Thursday, October 18, 2007

Medal of Honor Awardee Ignored

Next week the Congressional Medal of Honor will be posthumously awarded to Navy Lieutenant SEAL Mike Murphy from New York. The medal will be presented to his family by the President at the White House.

This will be the first Medal of Honor awarded for the fight in Afghanistan against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and the third during the war against terrorists.

Lieutenant Murphy’s heroism is detailed in the book “Lone Survivor” written by Marcus Luttrell, the only member of Lieutenant Murphy’s four man reconnaissance team still alive after a fight with over 100 Taliban in the mountains of Afghanistan.

Not surprisingly, The New York Times didn’t even mention the awarding of our nation’s highest honor for valor to a home state boy.

Their neglect of this remarkable story is to be expected. After all, as the icon of liberal mainstream news, why would they ever report something positive about the military?

After dozens and dozens of front page stories about Abu Ghraib, they have no room, ideologically, for reporting the extraordinary heroism of one of the world’s most elite warriors.

But, it also seems appropriate that they didn’t cover the story. After reading Marcus Luttrell’s account of Lieutenant Murphy’s final day, I have doubts that Lieutenant Murphy or Luttrell would have wanted the bastion of liberal media to cover it.

On that fateful day in 2005, while conducting a reconnaissance mission in the Hindu Kush, their four man team was accidentally happened upon by three Afghani goat herders.

What ensued was a discussion among the four SEALs about what to do with the three Afghanis. The rules of engagement weren’t specific enough for them to decide whether they should kill, detain, or release the men.

During the debate, Lieutenant Murphy pointed out that if they killed the three men, “The media in the U.S.A. will latch on to it and write stuff about the brutish U.S. Armed Forces. Very shortly after that, we’ll be charged with murder.”

At that point, Luttrell confessed that even though he wasn’t afraid of the Taliban, he was “afraid of the liberal media back in the U.S.A.”

As the discussion continued, Lieutenant Murphy again stated that “…the liberal media will attack us without mercy” if they killed the three.

The four SEALs weighed the strategic, tactical, safety, legal, and religious implications on the rules of engagement as best they could.

Unfortunately, these men served during a time with a biased liberal media, bent more toward an ideology, less toward honest and accurate news reporting, and one with an eager willingness to publicly sacrifice members of the military, often without proof. In this environment, Lieutenant Murphy had to consider the impact of the press against his men, the mission at hand, and the strategic blow the press was likely to deal the mission in Afghanistan.

In the end Lieutenant Murphy decided to let the men go. The three immediately alerted the Taliban who then attacked them en masse.

The four fought valiantly, making one fighting withdrawal after another down the side of a mountain. When all other options failed, Lieutenant Murphy moved to an open area where his satellite phone would work, exposed himself to heavy gun fire, made a call for a rescue, was shot in the back during the call, but finished and continued to fight until his death.

Sadly, as I read through this account, I couldn’t keep the blaring headlines of Haditha out of my mind. I could hear John Murtha screaming “cold-blooded” murder as he did about our Marines at Haditha. Similar treatment would have befallen the four had they made a different decision that day.

Their story flashed back through my mind as I read through the recent, relevant words of General Sanchez about the press:

“Unscrupulous reporting…solely focused on supporting your agenda…preconceived notions of what our military had done…no regard for the ‘collateral damage’ you will cause…tactically insignificant events have become strategic defeats for America…unjustly destroyed the individual reputations and careers of those involved…”

Lieutenant Murphy became a hero that day through his courage, fighting spirit, unselfish decision to expose himself to mortally dangerous gunfire, and his decision to err on the side of strategic victory by letting three innocent civilians live despite the personal danger.

Unfortunately he had to weigh the bias of our press in his decision.

Given that, maybe the New York Times, or other decidedly anti-military news organizations, shouldn’t cover the stories of such heroes. They somehow don’t seem worthy enough to print their names or their deeds.

"Phony Soldier" Debate Ignores Service, Disguises Other Problems

A soldier I know who served in Iraq, and remains quite indifferent to the war, asked me one day, “have you ever noticed how those vets now opposed to the war never left the base they were on, they were some clerk or something, but never left their base?”

I didn’t think it was a fair statement, and have ruminated over it on several occasions.

He made that comment long before the whole “Phony Soldier, Rush Limbaugh” thing blew up.

I should ask him what he thinks now, because the soldier who is on the television ads calling out Rush, the one who suffered traumatic brain injury, is evidence that not all vets against the war stayed behind a desk in Iraq.

The reality is, all of us who’ve served have earned the right to take a stand on the war: for, against, or indifferent. All who served have earned the right of respect from that service. Whether we agree or disagree with each other matters not, because all of us have “been there, done that.”

Every American has the right to their opinion on the war as well. All of us, for and against and indifferent to the war, fight to insure our fellow citizens retain that right, whether we agree with their opinions or not. We serve unconditionally.

Jesse MacBeth, whom Rush referred to, who couldn’t even make it through boot camp, but then had the audacity to belittle the service of others through horrific tall tales, also has the right to an opinion (not to contrive stories), but should know he’s on very thin ice when sharing it.

His tales of atrocities not only demean the service of all, but they also make the jobs of those still fighting even more difficult. His stories help fuel the fire for Islamic Jihadists. They are a recruiting tool, encouraging others to kill America’s finest.

He is worthy of the title “phony soldier” and all the shame, venom, and disrespect the label is intended to carry.

Those who willingly prop he and his stories up in their deliberate attempts to attack, conspicuously or inconspicuously, the service of our troops are only one rung up the ladder of disgust from him. They are complicit in making the jobs of our troops more difficult.

Sadly, while the national debate rages about what was said or not said, several things have been lost along the way.

First, we stopped talking about the war and the best ways to move forward against terrorists. There are still extremists who want all of us, regardless of status or opinion, dead. There is still a war to be won; something much more important than discussing those sitting on the sidelines.

Second, we continued to ignore the valiant efforts of those who’ve fought for us. Instead of talking about true heroes, we were talking about a phony soldier.

More than 180 of our troops have earned our nation’s highest commendations for valor in the fight against terrorists. There are countless others who have made a difference to those they served alongside, to the Iraqi and Afghani peoples, and the security of this nation. We should be talking about them.

Third, our Senate took yet another step away from the great body it once was. Instead of acting as the greatest deliberative body in the world, the Senate continued its descent toward becoming a debilitated body. Only the Nebraska Cornhusker football team is falling farther and faster than they.

Officially attacking the cloudy comments of a citizen, albeit one with a large audience, and demanding action against him, is so very far from what our founders intended and from what this country needs from our Senate.

Lastly, the credibility of our national media eroded even further after taking up the spin and talking points of a group designated specifically to the task of contorting the media to its agenda, reporting it as hard news.

Our national media was gullible and biased enough to take a direct feed from one of several incredibly biased, far-left attack groups and run with it: hook, line, and sinker. No apparent research, no balance, no debate, no objectivity, just plain and simple ideology and incompetence.

To see this cornerstone of democracy crumbling as it is, is truly disconcerting.

Although we all serve unconditionally, isn’t it right for us to ask, “Are these crumbling, eroding pillars of our government, national identity, and democracy what we fight for?”

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Facts and Reality Change Minds About Iraq

Suddenly Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama can no longer promise their far-left base they’d make an immediate pull out from Iraq if elected President. In fact, they couldn’t even promise to have all our troops out by 2013 at the end of the term.

I guess sometimes the light of truth even penetrates the sand these two usually have their heads stuck in.

If you caught the most recent debate of Democratic Presidential hopefuls, several of the lead candidates could no longer answer in the affirmative that they’d immediately pull troops from Iraq.

Have they been listening to the counsel of President Bush about Iraq and the complexities of the Middle East?

Are they trying to distance themselves from the unhinged MoveOn crowd after public sentiment turned sharply against them following their attack on General Petraeus?

Did their internal polling finally move them from “dangerously weak” on national security to “absolutely unelectable?”

Or is it the fact that the surge is working and for them to deny this would illuminate their ignorance about the current situation in Iraq and reveal to the world how partisan and selfishly, politically ambitious they truly are? Neither good positions as more and more Americans see success in Iraq while paying attention to the politics of this Presidential race.

The fact is we continue to experience and achieve success in Iraq across many fronts as illustrated by several different metrics.

Living in small combat outposts in the villages and neighborhood and sharing risk with the Iraqi’s has protected them, gained their trust, and in turn given us the actionable intelligence to fight Al Qaeda.

Not only have we been able to take down many Al Qaeda cells in Iraq, last week we also killed Abu Osama al-Tunisi after earlier capturing several members of his immediate cell. Al-Tunisi was the emir of foreign terrorists in Iraq, part of Al Qaeda’s leadership circle, and the man responsible for kidnapping, torturing, and killing three American soldiers last summer.

Brigadier General Joseph Anderson speaking from Iraq says that our efforts have isolated the terrorists into pockets which we can easily exploit. From personal experience, I know the information to locate these groups comes from Iraqi citizens who are increasingly secure and are then more and more willing to provide intelligence about these cells.

The value of taking the volatile Al Qaeda element out of the picture is immeasurable in its benefit to the safety of the Iraqi people, our troops, our national security, and the ability of political processes to move forward in Iraq.

The Iraqi Army continues to show more and more competence, is operating independently in many places, and providing promise for a drawdown of American forces replaced by skilled Iraqi forces. Just on the 30th alone, Reuters reported that Iraqi forces had killed 44 militants, arrested 52 others, and defused 3 roadside bombs in one 24 hour period.

In addition to the reconciliation and cooperation across religious and sectarian lines taking place between tribal sheiks and provincial leaders, the New York Times reported this week on increasing provincial government competency. At local levels schools, hospitals, and power plants are being built, factories reopened, and loans being made for small business ventures.

This is yet another indicator that Iraq is rebuilding itself from the bottom up, not from the top down as many big-government types in Washington believe must happen.

Also, the trend over the last few months has been toward fewer American and Iraqi deaths. Now the AP is reporting that the number of deaths actually reached their lowest levels in over a year. The troop surge and movement on the political front are having an undeniably positive impact.

Not to be overlooked among the successes being achieved in Iraq is the fact that the Anbar Awakening is a group of Sunni Arabs openly fighting against the radical, Wahabi teachings of other Sunni Arabs. The Iraqi’s have said “no” to the extreme version of Islam which gave birth to Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Many of us have wondered where the Muslim voices have been to disapprove, disavow, and distance themselves from the ideology which brought us September 11. Well, Iraqi voices are doing just that, fighting against radical Islam, making a statement across Iraq, doing what we’d all hoped would happen in the fight against terrorists. They’re just having trouble being heard over all the defeatist bloviating coming from Washington D.C.

If they get loud enough, maybe even Barack and Hillary will hear their muffled voices through the sand.