plan the Senator has, he has no plan- if they defeat the Iran Deal- We have no agreement that any of the international sanctions will exist and Iran will vote the deal down and take their Nuclear Program underground- Then we will be left to take military action- and I have my doubts the Senators children will be doing the fighting along side my kids and I don't remember him attending my son's funeral in Hellertown, just miles from the Senator's home, when my last child came home in a flag covered box.
It's clear we have been fighting ISIS for over 60 days and Congress can't seem to find it in their stomachs to actual debate and vote on that and you think this dysfunctional bunch of individuals will be able to get the other major powers to reinstall the sanctions against their own financial interests?
Ms Gabriel- again please don't insult my intelligence- it is very offensive to me and my family.
Ms Gabriel- I will ask you once again to ask the Senator to tell me exactly what the plan is if the Deal is voted down. As I said before I believe my family has earned an honest and factual answer. I am very well informed on the issues and can't believe the Senator tried to pawn off such rhetoric on me. I certainly expected better from a Senator out of respect for my family's service to this nation.
Fred John Boenig
Gold Star Dad
Emmaus PA 18049
(Photo courtesy of MSNBC)
Senator Toomey and many of his colleagues, including Senator Tom Cotton, have pledged to defeat the Iran Deal without proposing a workable or satisfactory alternative. Much of their rhetoric seems to assume that the United States can unilaterally re-negotiate another deal. Their voting records and recent activities appear to reflect that their concern is for appeasing their well-documented contributors and less for the lives of our young men and women in the military.
Spoke to Senator Pat Toomey- He was very considerate and generous with his time 19 minutes of it. He laid out his plan - This is what he explained. He doesn't like the International agreement, he feels it doesn't go far enough. Okay- what next? He says we need Congress to apply sanctions- I pointed out he has no agreement with anyone to do that. I know he thought he was saying something of value- but all his Scenarios were "Ifs". I explained he can't use "Ifs" to debate an argument- especially when he has NO ONE that has said we will do that.
So in the end we agreed we weren't going to convince each other. That I hoped he didn't find me disrespectful- but I wanted him to imagine my son Austin was his son in his mind and think about him when he voted NO. Here is my reply back to him.
Thank You Senator Pat Toomey for taking the time out of your busy schedule to call me- I understand we don't agree on this deal- I truly appreciate your generous use of your time to explain your views on the deal- I would like to share with you this video of my 19 yr old son coming off the plane at Dover AFB. for the last time. I hope our conversation leaves a tiny tattoo on your conscious. I can only hope it's this image you'll see when you vote NO on the deal. If we were to do as you said on our phone call, in essence to call the Iranian's "Bluff" like we did with Libya, but your plan didn't explain if they don't take the bet-( I'm not sure why you would compare the two countries and their Ideology and Military experience-But you seem to think they are the same- Could be that same level of understanding is why you voted for the Iraq War in 2003- So you understand Libya has 6.2 Million People and is NO WHERE NEAR IRAN on the map. Iran has a population of 77,4 Million- twice the population of Iraq- 5 times the land mass of Iraq- Clearly there is nothing similar between Iraq- Libya or Iran except they all have oil- Also Lybia was a Dictatorship run by a Secular Dictator and Iran is a theocratic Islamic republic). Our Total War Funding: $1.64 trillion has been allocated through the Overseas Contingency Operations (war) fund, including $73.3 billion in fiscal year 2015. If your vote was to lead to a war- either Economically or Militarily the out come would be very costly to our own economics. After speaking with you and asking the simple question of how many Nuclear Reactors Iran presently has on line- you did not know- I found that odd for a Senator espousing a "Better Plan" when it's clear you know very little about their current Nuclear infrastructure- and not knowing that they use that to run their Desalination Plants- which makes perfect sense in the desert. We all understand that "No Deal" would eventually lead to military action- my fear is you wouldn't hold yourself personally responsible for the young men and women that return from the war you would be responsible for starting by not choosing the diplomatic route first. We have an opportunity to try Peace First- if we don't we go it alone- If Peace doesn't work I'm right along side of you Sir- but to choose a plan with all the "If" scenarios yours involves without actually verifying any of that Scenario, and trying to convince people that we can get the World back on board-without even ONE PERSON from any of those countries stating that is true- well Sir- all I can say is watch the video. Thank You Fred John Boenig Gold Star Dad- The Angel Flight- A1C Austin Harper Gates Benson