- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 9, 2002

Nobles: The eight American casualties of Operation Anaconda.Each American killed in Afghanistan the past week wanted to be there. None of them would have had it any other way. Yet, when they died, each of us wished that things could have been different.

Each of them gave up a lifetime of unfulfilled dreams when they died on the bitter battlefield. Each of them left behind someone whom they loved more than life.

Yet as they marched into the ranks of the long gray line of departed heroes, each of them left behind the solemn memory of their service, the noble memory of their sacrifice.

They were Rangers, airmen, and a Navy SEAL: Sgt. Bradley Crose, 27, of Orange Park, Fla.; Pfc. Matthew A. Commons, 21, of Boulder City, Nev.; Spc. Marc A. Anderson, 30, of Brandon, Fla.; Sgt. Philip J. Svitak, 31, of Joplin, Mo.; Senior Airman Jason D. Cunningham, 26, of Camarillo, Calif.; Tech. Sgt. John A. Chapman, 36, of Windsor Locks, Conn, and Neil C. Roberts, 32, of Woodland, Calif. Army Chief Warrant Officer Stanley Harriman, 34, of Wade, N.C., was killed a week ago today.

Each one of them died a patriot. Each one died an American.

Knaves: The unnamed American military officers already criticizing Operation Anaconda.

Being an armchair general is a popular pasttime. No wonder. For one thing, it's a spectator sport. For another, everyone gets his turn to be a general.

Real combat isn't so comfortable, and only a few people call the shots. Since individuals live and die on those orders, they are subject to endless analysis afterward. That's probably fair, since things could have always been done differently. Lessons can always be learned.

However, the time for theoreticals is not while one's fellows are bleeding on the battlefield. That is what makes Rowan Scarborough's recent exclusive in The Washington Times so disturbing. According to Mr. Scarborough, military officers have already begun questioning tactics in the "ongoing" battle of Gardez. One senior Air Force officer Mr. Scarborough quoted compared this week's events to "a repeat of Somalia," the mission in Mogadishu that eventually cost 18 Americans their lives.

If such comparisons are inevitable, they are also wildly inappropriate at least at the moment. The time for armchair critiques of Operation Anaconda will come. Until then, though, it simply isn't proper to put Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the top guns of his military staff under friendly fire.


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