- The Washington Times - Monday, May 14, 2007

As Memorial Day approaches…

As usual on Fridays, I enjoyed Diana West’s Op-Ed column, “The ‘business’ is war.” She understands why we fight and the threat to our nation and way of life. In fact, this column struck a particular chord in me, as she highlighted the potential dangers we face if we are not psychologically ready to wage war and to win the same.

Though I am no apologist for the reported “atrocity” in Haditha in 2005, I would like to share some additional context to what Miss West recommended when she stated, “If only someone would mention to the Waugh-ian-named Maj. [Eldon A.] Bargewell that when the ‘business’ is war, the chain of command darn well better consider ‘U.S. lives’ more important than ‘Iraqi civilian lives’ (many ‘civilian’ in name only), or guess what? Too many U.S. lives will be lost and the U.S. won’t win.”

When I think of Haditha, the first thing that springs to my mind is not the incident in which 24 Iraqis were killed in November 2005, but the fact that on the May 26, 2005, one of my best friends, Maj. Ricardo Crocker, was killed by some would-be jihadist’s rocket-propelled grenade in that same city. Rick was leading a Marine Corps civil affairs team and attempting to help the local Iraqis put their lives back together — building and refurbishing water plants, electrical substations, schools, shops, etc. I point to that fact because I think somewhere in the discussion about the “atrocity” in Haditha many of my fellow Americans lose sight of what Haditha was like during much of 2005 — not some quiet suburb of Santa Monica, Calif., where my buddy, Rick, had been a policeman — but rather a place where Marines were attacked almost daily and insurgents very well could find sanctuary among the local populace.

Second, a few months later, while my State Department colleague and I were meeting with city officials in Fallujah — about 70 miles east of Haditha — we expressed sympathy to them over the loss of their senior religious imam — a victim of assassination, almost assuredly at the hands of his fellow Iraqis. We said we considered the religious sheik’s death a tragedy and that we held him in high regard just as we did those of our fellow Marines who had been killed. Instead of a just acknowledgment of that shared sympathy, what we heard was simply, “Do not compare Sheikh Hamza to your Marines. He was a man of peace.”

You can imagine where the discussion went from there. I will never forget that response and how much it infuriated me. Because of that, I often wince when I hear people say that the United States does not care about Iraqi deaths — even more so because the vast majority of Iraqis have been killed by their fellow countrymen. To the contrary, I believe the vast majority of the U.S. military would like nothing more than to see stability and peace in Iraq. I often wonder, though, how widely that sentiment is shared by those whom we are trying to assist.

As we approach another Memorial Day, more than anything, I’ll remember my friend’s sacrifice in Haditha, and to you, Miss West, I say: Rest assured there are still plenty of non-politically-correct military left.


Marine Corps


Modernizing the military

In Thursday’s Op-Ed column “Money well spent,” Air Force Lt. Gen. Raymond Johns Jr. advocates another $20 billion per year to continue Air Force modernization.

There is no question that airmen and -women are engaged in the current fight and that the Air Force is filling other vital roles as well. For example, strategic airlift and aerial refueling are unglamorous, necessary missions that dedicated professionals wearing Air Force blue accomplish daily with skill and aplomb.

But let me add some context in the area of old aircraft.

The Marine Corps operates about 15 percent of the nation’s military air assets. Marine aviators are flying 38-year-old CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters in harsh desert conditions while fanatic Islamofascists are trying to shoot them down with sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles. Marines are using 30-year-old EA-6B Prowlers and 20-year-old F/A-18 Hornets not just to attack ground targets, but also to perform nontraditional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. This pushes imagery and data down to the individual Marine to defeat threats such as improvised explosive devices, snipers and ambushes. Marines fly 30-year-old UH-1N Hueys for ground-support missions.

They’re not just in Iraq. Marine AV-8B Harriers were deployed recently to Kandahar, Afghanistan. Using the inherent flexibility of short-takeoff vertical landing aircraft, they were able to generate about as many sorties as four times as many carrier-based aircraft. Marines are flying 20- to 30-year-old CH-53 helicopters in the Horn of Africa. As we don’t have enough of these vital aircraft and we aren’t making any new ones, we have taken old, scrapped CH-53s out of the boneyards, refurbished them and sent them to the fight.

Imagine battling Beltway traffic in August in a 30-year-old car that you reclaimed from the junkyard. Imagine doing so while people are shooting at you. Imagine doing so knowing you’re going to do it again and again and again every day for months at a time. Imagine life as the mechanic who has to keep your car running.

The entire Marine Corps costs the nation about $17 billion per year. That gives America three Marine divisions, three Marine aircraft wings and three Marine logistics groups. That’s about 175,000 highly trained, skilled professionals who can rapidly bring a combined force of ground, air and combat logistic troops anywhere in the world to fight in any environment — on the land, on the sea and in the air.

The Marine Corps’ flexible expeditionary forces are vital to protecting U.S. interests and are fully engaged in the current conflict. So, while we certainly should seek to modernize, let’s keep the effort in perspective and ensure the taxpayer’s dollar is maximized across the entire Department of Defense.


Media branch head

Marine Corps Headquarters


Benchmarks for Iraq

Even if President Bush, in his “about-face … agreed to consider a bill that measures Iraqi progress, such as reducing sectarian violence, establishing a militia-disarmament program and enacting laws to share oil revenue,” it won’t be enough to help stabilize Iraq (“House OKs war funds until July,” Page 1 Friday). What Iraq needs is a competing system to offset the appeal of Islamofascism’s cradle-to-grave benefit system.

In fact, that is what is needed in every country faced with the reality of government by Islamofascists or the accretion of support for terrorist groups built through grass-roots campaigns, such as Hamas in the Palestinian territories and the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan.

The way to compete with these ideologies is to introduce a “nanny state” on the European model in these countries, including in Iraq. This means jobs for the “masses” and services such as schools to compete with the madrassas. Iraq needs something akin to a Works Progress Administration to offer an alternative to essentially terrorist welfare.

Apparently there are forces within the U.S. executive branch, e.g., the Pentagon, trying to establish just this sort of program, in an about-face with the State Department, as detailed in a Washington Post article on Monday. And they say Paul Brinkley, a political appointee in the Defense Department, wants to resurrect “state-owned enterprises … [to] provide jobs and turn a profit and lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.”

This nanny state system is only interim, crucial to giving Iraqis a “jump start” on the road to capitalism, which hopefully will take root sometime after Iraq’s transition to a democratic country. Elections do not a democracy make, as we are witnessing in Iraq, whose system the West midwifed but exists in name only as the Shi’ites, with help from Iran, try to consolidate their hold over the embattled country.

They are calling Mr. Brinkley a Stalinist. But really, his transitional system is offering terrorists the sincerest form of flattery by mimicking a strategy that seems to work at least as an alternative to chaos. Their system could itself be an interim measure when its supporters — initially of stability — recognize how oppressive it ultimately becomes.



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