Friday, June 29, 2007

Open Letter to Senator Edwards

Dear Senator Edwards,

Our small Nebraska town recently held its annual festival and honored those who’ve served in the Global War on Terrorism. As it seems you’ve forgotten what that is, let me remind you that it’s the war against those pesky Islamic radicals who have sworn their lives to the destruction of our nation.

From a town of 1200, there were 28 of us who served or are still serving in the military during this Global War on Terrorism. Eight of the 28 were unable to attend the festival because they were overseas at the time, most of them fighting terrorists.

I understand from your statements that you believe the Global War on Terrorism is nothing more than a bumper sticker slogan. In light of those beliefs, I was wondering if you could purchase and have 28 of those bumper stickers sent to our town. I’ll make sure they get distributed to the veterans and those still fighting this war, I mean slogan.

I did a little research, and in Sgt Grit’s latest catalog of Marine Corps specialties, bumper stickers cost $1.95. With shipping and handling the price would be about $2.25 each. In all, it would cost you $63.00 to have Global War on Terrorism bumper stickers sent to us.

I know that may dip into your coffers a bit, but surely you could find someone to cut your hair for $337 this month instead of the usual $400. As a believer in wealth redistribution, surely you could redistribute $63 from your “beauty and grooming” budget to those of us your pal John Kerry feels are the down-trodden, poor, uneducated military types for this one month. If not, call me. I’ll give you the name of the woman who cuts my hair. I’ll bet she could squeeze you into her busy schedule for just $300, leaving you plenty of cash for the bumper stickers and some left over for hair spray.

If you haven’t already had these stickers manufactured, I can point you toward some suppliers of military items, including military-centric bumper stickers. I assume you have no ties to or clues about the military and would need a little assistance in this arena.

Although I’m sure we would settle for a bumper sticker that simply says “Global War on Terrorism,” here are some I found in the aforementioned catalog that might work instead:

“For Those Who Fought For It, Freedom Has a Flavor the Protected Will Never Know”
“America, Home of the Free, Because of the Brave”
“Many Stand Behind The Flag, I Stand in Front”
“Whose Son Is Fighting In Place Of Yours?”
“You Only Have The Rights You Are Willing To Fight For”
“Life, Liberty, And The Pursuit Of Anyone Who Threatens It”
“I Fight What You Fear”

If those don’t work, how about having these made:

“I Fought Terrorists For This Sticker, and Won”
“I Fought In Iraq (or Afghanistan) and All I Got Was PTSD and This Sticker”
“Lost My Friend In Iraq Fighting Terrorists For This Sticker”
“Missed The Last 18 Months of My Kids’ Lives For This Sticker”

While you’re at it, you might as well have a custom bumper sticker made for yourself. I’ll buy. Might I suggest something along the lines of:

“Can’t Spell ‘National Security’ But Running For POTUS Anyway”
“Forgot 9/11”
“Which Way To Ground Zero?”
“If Terrorists Win, Do I Get To Keep My $6 Million Home?”
“Will They Still See My Hair Under This Burqa?”
“Jihad? What’s a Jihad?”
“Osama bin Who? Al Qaeda, Where’s That?”
“Soliciting Campaign Contributions At The Troops Expense”

You can be in denial if you want, but the fact is, terrorism and those Islamic radicals who utilize it, are real. Terrorism does exist, and there are those who have sworn themselves to its use in bringing about the destruction of this nation.

Lucky for you, there are also those who have sworn to stand between you and the terrorists, affording you the right and freedom to demean their service by trivializing it as you do, espousing the very beliefs which would ultimately bring about their demise and yours.

You can remain wallowed in your absurdities, stumbling along, lost to the realities of the world around you, denying or even ignorant of the consequences to the actions you advocate. You can believe that the struggle of our time is merely a slogan.

But for those of us who’ve fought against the terrorists, for our families who’ve endured the deployments, for those who’ve lost loved ones at the hands of the terrorists or fighting against them, this war is much more than just a bumper sticker slogan, it’s a reality.

You just keep the bumper sticker for yourself. Use it as a reminder to what’s real and what’s not. Besides, you’d probably want me taxed for it anyway.

Major Brian, out.

Fairness and Free Speech

Published in Newspapers 21 June

Not often do I stray from opining on military and national security matters, except to highlight a threat to one of the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution which I swore to support and defend.

Such a threat has grown more obvious over the course of the last month, and has certainly become worthy of further discussion.

Politicians floating the notion of trying to resurrect the Fairness Doctrine and the debate surrounding the Immigration Reform Bill (not the Bill itself) have converged to raise alarms about infringements on free speech.

The rising specter of the Fairness Doctrine’s rebirth, a federal mandate for media organizations to provide equal time to what are considered both sides of an argument is troubling. In trying to balance the information media outlets present, it ultimately served to subdue information not consistent with the preferences of media and political elites, or majorities of the time. Its discontinuance by Ronald Reagan allowed for the rise of conservative voices during a time when traditional media was becoming increasingly liberal. I suspect it would have rightfully done the same had it been more liberal voices which had been previously subdued.

Doing away with this false mandate for balanced debate actually allowed for, and resulted in a more balanced debate.

It proved that within a free market and a democratic society, the drivers of change and guarantors of balance were the populace, not the politicians and government regulations. More important than the proof of consumers being more effective drivers of a free market than the government, including the market of ideas, were the implications for free speech.

When left to its own devices and allowed to play out as our Founders intended, the unconstrained expression of our freedom of speech proved more effective at serving the needs of society than a contrived set of laws pretending to be built upon the foundation of the First Amendment.

Thus, it should always be considered questionable, and more likely dangerous, when government inserts itself into the discussion of ideas by dictating the terms under which the debate will and will not occur.

It is the right, and therefore the responsibility, of the people to establish the grounds for the debate, and to do so through an avenue other than legislation. It is imperative that debate take place under the people’s terms, not the governments.

If liberal view points dominate major print and broadcast media, it is the responsibility of the people, via the free market, who possess opposing views or a desire for a more balanced view, to develop or pursue alternatives. It is not the government’s role to dictate that alternatives must exist.

If conservative voices dominate talk radio, it is likewise incumbent upon free people in a free market to develop alternatives, not the government’s role to dictate equal time for opposing viewpoints.

In all cases where a type of media or a specific outlet usually only presents a certain point of view, it is the consumers of a free market who will determine whether they agree or disagree with what is being offered as news and analysis. Media will flourish or fail depending upon the choices of the people.

It is not the role of government to dictate to any organization the content of their media presentation or perspective of their analysis. The First Amendment guarantees that right. In doing so, it also creates an obstacle to the next obvious step in what can be a dangerous process of government over-reach: dictating to the citizenry the position they should assume on a given topic.

In the context of the Immigration Reform Bill, or any other contentious piece of future legislation, the Fairness Doctrine becomes a danger to the freedom of speech, particularly when a lawmaker or group of lawmakers have taken sides on an issue opposite that of their constituents.

Senator Trent Lott recently commented that talk radio needed to be “dealt with” because of a predominant, and effective, view among its audience opposing his position on the immigration reform bill. In a possible application of the Fairness Doctrine, were it available, those comments would be very dangerous, especially in the hands of politicians whose arrogance have detached their views from those from whom they derive their power.

What exactly does the Senator mean by “dealt with?” Given Mr. Lott’s background, one would expect something rather benign, if any action at all. In the hands of a more ambitious Senator of the majority party (not just at present, but at any time in the future) such a doctrine would raise even more alarms.

In the hands of a determined group of lawmakers or a single authoritative President with socialist leanings and the complicity of a like-minded or cowed Congress, the doctrine becomes the road by which the First Amendment is gravely threatened.

If such a doctrine were available during this immigration debate, or another like it, an elitist politician or group, with the assistance of this additional power, could find it all too easy to dilute or even crush dissenting opinions. It has the potential to transfer power from the people to the politicians far beyond that which is afforded them in a representative republic, by being able to prevent opposing views from being aired.

Ask the people of Venezuela what that’s like.

Thursday, June 14, 2007



“All of us denounce war – all of us consider it man’s greatest stupidity. And yet wars happen and they involve the most passionate lovers of peace because there are still barbarians in the world who set the price for peace at death or enslavement and the price is too high.” Ronald Reagan.

By now you’ve probably seen the picture of a Marine Lieutenant Colonel presenting a folded American flag to eight year old Christian Golczynski at the funeral for his father, Staff Sergeant Marcus Golczynski, killed on March 27th in Iraq. It’s an incredibly moving photo that has been widely circulated around the internet and on national newscasts.

The Lieutenant Colonel in the photo, taken by Aaron Thompson of Gannett, Tennessee, is a very good friend of mine, Ric Thompson, with whom I lived and served in Iraq. Ric sent me the photo and an article from The Tennessean newspaper shortly after the funeral. The article’s author, in trying to preserve the bravado of the Corps, describes Ric as having shown “a trace of emotion” when presenting the flag to the son of a Marine he had previously commanded. Without sharing Ric’s words, I’ll just say he told me he showed more than just “a trace of emotion.”

Ric’s first tours in the Marines were as a helicopter pilot. Then he became an infantry officer and has run the gamut of battalion level infantry billets. For fun he enjoys martial arts, ground fighting. He’s a good Marine and a tough guy. But, this was still a tough thing to do.

It is hard for those who’ve served to see others fall, to hear about the deaths of our brothers and sisters in arms, and to see such images.

There are bonds created with those who stand by your side in a combat zone. There is an inherent relationship, a tie, to others who may not have been at your side, but were also there. Sometimes they alone get it. Only they can understand.

I’ve witnessed their bravery, yet I still stand in awe of all they accomplish and so willingly sacrifice.

How can you not love them? You can’t help but to, so it makes their deaths difficult to grasp at times.

How personal their passing is varies for each of us, but those who’ve been there and stood with them understand the significance of their sacrifice and feel the impact of their loss. Probably not at the level their families do, but none the less, the loss of our nation’s finest young men and women impacts those of us who’ve also served.

So it goes with the death of Staff Sergeant Golczynski. So it went with the passing of Lance Corporal Brent Zoucha a year ago. So it goes with the loss of each during the Global War on Terrorism. Their deaths are not taken for granted, nor do they occur without emotion on behalf of their comrades.

These losses and experiencing a war first-hand can accelerate the process by which one fully comprehends that war is “man’s greatest stupidity.”

Yet wars occur because evil permeates the world, and we, with our fallibility and finite wisdom, choose war when we see it as the last or the best option when an aggressor sets the price for their version of peace too high.

We then, inevitably, find ourselves grappling with the deaths of those who commit themselves to standing between us and the barbarians. But we also, as General George Patton pointed out, “Thank God that such men lived.”

I understand how high terrorists have set the price for peace. That is why, even when grieving and wrestling with the losses, I advocate for the victory of our nation against them.

In advocating as such, many a moniker have I been labeled with, including being “pro-war.” I’ll take the name calling. I’m a big boy. I’m a Marine, I’ve had worse.

Personally, I’d prefer that no wars ever happened. In so many ways, I’m “anti-war” because I understand the costs. But I’m not naive. I’ve seen enough of the world to know that the barbarians do exist and they exact a price for their ideology. To believe otherwise, and fail to concede that use of force has to be an option, crosses a threshold from being “anti-war” to perilously foolish.

However, I have to ask, am I or anyone else “pro-war” who knows full well where terrorists have set their price, who comprehends the costs of the fight, and yet continues to encourage victory over this enemy? If wanting your country to succeed in its endeavors against those who’ve sworn their lives to the destruction of our nation, and acknowledging that it will take a certain level of violence and sacrifice to do so makes me pro-war, then yes, I’m pro-war.

But if the pro-war label is being applied as a means to insinuate a callousness concerning the costs of war, particularly in terms of the lives of our nation’s warriors, then you and I will have a problem. Because the sacrifice of men like Staff Sergeant Golczynski, and seeing my friend present his son that flag moves me more than you’ll ever know, especially if you haven’t walked in my desert dust covered boots.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Did You Know?

What did you hear about Iraq during the last five days?

What would your impression of the war have been during those five days (or even during the last three years) had your daily news contained an objective reporting of the facts?

Let’s look at what you’ve not been told, according to press releases from Multi-National Forces – Iraq, for just one 5 day period, starting May 29th.

On the 29th, Iraqi Forces, backed by Americans, captured 9 suspected insurgents, including one known sniper and confiscated illegal weapons in the Adhamiyah district. Coalition forces utilized an air strike to kill two insurgents placing a roadside bomb in a neighborhood north of Baghdad. An Al Qaeda regional emir and 13 others with suspected links to Al Qaeda, including some in leadership positions, were captured in other raids throughout the country. Iraqi police, acting on a tip, broke up a terror cell in Samarra and captured nine suspected Al Qaeda operatives.

Many press releases were made available on the 30th. Twenty three suspected members of Al Qaeda in Iraq were arrested after separate raids in four different provinces. The raids were intended to break up cells involved with attacks on coalition forces, kidnappings, and smuggling. A police chief, his brother, and 14 bodyguards who had infiltrated the Iraqi police force in Hit were arrested for corruption. Also, “Coalition Forces detained five suspected terrorists and one suspected cell leader Wednesday morning during raids in Sadr City. The individuals detained during the raid are believed to be members of the secret cell terrorist network known for facilitating the transport of weapons and explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, from Iran to Iraq, as well as bringing militants from Iraq to Iran for terrorist training.” In a separate operation, “acting on a tip from local citizens, Iraqi Special Operations Forces detained a suspected terrorist cell leader during an early morning raid May 29.” The suspect is accused of commanding a kidnapping and assassination cell that has been conducting extra judicial killings in the Baghdad area.” Lastly, during several raids from the 26th through the 28th, Iraqi Forces detained 15 insurgents suspected of kidnapping, torturing, and murdering civilians and for attacks on coalition forces.

On the 31st, Multi-National Forces informed us that, acting on tips “Iraqi Special Operations Forces apprehended a Jaysh al-Mahdi commander during an early morning raid in Kadamiyah, a central suburb of Baghdad” who was “alleged to be responsible for providing financial, logistical, and political support for multiple insurgent groups and terrorist organizations.” The individual is also suspected of managing operations to murder and intimidate local Iraqis, ordering several attacks on Coalition Forces, and overseeing the training of insurgent recruits on terrorist methods including the construction and detonation of Improvised Explosive Devices and Explosively Formed Projectiles.

June 1st gave us the announcement that multiple operations, other than those already noted, on the 30th and 31st, netted 6 terrorists killed, a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device destroyed, and 18 other suspects detained. Among them were several suspected members and leaders of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Sunday, June 2nd gave us Iraqi Army soldiers seizing weapons and explosives during operations in western Iraq, another suspected insurgent with IED and propaganda material seized, a weapons cache discovered north of Sadr City, Iraqi Forces detaining a key leader of Al Qaeda, the capture of two insurgents trying to emplace an IED, and another suspected terror leader along with 7 others detained.

Most importantly, on that day, 3 more provinces in Iraq were “turned over to the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), who took official control of three provinces from Multi-National Forces – Iraq at a formal ceremony in Erbil, Iraq May 30.” Seven of Iraq’s 18 provinces are now under Iraqi control. This was “another bold and courageous step forward in this country’s movement toward an independent and secure nation,” according to Major Gen. Benjamin Mixon, Multi- National Division – North commanding general.

This type of news, these kinds of events, these positive stories come out of Iraq every single day. “Wins” happen every day.

These are simply excerpts or summaries of press releases from Multi-National Forces – Iraq. This is the same information that every press agency with reporters in Baghdad has access to.

So, why are the positive developments and these optimistic stories withheld from us in the daily newspapers and on the nightly newscasts?

Even though these “wins” occur daily, the only thing positive those news agencies have reported over the last few months is the fact that the Sunni tribes in Anbar turned against Al Qaeda. The same is beginning to happen in mixed neighbors to the east as well. Perhaps that story is simply too huge for them to ignore?

As my friend, who just returned from Anbar province said, the good guys now “own Anbar, and that is a victory.”

Shouldn’t the fact that the positive developments are so willingly ignored make you wonder if similar success is also being achieved elsewhere in Iraq?

Would your impression of the war be different had you been informed daily of these successes?

Plans For This Fall

Published for 31 May Newspapers

Over the weekend liberal pundits were in a tizzy over Washington Post and New York Times news stories that described White House planning for troop reductions in Iraq. Plans were being drawn up for courses of action to pursue this fall, including scenarios to consider following either the success or failure of the current plan.

Of course the liberal slant on all of this was that the White House must finally realize we’re losing, as the liberals have been insisting upon and wishing for, and that the White House is now forced to concede and come up with a Plan B. Some who have done nothing but politicize the war and invested themselves in our defeat expressed surprise that President Bush would actually have a Plan B.

So here we are again at a crossroads, trying to decide whether or not the liberal leadership is completely ignorant of military matters, rabidly obsessed with the defeat of the administration and our country for their own political gain, or both.

Looking at it militarily, a strong case can be made for their ignorance with regard to military matters. After all, the leading military mind, at least the most vocal, on that side of the aisle seems to be John Murtha, who has been unhinged for quite some time now. The revelations about his plan to “slow-bleed” our own troops sealed the deal for his lack of comprehension and coherent thinking about the Global War on Terror.

Anyone who’s served at even a battalion level command understands that planning for as many contingencies as possible is normal. The greater the scope and size of the unit, the more this type of planning takes place. Those at a regimental level would plan for the future more than a battalion, a division more than a regiment, and so on up the line.

This planning for future operations takes on a life of its own somewhere around the regimental level. In fact, at least by the Division level, there are specific groups of personnel designated solely for “future operations” planning, preparing for what might lie ahead.

At the largest of commands, those that encompass entire continents or areas of the world, deliberate planning groups are assembled for the single purpose of developing contingency plans. In a sense, their primary responsibility is to ask, “what if?” and then develop the “then this” answers.

The process grows to tremendous proportions by the time it hits the Pentagon and those who would work directly with and for the Administration, as well as the major world-wide commanders, tackling the largest and most complex national defense matters and developing possible strategies for solving problems which might face our nation.

Asking “what if?” about the possibilities down the road in Iraq and developing answers to those questions would be a very normal part of the political and military processes for national security, not an earth-shattering revelation.

To ask these questions and develop plans for Iraq and Afghanistan as well as any other potential trouble-spots, like Iran or Venezuela, is the responsibility of any Administration. It is a prudent process we should expect our leadership to pursue, especially during a time of war.

Failure to take these steps for national security preparedness would be irresponsible and a failure of leadership. Any planning concerned with the possibilities in Iraq after this fall is normal and responsible, not the Administration conceding defeat.

One would think that liberals in positions of national leadership would understand this concept. But I concede they might not. After all, it’s their tendency to dislike and at times, even loathe the military. Thus, it’s logical to conclude that they would disengage themselves from this sort of messy, diabolical, militaristic mumbo-jumbo.

The other possibility is that talk of what to do in Iraq this fall is basically a wish come true for those on the left who surrendered to the insurgents quite some time ago. This isn’t a wish come true in the sense that they finally see the light at the end of the tunnel in Iraq. It’s that they believe the war is lost, the Administration has to concede defeat, and they get to sit around now collecting votes, win more seats in Congress, and attain the Presidency.

Deciding whether it’s their naivety of national defense or willingness to play politics with our national security, or both, which drives them, is a simple dilemma and better than the one faced by the White House who is “darned if they do, and darned if they don’t.” If they weren’t doing this type of planning they’d be criticized, and rightfully so. Yet when it’s learned they are taking steps toward planning the next phases in Iraq, they still get attacked.

Ultimately, the answer to my previous question must be, “both.” Those doing the attacking from the left are ignorant of military matters and the national security process, but are, none the less, willing to play politics with the military and national security.

Why do they remind me of the guy who was smoking a cigarette while trying to siphon gas from a car with a garden hose because he didn’t know any better, and really didn’t care, he just wanted the gas?