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12/6/2012 2:15:00 PM
Gov. Brewer in Afghanistan: 'A little bit surreal'

Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services

Gov. Jan Brewer, in her first trip to Afghanistan, said the war in real life is "unimaginable.'

"As we sit over there on the mainland and see and hear everything going on, it's really different over here,' said Brewer in a phone interview Wednesday from the war zone. It was Brewer's first trip there, organized by the Department of Defense, to meet with military leaders and soldiers.

Brewer, who was briefed ahead of time by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, said she came to no conclusions in the ongoing debate about how quickly U.S. troops should be withdrawn from the country.

The administration has said it intends to have all combat troops gone by the end of 2014, though an undetermined number of soldiers will remain to work with the Afghan military. But even Panetta said at a press conference last week that there also will be a continuing need to combat terrorism, what with continued al-Qaida strength in the country.

That did not stop the Senate, as part of a defense bill, from tacking on a non-binding resolution urging faster withdrawal.

Brewer said she is deferring to the decisions of military leaders.

"Whatever their judgment is, is something I would have no reservations with,' the governor said, saying she's "not a warrior, if you will, or someone that understands all the implications of everything.'

The governor conceded that before she went overseas she was of the opinion that the planned withdrawal was too early.

"Today I don't feel that way,' she said.

"I feel very, very confident that they are doing what they believe is right,' Brewer explained. "And they are doing it the right way.'

Brewer said what surprised her was how different reality is than the war as seen on TV.

"It was a little bit surreal, of course,' she said of landing in the middle of the conflict.

"It's the real deal,' the governor continued. "It's not make believe.'

Brewer said she was impressed.

"You tend to forget that everybody's carrying real guns and they're putting their life on the line,' she said. The governor said it's one thing to know that, intellectually.

"But if you actually see it, it's very, very different,' she said.

Amid all that, Brewer said she had not focused on the potential danger to herself of being in a war zone.

"I'm so happy and so honored to come, I don't think the reality set in with me until I got there,' she said.

"Then I realized it was the real deal,' Brewer continued. "We're flying helicopters, we have guns hanging out the windows.'

Then there are the barriers and being constantly surrounded by soldiers assigned to protect her.

"You know then it's very, very serious,' she said.

The governor said she would not describe her feeling as being afraid, saying she has confidence in the soldiers.

"But yes,' she said, knowing that people around her were putting themselves in harm's way. And that, she said, made her aware of the risks. "I followed the rules, I did what I was told.'

Brewer's trip had been off the record following general Department of Defense policy to not publicize ahead of time, for security reasons, when dignitaries visit war zones. While she did a phone interview Wednesday while still in Afghanistan, news stories about her location were embargoed until 4 a.m. Thursday, the time she was scheduled to be out of that country.

Before going overseas, Brewer made a stop at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Here, the governor said the reality of the situation differed from her prior perception.

"That is, in so many ways, so heartbreaking because so many are injured dramatically, something that we hear about, only might see on TV,' she said.

"But to be there and to talk to them and to see their spirit is so, so encouraging that they are willing to give up what they have given up,' Brewer continued. "And then to come back and be strong and be faithful still to us.'

Brewer said she was impressed by the kind of equipment available to treat and rehabilitate the injured soldiers.

She even got a chance to spend some time with Army combat medic Mason Steill, the grandson of a Maricopa County employee, who was wounded in Afghanistan. All that, Brewer said, left an impression.

"You know, what a price they have paid, what a price America has paid,' she said. "We have suffered great casualties and great injuries and must never, ever, in my opinion, ever forget it.'

Taylor Waste
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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Article comment by: Phil Falbo

@ Bill

Can you imagine a President, as Commander in Chief, saying, "Wow, I was just in Afghanistan and they were using real guns and real bullets. I forgot that."

It is unfortunate we don't have to imagine because Jan actually did say that.

Posted: Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Article comment by: Look to those connections

...she has with big-business prison systems, I say. I figure she was over there doing some kind of shady biz with what are coyly called those "independent security corporations" the military gets to do their dirtiest, under the table "work" over there... That's my bet.

No disrespect to her as a child of God,'s almost impossible for me to believe that anyone with the slightest degree of intuitional instinct doesn't see exactly who she is and what she's about, just observing her.

Posted: Monday, December 10, 2012
Article comment by: to

"Many times" said:

"Bill in the real world many people go to the ER for things that I wouldn't go for. They go because they know that the taxpayers have to pick up the tab"

Ummmm... WHAT?!?

So, if I have, for example, a broken arm, or, I can't breathe because I have pneumonia (both of which have actually happened to me and landed me at the E.R.), I am, as you say, only going there because I know taxpayers will pay for it??

Ha! Are you kidding??? Do you think that the first thing people without insurance who need health treatment think of is "hmmmmm... where can I go for help so that taxpayers will pay for it??" ?

What is wrong with you???

I worked hard, and paid taxes, for 28 years. My Husband did the same, and is STILL working, yet, he cannot afford health insurance even through his employer.

When we get sick, or injured, the last thing we want to do is go to an emergency room. (After all, we have no insurance). There comes a time when you can't breathe, because of severe pneumonia, or maybe your bone is sticking out of your arm because you fell, or maybe your back is injured such that you can't even lie flat but can't stand either, and you go to an emergency room, with no insurance.

It's bad enough to get the daily calls from collection agencies saying we owe like $25,000
for one emergency visit. Now I gotta hear it from blind folks like you saying we just went to the E.R. because we know taxpayers will pay for it!!!

Didn't I work and pay taxes for this??? And didn't/doesn't my husband (who should be retired by now) work and pay taxes for this???

No, I guess we just love to be sick or injured, and hang out in the E.R., just to spite people like you. Hmmmmm... I don't have anything to do tonight, I think I'll go to the E.R. just because the "taxpayers" will pay for it.

Posted: Monday, December 10, 2012
Article comment by: Mary Heartman

@ Phil Falbo

That's not completely accurate either. The one time an uninsured friend of mine went to ER (for a severed fingertip on a Sunday afternoon), he was billed both by the hospital and by the doctor who bandaged his finger. (No stitches because they were each $45 extra.) The hospital would have written it off only if he hadn't paid. I think.

Posted: Monday, December 10, 2012
Article comment by: Bill Bassett

It stands to reason that the Commander in Chief of the Arizona National Guard would travel to visit and support our troops. Good for her...but, a trip like this is also typical of someone looking down the road at higher office. That is what worries me. Can you imagine a Palin-Brewer ticket in 2016? That's both scary and encouraging at the same time. It would ensure a Hillary Clinton presidency.

Posted: Monday, December 10, 2012
Article comment by: My question is....

Can Brewer even point to where Afghanistan is on a map? Might as well of sent Palin.

I too, think that time would have been better spent it in an ER, talking to people without health insurance, and how they got in that situation. Find out why they had to go the ER rather than an MD office. Brewer can talk to my friend that has health insurance, but after a fight with cancer, owes $30,000 in medical bills after the insurance paid. And now, she can't get the followup care such as a CAT scan etc, despite having health insurance, as the hospital will not perform any more testing until she pays the $30,000. Will Brewer explain this to my friend's teenage children?
She might even learn something about the citizens of this state.

Posted: Monday, December 10, 2012
Article comment by: Slater Slater

Perhaps a trist with a twist.

Posted: Monday, December 10, 2012
Article comment by: Phil Falbo

@ Many

It is not completely accurate to say that taxpayers pay for people's ER visits unless the patients are on AHCCCS or some other government program.

Expenses incurred in ERs for medical care for the uninsured are "written off" by hospitals.

Posted: Monday, December 10, 2012
Article comment by: Brian Carlson

Bill, Why should Jan waste her time at an ER room. Hasn't Obamacare taken care of all our heath issues? And by the way, all of us vets are now Racist Terrorists according to my Democrat friends on Facebook. The VA will not help us. So bring on Obamacare.

Posted: Monday, December 10, 2012
Article comment by: Lee Cali

It was embarrassing to read her statements. Is she naive or just plain ignorant? I think we should all write personal letters to her expressing our shock and disappointment with her ability (well maybe not shock since we already knew about her lack of intelligence) ( or phone 800 253 0883

Posted: Sunday, December 9, 2012
Article comment by: I'm trying so hard ... say something positive about this. (And Peter, your comment made me laugh, by the way. That's how I feel.) Anyway, I would like to believe Jan's eyes were somehow opened by this trip. That would be a positive.

What I would like to see is Jan Brewer try living without health insurance, and on an income of $500 to $800 per month, (or even better, on NO income other than $200 in food stamps each month) and have to live on the couch at an unemployed friend's home. THAT experience might open her eyes as well, and then maybe she'd be more sympathetic to the plight of many poor people here in Arizona.

But I digress. It's good, for a start, that Jan at least went to Afghanistan and had a taste of the REAL world there. For a start.

Posted: Sunday, December 9, 2012
Article comment by: Many times

Bill in the real world many people go to the ER for things that I wouldn't go for. They go because they know that the taxpayers have to pick up the tab

Posted: Sunday, December 9, 2012
Article comment by: Peter, Yavapai County

We missed an opportunity to cut government waste in half...we could've bought her a one way ticket.

Posted: Sunday, December 9, 2012
Article comment by: Bill Bassett

I'm glad she was impressed by seeing real soldiers in a real war carrying real weapons. Now if she'll visit an emergency room somewhere in Arizona and see real sick people without real insurance being treated by real Doctors.

I'm glad she is willing to take the recommendations of military leaders and experts as far as getting out of Afghanistan by 2014. Now If she'll sign on to Obamacare so most of us can get health insurance or, yes, Medicaid if needed by 2014 or sooner, that will be real progress.

Posted: Saturday, December 8, 2012
Article comment by: Be Quiet

Ok so it may be a waste of taxpayer money but I l know my unit enjoyed her visit over there!! So leave the taxpayer bit alone.

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