Monday, May 29, 2006

Not Just On Memorial Day

By Brian Bresnahan

I am in the habit of reminding others about the sacrifice of those who defend us. And willingly do so on days other than the holidays set aside specifically for that purpose.

So much emphasis is placed on remembering the deaths of the fallen, but I feel it more important to remember what they accomplished in the struggle for freedom. The words of a young Marine Lance Corporal from Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines are powerful reminders of what we need to focus on. In remembering his fellow, fallen Marines he said, “I want them to be remembered for what they did, not just because they died.”

What have the deaths of our fallen men and women attained?

Their deaths allow each of us to live freely. Their deaths let us fully experience secure lives of liberty and allow each man and woman to be equal. Their deaths allow each of us to exercise the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to which Our Declaration of Independence speaks.

Their sacrifice through each of America’s wars has been against a different threat, each needing to be fought differently. With each war, a new threat had to be understood and the doctrines of old had to be replaced with new strategies, tactics, and techniques. The warriors we honor, in their pursuit of victory, each, in some way, had to change and improve upon that which had been done before. They fought off the insistence for the old way of thinking and forged ahead on new paths toward victory.

And not only did they have to adapt to the new dangers presented by each enemy, but each time America’s citizens had to adjust to the new threat. Through the course of American history, our military and citizens alike have had to shake ourselves loose from that which had become normal, routine, common, and comfortable each time a new enemy arose.

And now, finding ourselves at war again, it is imperative we realize we are fighting a different kind of enemy in a different kind of war.

This enemy does not subscribe to the basic tenets of human morality. They don’t care about human life. Nor do they care about the rules derived from the God-given right of all people to exist; the same philosophies upon which our nation was founded.

This enemy follows no rules, even breaking the rules of the religion which they claim to fight in the name of. And they certainly don’t care about fighting us within the constraints of rules we see as necessary to civilized society.

This enemy thinks differently than any we’ve faced before. He does not play by any of the international laws of warfare that many in America contemplate when prescribing our conduct of the war on terror. Constitutionally, legally there is room to expand how we fight this enemy, but because it’s new it’s uncomfortable, and that makes it controversial. Being controversial makes it great political fodder. Thus, our national defense takes a backseat to political wrangling, political posturing, and the pursuit of personal power.

The enemy ignores all the rules, while we, with great danger to ourselves, insist upon wearing the cement shoes of inflexibility and antiquity, trying to invoke inapplicable Constitutional constraints because too many here hold politics and personal gain above common sense and national security.

The uniqueness of our Constitution gives us great power as a nation and has carried us through hard times, but it is not an inflexible document. As Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist Paper Number 23, "The circumstances that endanger the safety of nations are infinite, and for this reason no constitutional shackles can wisely be imposed on the power to which the care of it is committed." So, for the care and safety of our nation, we must work and adjust to meet this enemy which does not follow our Constitution, its articles, or the multitude of rules we have interpreted from it and imposed upon ourselves.

Those who have died fighting this new enemy in the Global War on Terror and those still fighting have, like the warriors before them, found ways to adapt to and defeat this new enemy. So, shouldn’t we as a nation honor their sacrifice by also finding new ways to defeat a new enemy, as we’ve done so many times before?

Beyond Memorial Day, remember those who have fallen in the Global War on Terror for all they’ve done to secure the future of our nation, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the rest of the freedom loving world. Remember them for crushing the Taliban, scattering Al Qaeda, removing Saddam, and establishing democratic nations where none existed. Envision the impact their sacrifice has on our future the way John Adams saw the future when he said of our first step toward freedom, "I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is worth more than all the means..."

Memorial Day Speech '06

By Brian Bresnahan
Given at Rising City, Nebraska, Memorial Day '06
(The weekly column I gleaned from this speech "Not Just On Memorial Day" is also posted above)

Friends and fellow veterans, thank you for the opportunity to speak today. I accepted this invitation humbly, honored that you would ask me to speak on such an occasion, but knowing full well that my words alone can not do justice to the accomplishments of those we honor today. Although I’ll try, I don’t know that anyone can truly describe the reverence we need to feel and the honor we need to bestow upon those who have died in defense of this country.

Today our focus is on remembering the deaths of the fallen. But the words of a young Marine Lance Corporal from Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines are powerful reminders of what we need to focus on. In remembering his fellow, fallen Marines he said, “I want them to be remembered for what they did, not just because they died.”

And what have all those whom we honor today done? What have their deaths attained?

They, through their deaths, have given us the right to stand here today. Their deaths allow each of us to live freely. Their deaths let us fully experience secured lives of liberty and allow each man and woman to be equal. Their deaths allow each of us to exercise the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to which Our Declaration of Independence speaks.

Those we honor today have fought in this country to secure its independence and then defended it when the British wanted it back in 1812. They fought to preserve this nation and prevent it from being split between the north and the south. They fought when Germany, while attempting to conquer Europe, also secretly tried to turn Mexico against us and drew us into World War I. They fought against totalitarianism, fascism, and Nazism to insure the integrity and longevity of not only our nation, but many others. They fought the evils of communism. They’ve fought in countless small wars in between, guaranteeing our interests, defending our freedoms and clearing the path for our march forward as a nation.

Each war was against a different threat to our way of life and as such, had to be fought differently. With each war, a new threat had to be understood and the doctrines of old had to be replaced with new strategies, tactics, and techniques. The warriors we honor today, in their pursuit of victory, each, in some way, had to change and improve upon that which had been done before. They fought off the insistence for the old way of thinking and forged ahead on new paths which led to victory.

And not only did those who went into combat have to adapt to the danger presented by each enemy, but each time America’s citizens had to adjust their way of life to the new threat. Through the course of American history, our military and citizens alike have had to shake ourselves loose from that which had become normal, routine, common, and comfortable each time a new enemy arose.

Histories lessons on each war are important, not just for the styles of warfare, but for understanding the threats all Americans faced and how the impact at home was different. For example, during World War II, when faced with significant threatening ideologies from abroad, we found ourselves having to give up some of the comforts we’d grown accustomed to. And we also found ourselves pressuring our own freedoms in order to protect us from and eventually defeat the enemy.

And now, finding ourselves at war again, it is imperative we realize we are fighting a different kind of enemy and a different kind of war. But, I honestly believe many American’s, by their words and actions, don’t realize that fact. I believe too many in America either do not comprehend the threat from Islamic extremists or foolishly think they’ll leave us alone if we simply mind our own business or try to be nice to them. Both are courses, which if pursued, will lead to further harm to our nation.

This enemy does not subscribe to the basic tenets of human morality. They don’t give a rip about human life. Nor do they care about the rules derived from the God-given right of all people to exist; the same philosophies upon which our nation was founded.

We fight an enemy which follows no rules, even breaking all the rules of the religion which they claim to fight in the name of.

They murder Iraqi tennis players simply for wearing shorts, because one interpretation of Sharia law says that it’s not allowed. Their answer to this “crime” is summary execution. They kill reporters who are critical of their terrorism, in one instance using the camera of a female reporter to record her own terrible public beating, torture and beheading.

This is how this enemy thinks. This is how they act. This is how brutal they are.

And they certainly don’t care about fighting us within the constraints of rules we see as necessary to civilized society.

In fact, they see our insistence on keeping ourselves bound to inflexible rules and strategies as opportunities and vulnerabilities to exploit. They laugh at us when we try to justify this self-imposed warfare handicap as holding ourselves to a higher standard, knowing full well that it’s simply another advantage for them. To them, it shows a weakness in us and weakness is what they feed on. Weakness in their opponent is what transforms this enemy from obsessive to rabid.

This enemy thinks differently than any we’ve faced before. He does not play by any of the international laws of warfare that many in America contemplate when prescribing our conduct of the war on terror. Constitutionally, legally there is room to expand how we fight this enemy, but because it’s new, it’s uncomfortable, and that makes it controversial. Being controversial makes it great political fodder. Thus, our national defense has taken a backseat to political wrangling, political posturing, and the pursuit of personal power.

Islamic Jihadists ignore all the rules, while we, with great danger to ourselves, insist upon wearing the cement shoes of inflexibility and antiquity, trying to invoke inapplicable Constitutional constraints because too many here hold politics and personal gain above common sense and national security.
The uniqueness of our Constitution gives us great power as a nation and has carried us through hard times, but it is not an inflexible document. As Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist Paper Number 23, "The circumstances that endanger the safety of nations are infinite, and for this reason no constitutional shackles can wisely be imposed on the power to which the care of it is committed." So, for the care and safety of our nation, we must work and adjust to meet this enemy which does not follow our Constitution, its articles, or the multitude of rules we have interpreted from it and imposed upon ourselves. So true leadership, focused on the defense of this great nation should find new ways to fight a new enemy. And just because something’s new or has not been done before does not mean it can’t be done or that it’s illegal. It can still fall within the framer’s intent and the parameters established by the Constitution, allowing us to fight this new enemy.
And it does take a different mentality to fight this enemy. After Vietnam, we eventually subscribed to what became known as the Powell Doctrine, and some still argue that we need to adhere to its philosophy. It works well when fighting another nation or state. But it doesn’t work when fighting against an ideology. It doesn’t work when fighting against terrorists who work in sleeper cells, hide among the populace, and won’t quit unless they’re dead or you’re dead. Because what drives this enemy is not nationalism, sovereignty, economics, imperialism, or any of the other motives which have caused nation to fight nation for hundreds or thousands of years. This enemy fights only to see you and I convert to Islam or die. That is their end state. Nothing less will suffice.

So today in honoring the memories, deaths, and accomplishments of all who have fought for this nation through all wars and the times in between, we also honor those who have died fighting this new enemy in the Global War on Terror. These young men and women, like the warriors before them have found ways to adapt to and defeat this new enemy, this new threat. But, let’s remember them for what they did, not because they died.

What have they done? They’ve freed nearly 50 million people from repressive, murderous regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. They’ve given people an open road to freedom and democracy, allowing them to vote and choose their own destiny for the first times in their lives.
They’ve been relentless in their pursuit of terrorists in Iraq. Al Qaeda documents captured in Iraq in April show an enemy in disarray and discouraged because of the success our warriors have had. (Interestingly enough, those same documents also reveal the enemy feels they can win in the long term. They know they can’t defeat our troops, but they feel they can win because our press is so easy to manipulate, willingly portrays the U.S. as losing the war, and is forcing the American will against fighting through to victory.) The sacrifices of the fallen have allowed Iraq’s agricultural businesses to take off again, allowed an economy to boom, growing at a rate of 16%. They paved the way for 254,000 Iraqi Security Forces to become fully operational, now conducting 80% of all company level operations on their own or with coalition forces. And most recently, the sacrifice of those we honor today has allowed the Iraqi coalition/unity government to be established, moving the country on its way to independence, to being an ally for us, and a beacon of freedom and democracy in the middle-east.
We need to remember those who have fallen in the Global War on Terror for all they’ve done to secure the future of our nation, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the rest of the freedom loving world. Remember them for crushing the Taliban, scattering Al Qaeda, removing Saddam, and establishing democratic nations where none existed. Envision the impact their sacrifice has on our future the way John Adams saw the future when he said of our first step toward freedom, "I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is worth more than all the means..."
Today, we remember, not just those who died in the Global War on Terror, but all those who have fallen before them as well, all they’ve given us, and the freedom their sacrifice has blessed us with.

But, when I look around at the paths pursued by so many in the U.S., the relativism, the secularism, the political correctness, the requirement not to offend anyone, patriotism defined as attacking instead of never defending our country, and the constant attacks on the institutions which made this country what it is, I question if we comprehend the blessing of freedom we have? I question if we remember what those who have died have done for us? I question if so many take for granted what we really have here? Do we comprehend the oppression we would endure somewhere else or under a different form of government? Do we appreciate the fact we are the only country with the capacity to enjoy all that God has blessed mankind with? Or are we using the freedom we’ve been blessed with to tear down the systems and foundations which provide that very same freedom?

We live such comfortable lives, that we can’t stand a little inconvenience or discomfort. We can’t stand to be without. We’d rather holler about what we don’t have or what makes us uncomfortable than get up and do something about it. Have we lost our perspective and forgotten what true sacrifice is?

I sometimes hear people talk about how an experience here is hard, how they sacrificed this or that in a relatively inconsequential matter. I admit when observing those making mountains out of mole hills that I sit in irritated amusement, listening to alleged life changing experiences or how hard life is. I laugh in anger because all the while, I am thinking of the soldiers and Marines who fought through the streets of Fallujah. I am thinking of those who stormed the beaches at Normandy. I am thinking of places like The Argonne, Belleau Wood, Iwo Jima, Khe Sahn, Saigon, and Ramadi. If you want to talk about hard, life-changing experiences, talk to someone who’s been to one of those places.

But, is that the problem, and the question at hand? Have we forgotten what it takes to fight and sacrifice as a nation? Have we lost perspective on what it’s like to have to struggle for freedom?

Have we forgotten the sacrifices of WW’s I and II, of Korea and Vietnam? As a nation have we forgotten the sacrifice it takes to win? In fighting this war we don’t have conscription, gas rationing, food rationing, victory gardens, recycling drives, or applications for construction material to rebuild a burned down church. Instead we down size the military while at the same time arguing for tax cuts and increased funding for social and welfare programs, and then complain about gas prices and the cost of cable TV. I believe that we have forgotten what sacrifice is, because so many here have not had to sacrifice to ensure our freedom and prosperity.

Although I appreciate it, we take time only once a year to remember those who have paid the ultimate price. I suspect we as a nation take even less time to remember and consider how we got to this day, and all the other sacrifices which were necessary through the course of America’s history to make this country what it is.

So, if we are off course as a nation, how do we set ourselves back on course?

I think we begin on this day. We do so by not just remembering those we honor today, but we remember and honor what it is they fought for and what brought our nation this far. Today we should question how far we’ve strayed from the principles and morals for which our fallen veterans fought and died. Now, now is the day, above all other days for each one of us to ask whether or not we honor their sacrifice with words and actions that uphold the American ideals this great nation was founded upon. We must ask ourselves if we understand and have a full appreciation for the liberty and freedom we enjoy and if we comprehend why those who died for it did so?

I leave you today with two quotes to contemplate as you ask yourself where it is you stand and what it is you can do, as men and women of action, to support this country and their sacrifice. The first is from Plato who said, "The punishment of wise men who refuse to take part in the government is to live under the government of worse men." The second is from Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing."

I encourage all of us to honor the good men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice by exercising every act of freedom and democracy which their deaths have insured and secured for us. Thank you.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Two Who Should Know Better

By Brian Bresnahan
The original thank you to Vietnam Vets I refer to in this column is in the blog post preceding this one.

When I was in Iraq, the amount of personal support we received from home was incredible. It caused me to reflect on the situation and realize the disparity between the support we experienced and the support experienced by those who fought in Vietnam.

I wrote about the differences and forwarded my thoughts, essentially as a “Thank You,” to all Vietnam vets. It was a “Thank You” not only for their service, but also a “Thank You” because their experience in and returning from Vietnam showed the American people how not to treat our servicemen and women. Today’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are the benefactors of the hard lessons learned by Americans which came at the expense of our Vietnam veterans.

Much to my surprise, that letter grew legs. It was read at many veteran’s functions and events. News stories reported it bringing tears to the eyes of some vets who had never been thanked for their service. When I got home, I had complete strangers calling me from across the nation to thank me for writing it. It was a truly humbling experience to have those I hold in such high esteem thanking me for showing my appreciation for their sacrifice.

My recent columns are reaching more people than I ever expected, and I am once again being contacted by Vietnam vets. They tell me to keep writing because they believe in our victory in Iraq and at the same time wish someone would have shown them this type of support. They wish there would have been loud voices standing up for them and their mission, countering those who desired an American loss in Vietnam. When someone who’s been through the hell of a place like Ia Drang calls to thank me for what I’m doing and encourages me to keep supporting our troops and our victory, I can’t help but stay in the fight.

I share those experiences not as a boast or proclamation, but as a testimonial to the powerful impact that pro-troop, pro-mission support can have on the outcome of a war, especially when compared to the negativity of anti-troop, anti-war sentiment.

That being said, it then stands to reason that those who served in Vietnam would understand as well as anyone the damage done by Americans who attack their own country, yet never criticize the enemy. That they would recognize the harm done by politicians who adamantly insist, despite evidence to the contrary, that we are losing a war and that we need to turn tail and run. That they would be sensitive to the effect the anti-war movement has on America’s potential for victory and the morale of our troops.

It doesn’t mean they all have to support the war, and I know there are some who don’t. It is their right to do so and I would never begrudge them their opinion.

But I do question two veterans in positions of responsibility, Chuck Hagel and John Murtha, who spew forth anti-war, sometimes anti-troop, positions. They should know as well as anyone that their statements portray the same attitudes that made the return from Vietnam a domestic hell for some of their fellow vets and forced America to lose that war.

After each major step forward by the Iraqi’s, election after election, and progressive step after step, Chuck Hagel has refused to acknowledge any success in Iraq. Instead, he follows a philosophy of the latest step being relatively unimportant, the next step as more critical, and then showers that step with doubt. Yet, when that step is made, there is no triumph acknowledged. Instead we hear the same: the step taken is irrelevant and that we are losing the war. His ongoing stand against any success in Iraq is reminiscent of the same anti-war domestic political posturing seen during Vietnam.

John Murtha’s attacks against the war and our attempts to defeat terrorists have been incessant. But, last week he spiraled downward, moving from attacking the war effort, to attacking our Marines in Iraq. He held his own personal media trial, immediately condemned, and then convicted the Marines being investigated for an alleged atrocity at Haditha. If the allegations turn out to be true, all involved should be punished accordingly. But to have immediately and publicly convicted the Marines the way he did, long before the investigation was even finished, let alone allowing the Marines a fair trial, was a disgusting display of his feverish pursuit of our defeat. His words and actions mirror those which were designed to and eventually created the internal discontent that forced our loss in Vietnam.

I think many veterans, as I do, look at those who have gone before and see them as a notch above us. As having endured more. As having sacrificed more. We hold them in higher esteem than we might ever hold ourselves.

But Hagel and Murtha are definitely off my list. Because of the Vietnam experience, they should know better than anyone not to do what they’re doing, yet they lead the charge to stir up enough anti-war sentiment to force our surrender. They lead the charge toward instilling courage and confidence in our enemies who know they only have to defeat the American will, not the American troops.

Original Thank You to Vietnam Vets

This is the letter I sent home when I was in Iraq in 2004.

A guy gets time to think over here and I was thinking about all the support we get from home. Sometimes it's overwhelming. We get care packages at times faster than we can use them. There are boxes and boxes of toiletries and snacks lining the center of every tent; the generosity has been amazing. So, I was pondering the question: "Why do we have so much support?"
In my opinion, it came down to one thing: . I think we learned a lesson, as a nation, that no matter what, you have to support the troops who are on the line, who are risking everything. We treated them so poorly back then. When they returned was even worse. The stories are nightmarish of what our returning warriors were subjected to. It is a national scar, a blemish on our country, an embarrassment to all of us.
After , it had time to sink in. The guilt in our collective consciousness grew. It shamed us.
However, we learned from our mistake. Somewhere during the late 1970's and into the 80's, we realized that we can't treat our warriors that way. So, starting during the Gulf War, when the first real opportunity arose to stand up and support the troops, we did. We did it to support our friends and family going off to war. But we also did it to right the wrongs from the era. We treated our troops like the heroes they were, acknowledged and celebrated their sacrifice, and rejoiced at their homecoming instead of spitting on them.
And that support continues today for those of us in . Our country knows that it must support us and it does.
The lesson was learned in and we are better because of it.
Everyone who has gone before is a hero. They are celebrated in my heart. I think admirably of all those who have gone before me. From those who fought to establish this country in the late 1770's to those I serve with here in . They have all sacrificed to ensure our freedom.
But when I get back, I'm going to make it a personal mission to specifically thank every Vietnam Vet I encounter for their sacrifice. Because if nothing else good came from that terrible war, one thing did. It was the lesson learned on how we treat our warriors. We as a country learned from our mistake and now treat our warriors as heroes, as we should. I am the beneficiary of their sacrifice. Not only for the freedom they, like veterans from other wars, ensured, but for how well our country now treats my fellow Marines and I. We are the beneficiaries of their sacrifice.
Semper Fidelis,
Major Brian P. Bresnahan

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

In Pursuit of Freedom

By Brian Bresnahan

I believe the Creator has instilled within all people the capacity for free will. This in turn yields a universal desire to be free, to live as we choose, and to do so with others, all under the auspices of His commands.

My experiences with the Iraqi people proved to me, that they too, are subject to this universally applicable imperative which solicits a desire for freedom.

My “job” in Iraq allowed me the privilege of working directly with the Iraqis several days per week. I worked in a capacity which could directly improve their lives, or at least provide some degree of solace for a suffered loss. Through these endeavors, and over the course of the first couple months, I saw a very distinct change in their attitude toward me, toward us, our mission there, and a growing appetite to take the initiative on matters which might improve their own lives.

Getting them to take the initiative like this was, in and of itself, an incredible challenge. The group I worked with was of the mindset that everything happens because Allah wills it to happen. They would openly ask, “Why take action on my own behalf?” Their point of view was “The outcome is not up to me. My choices and actions do not matter. It’s up to Allah to decide my fate, and I’ll faithfully accept his will and the direction he chooses for my life.”

But, because within each person is planted a seed which gives rise to the capacity for free will, eventually all people will choose the course of freedom. All they need is for the seed to be nurtured.

As the Iraqi’s and I became better acquainted we were able to discuss subjects beyond the business at hand. We talked about the same things that friends here might discuss. Friendships were formed and trust grew.

I explained that we weren’t there to occupy their country. When they finally understood we were only there to help, and that we wanted to go home when our time was up, just as much as they might want us to leave, the relationships grew more.

As they saw us helping them rebuild their lives, they began to realize the difference between us and the insurgents. The insurgents, either directly or indirectly, were the source of hardship, difficulty, or danger in their lives. The contrast between what we brought to the table and the problems caused by the insurgents was discussed and understood.

And then they made the conscious choice of those in pursuit of freedom. They chose to act on their own behalf, to exercise their free will for the purpose of framing a vision for the future and a better life. In spite of the danger to themselves, certain death if they were discovered, they started telling us who the insurgents were, where they were, and how we could find them.

Our conversations were altogether different after that. They began to share their hopes and what they wanted in life. These new friends began to share the desire for a better life for themselves and their children. I learned they wanted the same things out of life that you and I want - to be mom’s and dad’s, to make a decent living, to simply be safe and happy. And they acknowledged, with clarity, that the paths to those things were the paths of democracy and freedom.

Although they lacked an understanding of democracy, they knew, by the example of the United States, that democracy was the means by which freedom was attained. Details about democracy beyond the act of voting were nebulous, but freedom they understood.

Their new-found will to freedom and fresh entry into democracy progressed from a basic knowledge of these novel concepts into acts of freedom. Despite threats from terrorists, the Iraqi’s decided their own future, voted in three elections, and celebrated in the streets, rejoicing in the hope for a better life.

Living freely, they now charge forward with businesses and entrepreneurialism. They pursue capitalism, the only economic system which enables democracy and freedom to flourish; the only system that gives them a chance to raise their standard of living and lift the poorest among them from abject poverty.

Their choice to turn on the insurgents (the event that signified their aspirations for freedom) is now being repeated at record levels. For the month of April, the Multi National Forces received 5,855 tips about the insurgency from Iraqi civilians.

The willingness of the Iraqi’s to step up like this indicates strong hope for the future. It indicates an improving security situation – they wouldn’t come forward like this if it weren’t safe to do so. That in turn tells us our troops and the Iraqi troops are succeeding.

But most encouraging of all, it shows that more and more Iraqi’s are openly, personally pursuing freedom, spurred to do so because the seeds of freedom have been nurtured and enabled.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Great List of The Unsung Good News

Families United Mission has a great progress report of all that is going right in Iraq with democracy, their economy, education, infrastructure, security forces, and health care. It is an inspiring testimony to the hard work of all who have been there, those there now, and more importantly, to the Iraqi's who have stepped forward to fulfill their God given right to be free!

Friday, May 12, 2006

MNFI Good News From Iraq

Take notice of slide 11 especially. The number of tips from Iraqi's is growing, which is indicative of both an increase in security and a growing weariness of the terrorists' activities.

In the past, Iraqi's had been reluctant to give the tips that led us to bad guys.

But, attacks by the insurgents on their families, friends, and neighbors is a pretty strong motivator for getting rid of the insurgents. More importantly, Iraqi's must feel safe in giving the tips without fear of retribution from the insurgents. Obviously they sense a greater security, otherwise they would not be stepping forward like they are. If they have a greater sense of security, then we (coalition and Iraqi forces) must be doing an increasingly better job of providing security. Despite what you hear on TV......

Thursday, May 11, 2006

What The Troops on The Ground See vs What We See

CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq, May 10, 2006 – It's the e-mails and calls from home that gave the soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division their first clue that something is becoming different about the will of the American people.
"All this time I thought we were winning," said a sergeant first class sarcastically. "Seems folks back home have already run up the white flag."
Some 4th Infantry Division noncommissioned officers were discussing the flood of e-mails they receive from family members and friends about the constant danger they are facing in Iraq. Though they asked not to be identified by name for this article, the NCOs said they believe the news media highlight explosions and murders over any sign of progress in Iraq.
"I see progress every time I go outside the wire," said a platoon sergeant. "Just look at the progress the Iraqi army has made."

These NCOs are not ready to leave Iraq, and they resent suggestions that they aren't doing good in this war-weary country.
"I have yet to speak to (an American) here who thinks we're losing," an NCO said. "Trust me. (No soldier) wants to be here, but no one wants to cut and run either."
"Leaving would just send the wrong signal to our enemies," he said.

I'm sure I could sit here and find news like this from soldiers and Marines in Iraq who could paint us the real picture of success taking place in Iraq. It's all there and you don't even have to look very hard to find out what the mainstream media isn't telling you.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

An Army Captain's Experience with "Democracy"

"Capt. Riffe also realized, however, that the introduction of democracy in Iraq would be a long process. "Their system had been in place for thousands of years -- everything ran through the local sheikh. Here's how far they are from the democratic system we've got: During the January 2005 elections, I was with one of my interpreters checking a polling station. I asked my interpreter to find out when the ballots were supposed to show up. And my interpreter looked at me like I was from a different planet. He asked, 'What are those words you just said?' And I said 'Ballots and polling stations.' … That's when I finally realized how new democracy was to them. Their language didn't even incorporate the words."

I've stated in public speaking engagements and different forums that the concept and even the word "democracy" was intangible to the Iraqi's. It was something that was hard for them to put their arms around, to define, to understand what it meant. But, when you talked about freedom, their eyes lit up and they started talking!!!! They, as does every living person, understood freedom, desired it, and wanted it. That's the concept, the idea they understood we have, and believe me they wanted that. They would start rattling off the things they wanted out of life and knew that freedom was the road to that life. My experience with Iraqi's leads me to believe that if we spent more time talking about freedom, we'd get farther, faster.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

On Line Chat with a Soldier in Iraq

The link is to an online chat held with an Army Sergeant Major in Iraq. Notice his take on the media? How is that 1000's of stories of good things happening in Iraq can be completely ignored?
At what point will the reality of what's happening in Iraq be reflected in the mainstream media?
In an online debate with a history professor, he told me that those of us who served in the "foxholes of Iraq" are the worst purveyors of facts. That we, of all people, are in the worst position to report on and tell about what's taking place there because we see too small a piece of the pie.
But how many of us does it take to make the whole pie?
And if those of us with first hand experience and eye-witness accounts of what's happening aren't qualified, is anyone?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Splitting in Three

By Brian Bresnahan

After the idea was originally aired in the middle of December, a proposed plan to turn Iraq into an enclave of three loosely associated states, divided along sectarian lines, under a very weak central government surfaced again last week.

From an historical perspective, the plan has some merit. It could possibly correct a mistake made by the British in 1921.

In the post-Ottoman era, roughly the end of World War I, Britain and France held power in the Middle East, with Britain having control over the area which now includes Iraq. In 1921 the British carved up this area, establishing states and borders reflective of their own economic, strategic and political interests. Little or no regard was given to the influence and divisions among tribes, clans, ethnicities, religions, or previous provincial boundaries which had unfolded during the Ottoman era or were in place even before that.

Ignored in this process were the Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds who had been roughly divided by three geographically separate provinces: Baghdad, Basra, and Mosul. These areas/divisions we still see today in southern Iraq which is primarily Shiite, the Sunni areas surrounding Baghdad west into the Al Anbar province, and predominantly Kurdish areas of northern Iraq.

The flawed British plan which created modern day Iraq essentially forced these three diverse groups into one nation, not for reasons of their own choosing, but because of imperial rule. The proposal to create three autonomous, yet loosely affiliated provinces as a new Iraq, might very well remedy this error.

The plan is also in line with the Iraqi constitution. As it’s currently drafted, the constitution allows for a certain amount of autonomy for each province. This could permit the plan to move forward without starting the entire democratic process over.

But, there are downsides to such a plan which demand discussion, as they would be significant stumbling blocks to such a proposal.

One antecedent of the Sunni insurgency is the fact that the constitution allows for the very autonomy discussed above. The concern of the Sunnis is the lack of oil resources in their areas; resources necessary to sustain themselves under a relatively loose collection of self-directed entities. The current plans provide for the oil wealth to be shared amongst all provinces, but the Sunnis are violently skeptical the others will share it. They distrust the Shiites and Kurds who have the oil in their territories. The “new” plan for three separate provinces also contains provisions to share the wealth. But there is absolutely no reason why its premise would be better than the current one. Thus, the Sunni insurgency is just as likely to conduct violent opposition to the new plan as the old because this grievance would still not be addressed.

The proposal also ignores the influence of Turkey and Iran with respect to the Kurds, specifically the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK. Both Turkey and Iran, especially Turkey, are absolutely opposed to the establishment of an autonomous Kurdish state. A long history of violent conflict with the PKK and oppression of the Kurdish people by the two states underlies deep-seeded hatred and animosity between them. Any move which would grant the Kurds anything that even resembled their own state would bring action by Turkey, and likely Iran as well.

Turkey and Iran have a policy and history of military action against the Kurds and PKK. Recent actions show they intend to continue that policy. In the last couple weeks, Iran (who clearly has its hands in Iraq) has bombarded parts of northern Iraq in pursuit of PKK rebels. The BBC has also reported that both countries are placing more and more of their own troops along the border in the event Iraq destabilizes and the Kurds attempt to form their own state. Implementation of a “three state plan” granting increased self-rule or sovereignty to the Kurds runs an extremely high risk of open and direct intervention by Turkey and Iran. This would give us bigger headaches than we think we already have in Iraq.

Lastly, is it what the Iraqi’s want? Some might. We know the Kurds have had hopes for their own country. But their political maneuvering in the new Iraqi government suggests they also understand the need to balance between membership in an all-inclusive Iraq and being an independent target of Turkey and Iran. Beyond that, there’s been no indication by the Iraqi people of wanting this type of system. In fact, the Sunni insurgency has been fighting, in part, against it.

Ultimately, the plan may be worthy of proposing to the Iraqi’s. But, we have to remember it’s up to them to choose if it’s worth consideration or discussion. If so, let them debate it. Let them decide.

After decades of dominance by outsiders and tyrannical leaders, the Iraqi people are finally on a road to freedom and democracy, with the international community acknowledging the fact that it’s their country. To that end, the more we can let them determine their own future and let them choose their own paths, the higher the chance of success for them and everyone else with a stake in Iraq.

American's Fail to Understand Religious Motivation

By Brian Bresnahan

Suicide bombings by Islamic extremists and fiery riots in Arab streets over newspaper cartoons make many in America scratch their heads, or even yell at the television and ask with frustration “what’s wrong with those people?”

From a purely cultural, sociological perspective the answer is “nothing.” There are many studies 50 years and older that perfectly describe the emotion and actions we still see in the Middle East today. Although these actions are detrimental to their cause, in the context of books like “The Arab Mind” written by Raphael Patai in the ‘70’s, one can understand how this fiery emotion and tempestuous behavior are comprehensible and natural.

I’ve observed debates here that try to define and describe why such behavior exists and attempt to comprehend acts Americans consider extreme. But what I fail to see debated is the American perspective which creates our own mental obstacles for grasping such behaviors. Instead, we are always looking for a flaw within their culture or religion. An argument can be made that our own societal religious shortcomings prohibit us from comprehending events like suicide bombings and the cartoon riots.

In general, how strong is the religious faith of Americans compared to the Islamic world?

Life in an Arab Islamic culture is very well defined by strong faith; deep devotion to not only practicing Islam, but adherence to Islam being woven into the fabric of everyday life. There is a deep passion for the Koran being the guide for the moral laws of their nations and a desire for it to help guide public policies. For them, all things happen because Allah wills them to happen and this fact is acknowledged daily in action and speech. Open, public passion for Islam is clearly evident. Passion and faith are so intense they stir a fire within a few hot enough to drive them to suicide bombing and violent acts considered religious defense or propagation.

Contrast that with our country. Here we attack religion. The ACLU, progressive secular and leftist organizations are determined to drive religion out of the public life. We are a country which derives its moral laws from Judeo-Christian tenants, but half the country does not want to acknowledge that fact or tries to hide it. We try to push faith out of the public arena of ideas and denigrate those who reference faith. In some circles, the words “Christian, Jew, and Organized Religion” are used to invoke all the negative connotations of “Totalitarianism, Fascism, and Theocracy.” Our laws have been interpreted so that religious symbols or practices of any kind from any faith are barred from the public square. Public humiliation often awaits those who profess their faith. We have become a nation which chooses not to defend the freedom of religion, but instead have become a nation and society which defends and insists upon freedom from religion.

How then can our society understand a culture that has a deep, burning faith woven into every aspect of its life? How then can America comprehend passion for god so fervent it drives people to take their own lives in his name? How then can we comprehend taking to the streets and boisterously, even violently defending that which is believed to bring eternal life?

Without a public tolerance and reverence for religion, as a society we will fail to comprehend how religion drives people to act. Acts of love are then met with suspicion. Acts of violence are met with questions and answers about economics and fair treatment. But, we never look toward faith for the answers.

Am I saying the only way to understand the Arab Islamic framework is to be personally and deeply religious? Not at all. From personal experience in Iraq, I know that successfully understanding at least the basic beliefs of other cultures is attainable by both the religious and secular. But, if our nation were to turn back toward a passion for faith, it would not only help us fathom the near-mystery of faith driving others to action, but would also be of eternal value to our own country.

Until then, we as a nation and society need to be aware of this weakness and the opportunity it provides Islamic Jihadists to exploit and attack us, from outside and within. There are those amongst us who are ignorant of our shortcomings. The arrogant, self-proclaimed enlightened who feel we should change to accommodate the rest of the world, see themselves as being above the constraints of religion and thus, overlook and underestimate religion’s impact on extremist motives. Their approach leaves an exploitable gap for our enemy, as it fails to comprehend the passion that drives the terrorists. Instead they try to find fault with America’s foreign policies and become members of the “Blame America First” crowd. They argue for paths toward peace and tolerance which lack basis in reality; paths that will lead to dead ends or destruction. They look toward our own legal system and politically correct proclivities for answers which will never come. A quote by Ralph Peters describes well the difference and the danger: “Our enemies act on ecstatic revelations from their god. We act on the advice of lawyers.”

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Why Shouldn't Iran Be Confident and Obstinate?

By Brian Bresnahan
Originally Published 4 May 2006

Every day Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad becomes more and more obstinate.
The increased belligerence by him and the clerics who run Iran is of direct concern, especially with our troops fighting next door in Iraq. Their proximity to Iran makes them an easy target for a brash regime whose actions are increasingly bold. Within the last week we’ve seen an Iranian intrusion into northern Iraq in pursuit of Kurdish rebels, an Iranian supplied roadside bomb which killed three Italian soldiers, growing proof of Hezbollah activity in Iraq, and increased presence of Iranian explosives in Iraq. With each day Iran becomes more confrontational.

But why shouldn’t Iran become more confrontational? Their allies and the important countries neutral to their cause outweigh any threat which might force them away from their own nuclear program, heated rhetoric, and increased terrorist activity.

On their side are the other Muslim countries who consider themselves brothers in Islam, and who also share a decades old grievance against the west. A long-standing complaint of middle eastern Islamic countries is that the west is intentionally holding them back, denying them the expertise and capacity to improve their own industries, culture, standard of living, and power within the world. They believe the west is deliberately impeding the quest by Islamic countries to advance and regain the glory and position they held as a civilization centuries ago. (An ironic argument when juxtaposed against the desire by many of the same radicals for a return to life of the 7th century for religious reasons) But, in open defiance of the west, Iran has embarked on a technological journey intent on rivaling the west. This puts them in a commanding position for other Islamic countries that may see Iran leading them back to industrial, religious, and cultural preeminence.

The neutrality of others, especially China, is of benefit to Iran. Any proposed sanctions or actions against Iran are likely to be met with a Chinese veto in the U.N. Security Council. China sees no threat from Iran, nor does it want a showdown that could interrupt the supply of oil to their burgeoning economy.

It’s not as if the U.N. were a threat to Iran anyway. Their inclination toward talking in circles coupled with an aversion to action of any consequence exudes nothing but ineptitude. Gambling on the U.N. not taking any action against them is a safe bet for Iran.

Unilateral action by Israel would likely cause retaliation by every known Islamic terrorist organization as well as some Islamic states. The U.N.’s hostility toward Israel would likely bring further headaches for them should they attempt preemptive action against the very country which has stated that its desire is to “wipe them off the map” while producing the means to do so.

Nor does Iran appear to fear retaliation or retribution from the U.S. They are preparing for an unconventional, guerilla style war against us. Their proclaimed intent is to utilize their own state sponsored terrorist organization, Hezbollah, as well as other groups to carry out attacks against our country and world wide interests. They are preparing to bring us the same kind of asymmetrical fight we have in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the rest of the ongoing war on terror.

And why shouldn’t they be confident of success in that kind of war? Our military and intelligence agencies certainly possess the ability to defeat them if given the time and resources. But liberals like John Kerry, Russ Feingold, and their supporters continuously show Iran and other potential enemies that a certain segment of the American populace lacks the intestinal fortitude and perseverance to fight that kind of war. Senators Kerry and Feingold have both, in the last couple weeks, demonstrated their lack of resolve for this kind of fight by once again raising “white flag” plans for Iraq, with capitulation dates this May and December, respectively. Strategically and tactically, the Iranian’s could count on that group of Americans to foment anti-war positions within the U.S. and acquiesce to their demands in a protracted asymmetrical war.

So, we find ourselves in a quandary. One like we’ve been in before, with Americans divided on how to deal with an ever growing threat from a country whose actions appear to be illogical or insane, and a world community that seems more interested in appeasing a mad-man than confronting him. Illustrative of the current situation, Charles Krauthammer described his conversation about Iran with the venerable, world renowned historian and Islamic scholar, Bernard Lewis, who said (paraphrasing) that “this is just like 1938, with the world staring down Hitler.”

Will American’s collectively acknowledge the threat this time before rhetoric moves much farther into the realm of action? Will we allow our leadership to move forward with a plan to deal with the mad-man before it’s too late? Or will the thirst for political power during an election year override national security necessities, portraying America as a paper tiger while letting the mad-man march forward? It took hard lessons for America to finally get it right and enter WWII. My prayer for this National Day of Prayer is that regardless of the course we pursue, we won’t have to learn the hard lessons this time.

Cherry Picking the News

Brian Bresnahan
Originally published in April, 2006

It was interesting to watch the mainstream media pick and choose their stories and pieces of stories over the last few weeks.

The whole hubbub over the retired generals’ condemnation of the Secretary of Defense gave the mainstream media an opportunity to show their liberal stripe. It was egregious how they chose to disregard all those who support the Secretary.

They nearly ignored the fact that former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, current Chairman, Marine General Peter Pace, and former CENTCOM Commander, General Franks, all came out in strong support of Donald Rumsfeld. By anyone’s standards, these are pretty important, experienced men. Their opinions’ should matter as much as anyone’s, unless of course they contradict the predetermined storyline.

They completely ignored the Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Lieutenant General Odierno, concerning his experience with Secretary Rumsfeld. In a Fox News interview he discussed how the Secretary routinely has top military officers in and out of his office providing advice. In no uncertain terms, he made clear that Rumsfeld listens to the advice of others; a description opposite of the given storyline.

Whether or not Rumsfeld needs to go is not germane to this argument. What matters is that one side of the story was completely ignored, again. As the mainstream media would have had us believe, all 4,700 or so retired generals and admirals had come out against him. At a smidge over one-tenth of one percent, that was obviously and absolutely not the case.

The mainstream media was also very selective in their portrayal of each general’s comments. In their bias, they chose to use Lieutenant General Newbold’s Time article as a call to surrender in Iraq. The liberal defeatists were more than happy to help that bandwagon gain momentum while jumping on. But, that was manipulation of the Marine’s own words, twisting them to fit their template. He was unambiguous in his stand that going to Iraq was a mistake. But, he was also quite lucid in his position that we need to stay in Iraq and finish the job, leaving the option open to change his mind in the future. In his words, “…while I don’t accept the stated rationale for invading Iraq, my view – at this moment – is that a precipitous withdrawal would be a mistake. It would send a signal, heard around the world, that would reinforce the jihadists’ message that America can be defeated, and thus increase the chances of future conflicts.” But the press simply threw him in with the white flag wavers.

They chose to ignore the Gold Star Families who, on the anniversary of Iraqi Liberation Week, worked very hard to honor the sacrifice and service of the children they lost in Iraq. Although they have been more than happy to give Cindy Sheehan all the air time she wanted in the past, they ignored people like Patrick and Terri Ivory who were very open about honoring the memory of the son they lost in Iraq. They ignored mothers like Merrilee Carlson who lost her son in Iraq, but honored his memory by traveling to Walter Reed Medical Center to give encouragement to wounded servicemen and women there. Why did they snub those families who support victory in Iraq and/or the honorable memory of their loved ones?

Although they were sure to give the number of deaths from Iraq, they took no notice of the figures released on 21 April by the Project and Contracting Office that detail 10 pages worth of good news about reconstruction in Iraq. A very small sampling of these includes: 830 new and rebuilt schools, 15 primary health care centers completed with 138 more under construction, 191 potable water projects complete with 87 more under construction, and 1,366 MW of electrical capacity added with a goal of 194 MW more. In the past, they and their liberal political cohorts have pointed to a lack of information on infrastructure improvement as proof that the situation in Iraq was not getting any better. Yet, when presented with the exact information they’d been hollering for, they chose not to pay attention to it.

Right here was the cherry on the sundae though. (It might also be hilarious if it weren’t so sad). After clamoring loudly for movement by the fledgling Iraqi government, and reporting that no hope existed without it, they closed their eyes to the fulfillment of the very same events they’d been demanding. Why, when the much maligned Ibrahim al-Jafaari stepped aside, and new hope for a unity government supported by all three major factions arrived with the nomination of Jawad al-Maliki, was there so much silence? They’d gotten the very thing they’d demanded, but acted as if nothing had happened. I was amazed that they cared less about their stipulations having just been met. I was appalled that they ignored an event of such enormous proportion. But, I wasn’t surprised that the modus operandi of those who claim and demand to be guardians of all news and information at the national level continues to be a blatantly subjective one.

What Our Troops Deserve

Brian Bresnahan

I served in Iraq with some of the most incredible men and women of our Armed Forces. The members of our Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines are truly worthy of our unswerving support.

Although I’m sure the Army and Air Force have more than their fair share of outstanding soldiers and airmen, the adoration for my fellow troops comes from my time serving with Marines and Sailors. I will forever, jealously guard that time in my life when I stood side by side with the grunts and docs. I personally know now why we hold fast to the decree of “Once a Marine, Always a Marine.” We do so because of those we serve with.

Even when you are one of “The Few, The Proud” it is still an incredible experience to serve alongside others who belong to that fraternity. I continue to be amazed at the level of maturity, professionalism, and courage they possess. These are smart kids with intestinal fortitude, with character.

So many times you would simply give them your intent and desired end state, and they would deliver. If you’ve never led or had the privilege of observing a group that gets it right almost every single time the first time, believe me, it’s truly an honor.

It’s an unforgettable experience to accompany an infantry unit that has every Marine, without specific command or direction melt into exactly the right place. Each one, knowing his job, from the time they dismount the vehicles or walk into an area, is either posted or patrolling precisely where he should be.

I stand in awe of the corpsmen that run into the middle of a firefight to retrieve or give aid to a fallen Marine.

I am encouraged when I remember the Forward Air Controller being shot at by RPG’s who simply peeked back around the corner at the rest of the platoon, in a humorous, cartoon-like way and kept talking to the medevac helo and close air support gunships.

To know that young men like Corporal Stephen Flannery exist should reassure all of us. Every time I stepped into a group of Iraqi’s I knew he had my back. I knew he wouldn’t be gawking at something around him. I knew, without looking, that he was doing his job and that he would act swiftly and decisively when the time came.

They were inspiring to work with, and they taught me how to be a better Marine. From them I learned lessons which I apply today and will for the rest of my life. Like the time an older Marine taught me to “Never argue with a pig. You’ll only get dirty and you’ll make the pig look smarter than the pig that he is.” As tough as Marines are though, there was always compassion, because another would say “feel sorry for the pig, his lot in life is to be a sausage.”

These fine young men and women deserve all the support we can give. We observed Iraqi Liberation Week last week and did so with relatively little fanfare. With news cycles stuck on immigration issues and disgruntled generals who haven’t gotten over Secretary Rumsfeld urinating on their fire hydrants, the hard work of the troops was again overlooked. This, during the very week our focus should have been on them.

The young Marines and Corpsmen I served with, those still there, and their counterparts in the Army and Air Force have given and are giving their blood, sweat, tears, and lives so the Iraqi people could taste just a little bit of what we have. They do it without complaint. They do it without asking for the recognition of their endeavors.

With each passing day, more and more call this group “The Next Greatest Generation.” Knowing those I do from both groups, I would say this is not only a fair title, but also a humbling one. Both groups have had the courage to stand against the evils of their time. The first faced the fascism of empirical Japan and the evils of Hitler’s Germany; this group faces the evil of Islamic terror, and they do so voluntarily.

Unlike so many liberals here, these fine young men and women have the insight, the vision to see the world around them and all that is both good and bad about it. They see how their actions can make the world a safer place. Unlike the anti-war groups and liberal cynics, they know that change only happens through hard work, sacrifice, and perseverance.

But, they have to follow the orders of our civilian leaders in Washington D.C. So, they deserve to have leaders there with character, courage of moral convictions, perseverance, compassion, a vision, and a hope for the future. As I surveyed the political landscape last fall, specifically with an eye on the need for civilian leadership worthy of our young troops, one person stood out to me, whom I now support. Pete Ricketts, from the onset of his Senatorial campaign, whether personally or publicly has consistently demonstrated the qualities our troops deserve to have in a civilian leader making decisions on their behalf.

What Do Terrorists Fear?

By Brian Bresnahan

One of the Captain’s I served with in Iraq would have shocked the politicians who like to point at our equipment and say “see what I did for our troops, vote for me.” There were times during operations when he wouldn’t wear his helmet, thus excluding himself from politician poster-boy status. The Captain wasn’t overheating or uncomfortable in his helmet, he was simply demonstrating that he was the “toughest kid on the block.”

Arab culture respects courage, aggressiveness, and strength. It respects boldness in the face of one’s enemies. Conversely, it shuns those who do not demonstrate these characteristics, who are weak, don’t exhibit personal courage, are not tough. Those qualities determine the honor and dignity of a man, especially at the age when most decide to take the “terrorist” career path. Men who do not exhibit these attributes at that age are seen as being of less value, as weak, or worse yet, without honor. They are subject to ridicule, exploitation, and sometimes even death if they dishonor the family.

Al Qaeda and most other Islamic terrorist groups originate from that culture. They are led by individuals and derive their operational mentality from that culture. We therefore face an enemy which has been brought up, from day one, to respect only these attributes.

They have no respect or desire for nuanced negotiations with those they see as weak, especially anyone they have a deep hatred for. They have no intention of quitting until those weaker and unworthy are either destroyed or bowing before Allah. They do not respect or fear an enemy who has not shown them a reason to be afraid.

Our enemy only respects those who have and are willing to use superior strength against him; those who give him a reason to be afraid; “the toughest kid on the block.”

That Captain fully understood this. The intent when not wearing his helmet was to project the message “I do not fear you.” Now, let it be known that neither he then, nor I now, am advocating that we shun the Kevlar. It was only done on specific occasions as a statement to serve notice to the enemy and is illustrated here accordingly. And yes, he did make it through the deployment and received a Bronze Star with Valor for his actions in combat.

The Captain understood the culture and was able to apply that knowledge at the tactical level. Our Generals understand this and are applying it at the strategic level, especially now more than ever. But most importantly, I believe that our President understands this aspect of the enemy. He understands the consequences of raising the white flag and demonstrating the weakness that some politicians are demanding. If he seems immovable on this subject, it’s because history provides a solid foundation for his position.

The basic questions of national security, preservation of one’s nation, and strength in the face of the enemy are lessons learned and recorded long ago. Bevin Alexander summarizes an aspect of Machiavelli’s philosophy on the subject this way: there are “two ways to deal with an enemy: destroy him altogether, or treat him so generously that he will become your friend.” Our only choice with regard to Islamic terrorists is their complete destruction. They see us as infidels and want us to die or convert, not become friends. Treating them generously would be seen as a weakness. It would be a reason for them to attack us, not befriend us.

Jimmy Carter’s failure to show American strength in the face of Iranian terrorists emboldened other terrorist groups to act against us, they saw us as weak. Many agree that we are still paying for his weak national security policy today.

But, President Reagan understood the need for strength as demonstrated through his policies. He certainly could have been more aggressive after the death of so many of my Marine brethren in Beirut. But overall, his actions nearly always reflected his comprehension of how to deal with the enemy when he said, "They do not fear the United States for its diplomatic skills or the number of automobiles and software programs it produces. They respect only the firepower of our tanks, planes and helicopter gunships."

However, Bill Clinton’s failures after the first World Trade Center bombing, the bombing of the USS Cole, the Kobahr towers, and Mogadishu have been specifically cited by Al Qaeda as reasons to attack America. With each demonstration of weakness, we were perceived more and more as a nation which lacked courage and would not fight for its own defense.

Today, with ongoing attacks by terrorists in Iraq, some want to pull out and leave before the job is finished, but the President refuses. They want our actions in Iraq to be counted with our previous weak responses. They want to continue the legacy of Carter and Clinton, but this President has chosen a better course. They want our national resolve to resemble that of the French of whom we have to ask before the fight even begins, “Have they surrendered yet?” They want to add to the reasons why terrorists should be emboldened to attack us, but the President rightfully refuses to surrender.

A War of Ideas

The Global War on Terror is not only a war of arms, but is also a war of ideas. White House Spokesman Scott McClellan said words to that effect recently. As the words sank in, I realized the broader implications on our internal debate. It became clear why those who lack ideas of their own for domestic or foreign policy also have no idea, concept, or capability to understand or conduct the Global War on Terror.

Those who constantly criticize the President and attack him on every aspect of his policies while failing to offer any intelligent ideas of their own are also those who show they have no idea what the war on terror is or how to fight it. Every day their words and actions illustrate their absence from the realm of ideas, so it should come as no surprise when they show ignorance toward fighting a war of ideas.

Fighting the war on terror requires a grasp of both tangible and intangible elements, such as fully understanding that although the threat may not be perfectly defined, it still exists. But, those who do not subscribe to the world of ideas typically only acknowledge danger from terrorists when there’s political gain to be had because they only think and act within the framework of what’s tangible to them. If it’s not physically perceptible, if there’s no specific danger or benefit to them, it falls outside the realm of their thought processes. That leaves them to focus their fighting where they feel they can make personal gains against perceptible entities, i.e. the Administration and military. They spend their energy and resources on internal attacks because they don’t comprehend an external enemy that isn’t defined by boundaries on a map nor the intangibles which motivate his actions.

Those who have no idea how to fight the war on terror are largely associated with, and are often one and the same as, those who have no idea how religion can be an integral part of anyone’s life. They denounce and attack those Americans and institutions which draw their guidance and direction from religion, and who lead their daily lives and operations in keeping with religious tenets. Because they do not understand the idea of religion, they try to suffocate and extinguish it. This explains why they fail to comprehend an enemy which draws his motivation from religion and why they fail to see how this enemy could act on the religious ideas which he so firmly believes.

Al Qaeda has clearly stated that their goal in Iraq is to create instability, foment a civil war, prevent democratization and formation of a government in order to establish a safe haven from which to launch terror attacks and advance their version of Islam. But those who fail to acknowledge and understand this idea fail to understand the need to win in Iraq. Those who lack the capacity to comprehend this idea also fail to understand that the consequence of premature withdrawal from Iraq is an Al Qaeda victory, which in turn provides them the opportunity to establish a new base of operations for their attacks against us. They fail to understand that our early departure would reinforce the Islamic Jihadists’ notion that Americans lack the resolve to fight for our own future and embolden them to do even more harm to us. These ideas are central to Al Qaeda’s strategy, but those Americans who can not work with ideas and the reality that comes from those ideas play right into the hands of that strategy.

Those who constantly misrepresent and criticize the war effort don’t seem to have any idea that their words and actions are part of the enemy’s strategy for crushing the resolve of the American people. They remain stuck in partisan politics, oblivious to the benefits their constant attacks on America’s war effort have for the morale and perseverance of the enemy. Because they seem to have no idea what the enemy’s strategy or end-state is, let alone any idea how to defeat it, they unwittingly carry out the enemy’s strategy through their incessant negativity and attacks against our war effort.

Before noon on September 11, 2001 our ideas and policies about national security with respect to terrorists were no longer valid and had to be changed. We could no longer afford to sit and wait to be attacked again. But, for those who fail to work within the realm of fact-based ideas, the concept of preemptively striking an enemy has been nearly impossible, if not completely impossible to accept. They continue to hope and argue for resumption of the old policy and attack the President’s new one. The tragedy of 9/11 was still not enough for them to grasp the need for a new idea.

Even after fully considering the shortcomings of our current leadership, why, when we need innovative leadership capable of producing the ideas and actions that will preserve our great nation, would we ever consider trusting its safety to those who daily demonstrate their complete absence from the domain of ideas necessary for that safety?

...From The Jaws of Victory

On more than one occasion John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid have all demonstrated they have no idea what’s going on in Iraq, the war on terror, and why they do not need to be in charge of our national security.

Their perilous concepts remind me of the two old boys from the movie “Jaws” who go out in a row boat and try to catch the shark off the end of a wooden dock. Didn’t they realize the danger of what they were doing long before they started out in the row boat?

The course they choose is fraught with harrow; it is not navigable. They incorrectly surmise that we can retreat back to the U.S. and be safe. They incorrectly plan to just focus all of our resources on catching Usama bin Laden, believing if we do, the war will be over and we will be safe. They have no plan to work with our allies in the war on terror, nor do they have any plans for gaining allies. They see none of the guaranteed repercussions in cutting and running from Iraq. They actually think we can get an evil terrorist like Abu Musab al Zarqawi to the negotiation table. What’s more appalling is that they would want to.

The Democratic plan for “real security” and John Kerry’s plan for retreating in Iraq show either a complete ignorance of the current situation or a choice to ignore the realities of terrorism because there is personal political power to be had. The latter may be true, as Michael Novak says of the postmodern left, “This deconstruction issues in nihilism, whose lightly disguised implication is that only the will to power matters.”

For all of us observing the throes of their struggle to regain power, they have nearly put the exclamation point on the list of hazards they and their liberal friends would bring if they regain political power and control over the military and national security. The risk to our nation if that happens is quite predictable.

Putting those in charge of security who have no idea how to provide security, nor the desire to rely upon those in the military who are actively fighting to provide it has proven time and again to be fatal. It is easy to see, through their words and actions, that they have not learned even the basic lessons of warfare and security. One can reasonably expect them to repeat the mistakes made during the last 60 years and ruinously steer us into the wreckage of some of history’s greatest failures.

Adolf Hitler often ignored the strategic and tactical advice given him by his field commanders. Decisions were his, not his generals’ to make. Thankfully for us, it was catastrophic to his defense of Normandy. But, like him, the liberals in Washington believe they know how to better fight a war than the general’s on the ground, in Iraq and Afghanistan, whom the President relies on.

Their posturing and feeble plans to control a war that in reality they know very little about remind me of President Johnson’s attempts to run the Vietnam War from Washington D.C.; even to the point of personally selecting and approving target lists. It didn’t work then and if John Kerry were allowed to have his try at it, it wouldn’t work for him, or anyone else, either. You would think that someone who fought in Vietnam would have remembered the painful lessons of how not to fight a war, as well as the consequences of a steady drumbeat of defeatism at home.

Saddam Hussein himself was such a tyrant, that all military decisions became his, regardless of advice from his military commanders. His poor plan for the defense of Iraq was met with applause, as everyone around him acquiesced to his desires regardless of the plan’s obvious flaws. We know how that turned out for him. It would turn out the same for us if Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi had their way, choosing their own paths, ignoring the advice of those actually doing the fighting.

Or, we would simply have to settle for fighting the enemy here at home after implementing their concept for our defense.

If we can see the risk of their incompetence now, how could we ever consider letting them become the majority, or retake the White House where the damage to our country could come to fruition?

Even my two elementary age children with whom I watched the made for TV version of “Jaws” can sense this kind of danger long before it happens. When the two old men baited the hook and threw it out in the water, my young daughter asked, “Why are they still on the dock?” When the shark took the bait, the chain started peeling off the dock, and the one old man just sat there and watched it, my little boy wisely exclaimed “Not Good!”

And so it should go for us. We should see the danger from liberal political feeding frenzies every time they smell blood in the water.

Have Faith in the Iraqi's

Recent polls suggest the American people have very little confidence or faith in the Iraqi people to establish their own nation. My experience with the Iraqi’s and their progress over the last three years demand otherwise.

If you understand what they’ve been through, you understand the difficulty of the journey they’re on. An entire generation, everyone my age and younger, only knew the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, while those older had more than thirty years to forget how to lead, take the initiative, and work for themselves.

How good would any of us be at football, farming, leading, or politics if we hadn’t participated in those activities for the last 30 years? How steep would our learning curve be if we had never even learned those activities, yet suddenly found ourselves in those positions? They do face a deficit of experience running their own country, free from dictatorial tyranny, but they are finding ways to make it happen.

From about June, 2004 after working directly with the Iraqi’s for a couple months, I saw them change thought processes. Somewhere in there they got it. They came to understand why we were there and the need for their initiative, to work and to fight for their future, and then they acted.

I worked with Iraqi’s right in the Sunni Triangle who risked everything to make a better future. They came to understand they could make a difference. They took action and spread the word. After more than 30 years under Saddam Hussein they understood they could act without fear of reprisal from the government. The women quit beating themselves in the face with rocks out of despair when we pulled someone aside to question them (usually when someone was pulled aside under Saddam Hussein they simply disappeared). They told us who and where the bad guys were. Risking their own lives and the lives of their families, they stepped forward to determine their own future.

Every report out of Iraq shows that pattern increasing all the time. Not only are the Iraqi’s giving up the bad guys, but they’ve also taken up arms against them. It’s a tremendous paradigm shift because taking personal initiative like that was previously interpreted as a threat to the Baath party, resulting in torture or death.

The Iraqi’s have held three successful elections. In the face of terrorist threats, they went to the polls and made their choice. Have we already forgotten the pictures of Iraqi’s dancing in the streets, purple stained fingers raised in the triumph of democracy? Have we already forgotten the significance and impact for the future because of those events? (With such low voter turnout here, maybe we never understood it to begin with.)

Their democratically elected parliament met for the first time this week. Those working closely with them very clearly see their government cooperatively working to find a way forward. Sunday morning General Casey described a process amongst the elected Iraqi officials which was “very productive and substantive” and members who were “working diligently” “to ensure the rights of all Iraqi’s”. That’s a long way from where they’d been for the last 4 decades.

They have an increasingly effective fighting force which led Operation Swarmer last week. Anyone who’s ever been involved with an air assault operation understands the difficulty and magnitude of this Iraqi planned, led, and executed operation. Their armed forces have taken the lead in so many ways that they are on schedule to take over 75% of the battle space with 8 of 10 planned divisions in place by this summer.

Lines of recruits are killed by suicide bombers while waiting outside military and police enlistment stations. Why are there still young men willing to stand in those lines? They do it because they want and desire a better future for themselves and their country. They understand that freedom and liberty require the courage and commitment of those strong enough to make the stand for them.

These are all significant benchmarks of a people who deserve our confidence, not our doubt.

The Iraqi’s that others and I worked with are great people. We share stories of dirt poor people who survive by subsistence farming or odd jobs and live in hand made adobe brick huts, but out of hospitality and generosity will offer you every last bit of food they have. Imagine that, people with almost nothing, willing to give even that. That is a group of people who possess the character to make a future.

They’ve lived hard for nearly forty years, harder than most people here might ever imagine living. Now, they have a vision and desire for a better and brighter future. They want to support their families, to be mom’s and dad’s, to raise their children, have a decent job, and not live in fear. They want the same things you and I want. They are working and fighting for the same thing you and I have. They want freedom and are worthy of our sacrifice, perseverance, and confidence in their struggle for it.

Dubai Ports Deal Reveals Isolationists

Originally published 4 March 2006

The controversy over the Dubai Ports World deal to operate terminals in 6 of our largest ports has certainly grown to epic proportions. I’m not about to delve into the details or pro’s and con’s of either side of the argument, enough of that’s been done already. But, what this whole controversy has revealed and requires discussing are the dangerous, isolationist attitudes being espoused by many.

From this controversy came the revelation that other countries were already operating terminals in U.S. ports. The calls that followed were for no other country to operate any terminals at any of our ports, thus making transparent the isolationist foreign policy desires of many. Instead of offering ways to work with foreign countries and companies all we’ve heard is why we shouldn’t. If we think that way, where does the resistance to mutually beneficial relationships end, especially when no alternatives are offered? It’s a slippery slope to step out on.

Now, couple that position with the “blame America first” foreign policy philosophy which says we should be passive because a proactive approach creates enemies, and we are well on our way to the danger of isolation. This perilous journey is complete when we combine those two philosophies with the one that refuses the option of preemptively defending ourselves against those who wish to harm us. Through our history, those “hunker down and hope” attitudes have placed us in great danger and at times allowed us to be harmed.

We tried to isolate ourselves prior to and through the beginning of World War I, even as the Allies and Central powers launched their fruitless frontal assaults against each other. Woodrow Wilson was reelected in 1916 under the slogan “He Kept Us Out of War.” We tolerated the sinking of the Lusitania. But, when Germany’s foreign minister admitted they were trying to entice Japan and Mexico to enter the war and initiate conflict against us, the war was brought close enough to home for us to understand the threat.

In the years between World Wars I and II, we tried once again to isolate ourselves. We worked hard to remain tethered to a secluded stake, while trying to make ourselves feel good about our “assistance” to the British. But ultimately, the shortcomings of such policy, steeped in the ignorance of belligerence from abroad, came home to roost. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, we finally recognized the true threat and were forced to act decisively.

Through the Clinton years our foreign policy was “try to get along with everybody,” while sticking our head in the sand, ignoring what was really happening in the world around us. You might call it “isolationism through ignorance.” We pretended the threat from Salafism wasn’t real and that to simply be nice and get along with others was the best course. When our enemies attacked us, the Clinton response was a couple cruise missiles at ambiguous targets or to simply cut and run. We ignored the relationships and actions necessary to our national security and securing our leadership role in the world. It took September 11th for us to comprehend how large the threat had grown and how isolated from reality we’d become.

Now, with regard to the United Arab Emirates, we have to ask “if our foreign policy prevents working with a country that has been willing to work with us, what is our policy?” Who will we work with? Will we work only with those countries who 100% of us consider to have a 100% perfect track record? That should seem an unreasonable standard, but in the game of U.S. politics there’s apt to be the demand for that standard by some legislators with political points to score through obstruction or a big money donor with a reason to prevent the relationship.

I understand the hesitancy to work with the U.A.E. given their pre 9/11 track record. But since then, they have become a strong ally in the war on terror. Our military capabilities in the region would suffer greatly should they, or other Arab allies, choose as a matter of recourse, the forced closing of our military, naval, and air bases in their countries. After all, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, right?

George W. Bush has been repeatedly criticized for a unilateral approach and blamed for isolating us from the world. Yet here he is being criticized and attacked this last week for trying to work with the U.A.E. as well as taking decisive steps to promote trade with India and bring their nuclear program under the eyes of the U.N.

So, which way is it going to be? Are we serious about foreign policy and working with others in the global economy, toward our national security, and for world leadership, or is it more important to criticize and misrepresent for the sake of scoring political points? Do we really want to work with others, or is our course going to be one of constant self-loathing and the pursuit of the dangerous, proven fruitless path of isolation; the same unilateral path the President’s critics accuse him of?

The Threat to our Country From Within

Our country is splitting itself in half, manifested many different ways: red state vs blue state, conservative vs liberal, religious vs secular, etc. Why is that and how far will it split?

We increasingly derive our information from two different, unshared perspectives; firmly believe opposing views of the nation and world, and thus, have less and less to agree upon. Bias in the mainstream press helped accelerate the rise of a new cable television network, talk radio, and blogs. This rapidly cultivated a nation relying on completely different views for national and international news. In turn, this decreased the presence of common ground for us to agree and move forward upon.

If you and I look at the same picture, we will likely come to agreement on some aspects of the picture, but not totally agree on what we see; we all interpret things differently. But if we were looking at two different pictures, we would likely not agree on much of anything.

The same holds true for information sources. When information on a subject comes from two sources with completely different biases, there are two pictures painted about the subject, not just one that we study and find generalities or details to agree upon. How can we then agree upon what is actually taking place?

The Dubai Ports deal and alleged civil war in Iraq are good examples of events on which we will likely fail to achieve common ground, because there are two absolutely different pictures being painted. The “picture” against the Dubai Ports Deal is that the U.A.E. is going to “own” those 6 ports, thus we would lose control over all security and shipments in and out of those ports. The counter (per the agreement) is that the U.A.E. does not buy/own the ports; there is no transfer of property, sovereignty, control, or security. It is essentially a lease to operate some terminals within the ports, something we’ve been doing for years with other countries. Concerning Iraq, some journalists reported that civil war had broken out over the course of the last few weeks. However, there were other journalists in Iraq, like Ralph Peters, criss-crossing Baghdad and reporting absolutely no signs of anything akin to a civil war.

Depending upon where you get your news, you would see one picture of these events or the other. Matters then become much worse when the pictures, events, and issues can’t be intelligently and honestly discussed. When one side of the debate resorts to insults, personal attacks, threats, name calling, and shouting louder rather than debating smarter, an intelligent way forward with a “win-win” character can not be achieved. When one side of the argument is more interested in scoring political points, impressing colleagues, or satisfying ego’s rather than sincerely and judiciously debating the issue and finding solutions, our country flounders in neglect and cynicism.

From the very birth of this nation we have debated which way to move forward. Our founding fathers wrestled with what the Constitution should say; whether or not a Bill of Rights was necessary; how much power the federal government should have, etc. Intellectual, truthful debate by upright statesmen found successful options.

But, the condition of American politics and society is much more bitter and partisan than ever, and possible ways forward seem to be fewer and fewer every day. I know I’m not alone in that observation and conclusion.

As has always been the case for our country, we debate taxes, policies, federal court nominees, and so on. But, the debate is becoming more and more partisan and less and less productive. Common ground to agree and move forward upon is disappearing. We increasingly have one side trying to get their way and the other side needing to counter-attack, like two five year olds fighting over the last cupcake. Those who rise to find a constructive, principled way for all seem to dissolve into the background noise of the two different pictures of two different America’s.

So, where will all of this lead? How ugly will it become? How pervasive and permanent is the inability of our country to find honest, advantageous ways forward on everyday security, economic, and domestic issues? How does that disposition affect our nation’s integrity in the face of the tempestuous issues of morality?

Look at history. In the 1860’s we rightly fought a civil war over the horrors of slavery. Slavery was an awful, immoral practice and the war was drawn and fought along moral lines. Now, look at the issues of homosexuality and abortion; two major issues where extremely emotional debates are clearly drawn along lines of morality. And then underscore those issues with current strategies, the two pictures of America, our partisanship, bitterness, and inability to debate relatively emotionless issues. Will we eventually work ourselves back into seeking our own civil split, amicably or even physically? Will the propensity for partisanship and the huge divide along lines of morality completely divide us once again?

As an American citizen, a patriot, a veteran, a Marine, I hope and pray that scenario never unfolds. That we once again find ways to honestly and intelligently assess and debate all moral views to find productive solutions for the benefit and longevity of this nation.

I Am unAmerican?

Originally published 26 February 2006

Since my return from Iraq, I have endeavored to speak publicly, every time I’ve been asked, about the truth of what’s happening in Iraq. I have also committed to writing weekly columns focused on the often unheard perspectives in support of our troops, our victory, patriotism, and all that is right about this incredible nation of ours. But, I found out that doing so made me un-American.

I assumed I was kind of a “lone ranger” out here with my speaking and writing and wondered if the military’s public affairs police would come shut me down since I was acting on my own, not under the auspices of any military group. I felt compelled to keep serving here at home if I wasn’t going to be fighting in Iraq. It turns out I wasn’t the only one who felt led to pursue the fight here at home. I learned there was a growing group, with chapters in several upper Midwest states with the same mission as mine.

Families United Mission is a group of veterans, Blue Star and Gold Star families who have come together in support of each other, our troops, the truth about the war on terror, and our victory in this war. They have worked with another group, Midwest Heroes, to produce two outstanding television commercials which can be viewed online at They stand full in the face of the inaccurate depiction of the war by liberal media sources and politicians, and also provide a view on sacrifice 180 degrees opposite Cindy Sheehan’s.

One commercial is comprised of veterans speaking about our success in the war on terror, especially in Iraq, and the continuing fight against al Qaeda. The second commercial focuses on “Gold Star Families” who discuss how proud they are of the ultimate sacrifice by their loved ones and their continuing support for our victory in the war on terror.

These commercials were aired in Minnesota by television stations willing to show them. Because the content of the commercials is critical of the erroneous reporting by the mainstream press, some stations were offended and refused to play them. I guess the truth hurt too much.

The worst part about all of this though, is that the leader of Minnesota’s Democratic Party, Brian Melendez, has publicly requested suppression of the ads by Minnesota TV stations (funny how liberals so often align themselves against anything positive about our military, the truth, and victory in the war on terror; why is that?). He urged all state Democrats to e-mail their TV stations and demand the ads not be shown. He went on to condemn the ads as being “un-American, untruthful, and a lie.”

Because Families United Mission and I share the same mission, by association of common goals and activities, I guess that also makes me un-American.

Which in turn begs the question, “how have we as a nation devolved to the point where fighting for this country, both here and abroad, support of our troops, and the support of America has in itself become un-American?” How much disdain do you have to have for your own country in order to incessantly condemn, suppress, and attack those very institutions and individuals who endeavor to preserve the very freedom you’ve been blessed with?

Do other Democrats around the nation share the position of their Minnesota brethren? Are the Minnesota Democrats now off the “I support the troops, but not the mission” bandwagon (and will the others follow suit)? By the actions and words of their leader, they certainly are; which is great. No more secrets; they have shown the facade of their “support,” shown themselves for what they truly are and what they believe. The “support the troops, but not the war” stance has always been an untenable position. It is not logical or philosophically defensible. Either you support those who fight for this country, which includes what they fight for, or you do not. Either you support what this country stands for or you do not. Either you stand against those who have attacked us and will attempt to attack us again, or you do not. Either you are patriotic or you are not.

In a November speech, Chuck Hagel said, “To question your government is not unpatriotic – to not question your government is unpatriotic.” But, when a group or individual’s questions aren’t really questions, but have instead progressed to statements of public condemnation of those who lead the fight, they become unpatriotic by supplying “PR manna” served on a silver platter for the confidence of our enemies. When a group as important as a state’s Democratic Party takes a stand against those who fight for this country and the families of those who support the sacrifice of their loved ones, they have become unpatriotic and un-American. When your position and definition for success becomes one which is married to the defeat of the United States in the Global War on Terror, it is you who have become unpatriotic and un-American, not those willing to persevere in their active support of this country, its defense, our victory and our freedom.