Monday, November 22, 2004

The Marine Did His Job

Here is my original post from November 17. I re-dated it to move it to the top of the blog again. UPDATE: As we entered this past weekend, this valiant marine was still the topic of much debate. The cameraman's name has become prominent but the marine is still unknown to the public. May it ever be so--some heroes must remain unknown for their own good.
Last week in honor of Veteran’s Day, ABC aired Saving Private Ryan, the first Hollywood movie ever to cause me to grieve. It’s a film that earned is strong "viewer discretion" warning, but it's also one that should be seen by every American old enough to understand the words “freedom” and "cost." War, accurately portrayed, is hard on the eyes and harder on the stomach, but to the post WWII generations, Saving Private Ryan gives new meaning to five words:
Duty, Honor, Country... Thank you.

Monday night and again tonight, I saw a similar film. It was shorter—not shot by Spielberg but by an NBC imbedded cameraman in Iraq. I hope you have not seen this footage, and I hope it soon fades into the fog of "news that isn't news." But if this story has legs, I fear that a young marine may be in trouble for actions that should never have been seen in our living rooms. Allow me to describe what I saw, taking a few liberties afforded a typical screenplay:

A handful of marines are seen crossing an iron bridge in Fallujah, Iraq. As they approach the road ahead, they look up at the empty black girders of the bridge. The frame freezes and dissolves into a Flashback of the same image—this time with two charred bodies of American contractors hanging overhead with a throng of laughing thugs dancing below, firing rifle shots in the air. The gun bursts snap us back to “real time” and our marines take cover at the foot of the empty bridge. They trace the fire to a nest of remnant insurgents about 100 yards away, hit it with a small missile, and all is quiet but the sounds of war in the distance.

As they move along the rubble, they meet up with part of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Regiment with an imbedded NBC cameraman. They exchange wary glances, and the newcomers are warned that the mosque they're approaching had been raining “AK-47 fire from Ala” down on them for two days, but it was finally put out of business yesterday just before the main wave of fighting moved north. As they cautiously advance, they give a wide birth to the strewn bodies of masked enemy soldiers along the road. The camera guy gets some shots of the carnage. “Don’t touch the bodies,” one grunt warns. “Some of them are booby trapped. One went off on our buddy yesterday. Killed him.” Another marine, whose face is still bloody from what looks like a bullet graze, adds, “And shoot anything that moves. Yesterday I nearly got my head blown off from one of these buggers who didn’t want to die alone.”

Suddenly, the boots stop at the base of a minaret, which the day before was illegally used as a machine-gun nest. They quietly enter the shattered sanctity of the mosque, camera rolling. The distant popping of gunfire fades. “It’s too quiet,” a voice whispers. Each trigger feels a tremulous finger, poised. Sunshine streaks in through high windows. The Marine’s eyes adjust to the light and each pulse quickens as the shapes of bodies on the floor emerge from the shadows. The marine with the wounded face cautiously steps toward one of them. The body is on its side; his hand is out of sight. Is he alive? Is he hiding something? “Why risk it again,” he thinks, remembering yesterday’s stinging blast to his face. And with little thought he fires a shot into the heap on the floor. Camera rolling. End of screenplay.

On the big screen, that scene in the mosque would run about 30 seconds, but unfortunately the incident was real, and the wounded marine who fired the gun may face criminal charges for shooting an unarmed “prisoner of war.” That’s the story. I don’t know every rule of the Geneva Accord; I don't know this marine (and hope that his name is never released). I don’t know every detail of this incident (though all but the dialogue and part about the infamous bridge is in the reports). But I do know this: that battle-weary marine was doing his job. Most soldiers in this unconventional war of human bombs and desperate terrorists would have done the same.

War should never be reduced to “reality TV.” There are no commercial breaks; no game-over buzzer at the end of each battle; no getting voted off the island. War is a mangle of man and machines where things blow up and people die. The horrific images should not be casually viewed and second-guessed from a living-room couch. I suggest a new rule for our military and our imbedded media:
Whenever an imbed's footage can help prove the facts of this war on terror—use the footage. But never should an imbedded camera be used to subject a fighting marine to criminal charges for pro-active self-defense in a time of war.
Soldiers live between frenzied snaps of time, and he who hesitates is lost.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Pulling Together Wins Wars

In the final 2004 presidential debate, moderator Bob Schieffer observed that after 9/11, the country came together as he’d never seen it come together since World War II, but added that it’s since become pretty polarized because of politics. He was right on both accounts. On 9/11, Americans too young to remember Pearl Harbor learned how it felt to have their nation viciously attacked in acts of war. At first we were united by shock and grief, but our tears soon turned to stony resolve. In the days that followed, the descendents of what Tom Brokaw called “The Greatest Generation” suddenly knew for the first time an aching patriotism—the kind that makes generations willing to fight bravely so the next may live freely.

The months that followed saw incredible bi-partisan support for every well-planned, determined step we took in defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan and Iraq’s regime of thugs. This nation and the Iraqi people cheered as Saddam’s statues fell and exuberant citizens dragged and rode them through crowded streets. We rejoiced that Sunday morning when a scraggly bum was finally found cowering in his presidential spider hole. We were optimistic when the interim Iraqi government took charge of its own government last summer, and when the Afghanis conducted historic elections this month.

And though the Duefler Report concluded that there were no longer stockpiles of WMD in Iraq, it also exposed that the UN sanctions were a sham and the inspections would have been an endless game of cat and mouse had we not taking control of Iraq. We had a ruthless tyrant shaking a gun in our face for years; when he refused to put the gun down, we took him by force and eventually determined that the gun wasn’t loaded. That doesn’t mean that those who warned that he was armed and dangerous were liars, nor does it mean we shouldn’t have taken him down. There is only one reason that the media and Democrats will not admit the obvious success of our current efforts: as Schieffer suggested, the post 9/11 “pulling together” was a threat to someone’s political purposes.

Here’s what I suppose the DNC was thinking as their primaries finally extruded a candidate: If the war effort is successful, Bush’s re-election is as sure as FDR’s during WWII. We need a candidate who can make us feel like this is “Viet Nam all over again.” We need John Kerry. After all, the senator began his political career as the smooth-tongued spokesman for hoarse-throated activists, war protestors, flag burners, and medal throwers. Just think of what he can do for us!

And so their choice was made. No one questions Kerry’s credentials as a war protestor. What hundreds of Viet Nam vets did question when they learned that Kerry shot countless reels of 8mm home movies starring himself while in Nam was this: “Why didn’t he use his movie camera to document the atrocities that he said ‘occurred on a day-to-day basis’? Where did he hide this heroic footage when he came home to say we were all war criminals? How dare he salute us in his speech and wear with pride the honor he stole from us back then?” The understandable indignation of vets and POWs may explain why Kerry soon dropped his “Reporting for Duty” theme, and turned his fire directly at President Bush and our military leaders.

During WWII, the morning after the allied invasion at Normandy literally changed the tides of war on D-Day, imagine a politician announcing that 10,000 American soldiers had died in that day’s “colossal miscalculation.” Imagine a candidate rebuking FDR for “taking his eye off the ball” for going after Hitler and the Nazis in Europe when it was Hirohito in Japan who attacked us. And nine months later, imagine the public outcry if, instead of the picture of the Marines hoisting our flag on Iwo Jima, a stumping senator held up a picture of some of the 7,000 Americans who died to gain that strategic island and declared, “Wrong battle. Wrong island. Wrong time!” Such demoralizing defeatism would not have been whispered 60 years ago, and I suspect it will backfire on Kerry in November.

There are many issues in this election, but they all depend on our national security and ultimate victory in the war on terror. Senator Kerry, this is not Viet Nam. As for me, I’m joining the 75% of our men and women in uniform who USA Today reports will cast their votes to keep President Bush as their Commander in Chief.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Furrows From More Than Years

Above are two pictures of George W. Bush interacting with two different teenage girls he’d never met. The picture on the right was taken in Iowa. My daughter Kim, then 13, wanted to go see the man we hoped would be the next President of the United States. We had seen him on two previous occasions, but this was a smaller venue in the gymnasium of Hoover Middle School just a few blocks from our home, and we were sure we’d get to talk to him. We did. It was fun. He was making jokes about dads and daughters and having a good time with us. (Peter Jennings was in the press corp, and was jeered when he broke through the rope line and cut in front of the other reporters . I found it refreshing to see that even an anchor will be scorned by peers when he acts like an elitist.)

Karen Hughes was about ten feet to my right at the time of this picture. She is a tall intimidating figure of a woman if you don’t know her (and of course we didn’t), and she was encouraging the candidate to keep moving, but he acted like he was in no hurry and allowed one of his aides to take this picture of the three of us. Kim was impressed by his attention and wished she were old enough to vote.

The picture on the left was taken by a different father in Ohio last spring. He, too, had taken his daughter to see the President. Four years earlier, the young lady, Ashley Faulkner, and her mother had seen him. This time, Ashley now 15, her mother was gone, and President Bush learned that she had been killed in the World Trade Center on 9/11. Mr. Faulkner said, "He looked right at her and said, 'How are you doing?' He reached out with his hand and pulled her into his chest. I could hear her say, 'I'm OK,' That's more emotion than she had shown in 21/2 years….I'm a pretty cynical and jaded guy at this point in my life," the father later told a reporter. "But this was the real deal. I was really impressed. It was genuine and from the heart."
Here’s what sadly caught my eye as I studied these two pictures last night. The picture on the right is like a hundred others you’ve seen of a pre-9/11 Bush. He’s ruddy, energetic, and full of all the optimism that makes a man seek high office. I remember his voice that day and yes, I remember fondly his bow-legged Texas smile (which, I might add, is not a smirk when you can also see his earnest eyes).

Four years later, he still has his smile, energy, and optimism, but as you can see he now has something else—his face now has the furrows of more than time. The man on the right was eager to give us four years. The man on the left has aged at least ten and is willing to be spent for such a time as this. In the last debate, the President said that his faith gives him “calmness in the storms of the presidency. I love the fact that people pray for me and my family all around the country.” This President has earned my vote for four more years, but more importantly, he has proven to be a man of integrity who covets our continued prayer in the weeks and years ahead.

Footnote Explaining Latin Motto of this Blog

Special Note to Patronus Incognitus Readers
(added November 2008):
As a reward for reading one of the first posts I ever wrote when I began blogging in 2004. I here reveal the translation of the Paronus Incognitus motto: With the help of this very useful Latin to English on-line site, you can see that the Latin motto "atramentum cogitabundum advorsum asinum batillummeans" means: "Ink wrapped in thought will prevail against the 'donkey man's' dung shovel." No offense intended.

[Isn't cogitabundum a great word? It means "wrapped in thought": cogita as in cogitate and bundum as in bundled.

Asinum is an equally interesting word. It means "donkey man" or "donkey driver" but here I use it to imply Democrat since the donkey is their mascot. It is pure coincidence that asinum is also the Latin root for asinine.]

website tracking statistics
Flat-Panel Television