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Losing our heads in war

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 8, 2009

If a picture is worth a thousand words, perhaps the picture of President Obama that did not get taken during his recent visit to Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska is worth a million of them.

The men and women of Elmendorf who play a vital role in the air defense of our nation and, if necessary, in projecting dominant aerospace power overseas understandably wanted to have as the backdrop for an important presidential address their best weapon system, the F-22 Raptor.

There was only one problem: Mr. Obama had made the cancellation of production of this state-of-the-art air superiority fighter one of his signature "defense" initiatives.

Mr. Obama's handlers freaked out at the prospect of a photo op that could prove as inopportune, and perhaps politically costly, as the image in 1988 of then-Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis looking ridiculous in the helmet of a main battle tank crewman. So the Air Force was ordered to substitute a decades-old, and increasingly dated, F-15 to frame the president's speech.

The photo that wasn't allowed to be taken speaks volumes about this presidency, and its real attitude toward the U.S. military. Ironically, it also made a mockery of the pledge Mr. Obama uttered on that occasion to the assembled servicemen and women at Elmendorf - and to their comrades elsewhere around the world:

"We'll make sure you can meet the missions we ask of you. ... The United States of America will have your back. We will give you the strategy and the clear mission you deserve. We will give you the equipment and support that you need to get the job done. And that includes public support back home. That is a promise that I make to you."

An even more dramatic manifestation of Team Obama's failure to "have the back" of those who protect us is the decision first reported by ace national security reporter Rowan Scarborough on FoxNews.com: Three members of this country's most highly skilled and effective fighting units - the Navy's elite Sea, Air and Land (SEAL) teams - face courts-martial for having punched a top terrorist in the course of a dangerous mission to apprehend him. Far from being punished, these men, Petty Officers Matthew McCabe, Jonathan Keefe, and Julio Huertas, should be revered as heroes.

Unfortunately, this action - like the Elmendorf photo incident - is symptomatic of a larger problem: In the space of 11 months in office, the Obama administration has serially cut the nation's defenses, demoralized its military and compromised its intelligence services.

Add to this appalling litany actions taken in recent months by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to: afford unlawful enemy combatants like Sept. 11, 2001, mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed constitutional rights they do not deserve; acknowledge the right of foreign judiciaries to prosecute Americans on purported "war crimes"; and signal its willingness to cooperate in such prosecutions.

The implications of these sorts of actions are grave, especially in time of war. What on Earth should be the reaction of those taking risks for us every day - whether they are fighting on distant battlefields, performing exfiltration operations deep behind enemy lines, carrying out strikes with unmanned aerial vehicles, interrogating or detaining unlawful enemy combatants, countering terrorists inside the United States or making hard choices about the policies and rules of engagement governing such activities? They could scarcely be blamed for concluding that the government they serve may decide to disavow their actions on the grounds that they flout our "values" and/or "international law," then betray them to its own or foreign prosecutors.

That conclusion, of course, can only translate into greater vulnerabilities for all of us. Not only will our defenses inevitably be diminished. Our enemies are likely to redouble their efforts to destroy this country, confident that their success is becoming all the more certain.

Let's be clear: It is not an American value to indulge in national suicide. Yet, the practical effect of the sorts of decisions being taken by Team Obama, particularly cumulatively, is to put our country and its people at ever greater risk.

The time has come for the public and its elected representatives in Congress to recognize the peril associated with the Obama doctrine of diminishing our country, emboldening our enemies and undermining our friends. Our servicemen and women, detainee interrogators, CIA operatives and civilian policymakers and lawyers must be protected from illegitimate foreign prosecution. They must be allowed to do their difficult and often dangerous jobs confident that we do, indeed, have their backs.

As New Yorkers afflicted by the attacks of Sept. 11 made plain with a remarkable rally last Saturday near ground zero, terrorists like Mohammed must not be brought to American shores and granted constitutional rights and trials in civilian courts that will assuredly become instruments for political warfare and law fare against our nation.

Last but not least, our most skilled and courageous warriors like Petty Officers McCabe, Keefe and Huertas should be recognized and honored for their daring and successes, not prosecuted.

Let the world see a true core American value - namely, that we treasure those who selflessly serve and protect us. And let those who are our foes be under no illusion: We will neither commit national suicide nor fail to fight them relentlessly, with every instrument at our disposal and to victory in this war for the Free World.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy and host of the nationally syndicated program "Secure Freedom Radio."