« | Main | Ethical Failure and Opportunism At The World Bank »

May 10, 2007

Strength And Honor

Could someone deliver us
And send us some kind of sign?
So close to giving up
'Cause faith is so hard to find

I don't believe in Fate. Not in the sense of an unalterable destiny, some grim, unavoidable future that sweeps us up and dashes us against the rocks of predetermined events. Such visions reduce us to insensate flotsam bobbing in a maelstrom we can neither control nor escape.

Perhaps this is hubris.

If it is, I'd rather be guilty of overweening pride than fall victim to the kind of attenuated ennui that afflicts so many of my generation; the effete moral lethargy that automatically equates faith with oppression, disagreement with censorship, the capacity for moral judgment with racism and intolerance. But oddly enough, though I doubt the existence of a fixed destiny, I've never for a moment doubted that some things happen for a reason.

Perhaps they happen to offer us a choice, a fork in the road. What we do, when we come to that fork, reveals our character for all the world to see:

America is caught up in a debate of whether we should bring our troops home or if we should make one last attempt to bring peace and stability to Iraq. Yet, we don’t pay attention to the details of the war. Last weekend, an American hero received one of the Army’s highest honors – a Silver Star. His award was largely unnoticed, overshadowed by Paris Hilton’s incarceration.

Late last year, Major James Gant and his men were returning home to Baghdad after weeks of fighting insurgents. Gant and his advisory team were riding in up-armored HMMWVs. These were not the HMMWVs of Jessica Lynch’s era. These were mini-tanks on tires with bullet proof-glass, blast-proof armor plate and turret mounted machineguns. His men, Iraqi National Police, were riding in soft-skinned trucks.

gant.jpg

Gant and his interpreter, Mack, in front of their up-armored HMMWV

Al-Qaeda had planned an elaborate running ambush in which they hoped to destroy the unit that had been their nemesis for more than a month. They had prepared three separate ambush sites along a four kilometer stretch of road. Gant and his commandos were forced to run a gauntlet of machinegun fire, mortar attacks and IEDs. The story of Gant’s, fight that day is an amazing tale of heroism, filled with scenes you would expect to see on the silver screen. Gant repeatedly risked his life to save others. The insurgents had planted IEDs hoping that an explosion would force the embattled convoy to stop.

Gant ordered his driver to drive straight for the first IED. As they rolled within twenty feet, the device detonated. Miraculously, Gant’s HMMWV was unscathed. Gant kept the column moving through a vicious gun battle. Another IED lie only five hundred yards ahead. Again, they went after the planted explosive and, again, a thunderous explosion failed to disable Gant’s vehicle. Almost clear of the ambush, Gant noticed a third IED. He continued to push forward, bringing his convoy safely through the torrent of fire. Had Gant hesitated, good men would have died.

Last weekend, Major Gant spoke at his award ceremony. He has personally made the sacrifice to bring peace and stability to the people of Iraq, and he continues to sacrifice every day. Here is what a soldier, a hero, had to say about our current debate:
The best friend I have ever had is an Iraqi. He is the best man I have ever known. He fought with me on 11 December. He can’t go home after a hard day of work. He can’t see his father or mother or brother. He can’t live any type of normal life because every time he leaves the [Green Zone], people want to kill him. I bet you would not be so fast to want to leave here if you knew him.

If you knew Colonel Dhafer, a great commander and leader, ...one of the best friends I have ever had, if you knew Major Fadil, who pulled me out of a burning [HMMWV]…, if you knew Captain Khais, if you knew Salaam, or Abbas, or Ali; all are brave warriors who fought with incredible courage that day and I would gladly and without hesitation lay my life down for all of them. If you knew them as I do, you would not be so quick to want to leave. If you could see with your own eyes the evil that is perpetrated on innocent men, women and children here on a daily basis, you would not be so quick to call it quits.

Colonel Dhafer, you and brave men like you are the hope and future of your country. I wish I were the hope and future of my country. Because if I were, I would not leave you until this job was done. No matter the sacrifice. No matter the price.

dhafer.jpg

Colonel Dhafer congratulating Major Gant

Is it any wonder that so many Americans don’t understand what we are doing in Iraq, when the Main Stream Media does not tell us stories like that of Major James Gant and his Iraqi comrades? How can we understand the Iraqi people when we don’t even know what our sons and daughters are doing to bring peace and stability to the people of Iraq?

Iraq is so much more than car bombs and IEDs.

Richard S. Lowry is the award winning author of the best selling book, “Marines in the Garden of Eden,” Berkley, New York, 2006. He is an internationally recognized military historian and author. Richard served in the U.S. Navy Submarine Service from 1967-1975 and spent the time from 1975 to 2002 designing sophisticated integrated circuits for everything from aircraft avionics to home computers. Richard turned to serious writing after 9/11 and published “The Gulf War Chronicles,” iUniverse, New York, in 2002. He is currently working on his next book project. “The Surge” will tell of General Petraeus’ attempt to win the peace in Iraq. For more information on Richard and his work, visit www.marinesinthegardenofeden.com.

I haven't told you what prompted my little dissertation on Fate. This morning something magical happened, or at least it seemed so to me.

Someone stopped by and left a comment on something I wrote a long time ago:

How often have I wished that this were all just a bad dream I could wake up from? That there would be no more somber dawns when I check my email hoping for a joke and learn, instead, that somewhere halfway across America a uniformed Marine waits on a silent doorstep, dreading that moment when he must forever shatter someone's world? Or know that someone like me is haunted by the memory of suddenly stilled laughter, a remembered joke, or just the gladdening sight of that brightly haloed energy that seems to forever surround the young? They seem to get younger every year. To those of us with children of our own, they often seem just babies. Our children. Our darlings.

Our own.

The thing about Wash is this: I didn't know him, but someone I love did. Someone I have never met, but who has come in that odd alchemy that is the Internet to be incredibly dear to me. And so I mourn for him too. He has become family. I don't understand this, but it is one of the strange changes that began to transform me on September 11th. I don't think I will ever be the same person I was before that awful morning. It was so much easier for me to shut things out then, to pretend they had nothing to do with me. To close my eyes and pretend they weren't there.

But the thing I understand, though I didn't know Wash, is that he was there when it counted. It was important to him to be there. Whatever he thought in the still hours of the night when the stars slip out one by one to stand watch with lonely men half a world away, he wasn't a child or a fool or, as those links I didn't click on stridently averred, someone who died for George Bush. He was a man, a warrior, someone who took pride in what he did. Someone who, even though he joined the Marines to fight, did his job well and without complaint.

He was, quite simply, a sheepdog.

And so, when I read things like this, even though I may be momentarily tempted to feel bitter, to become cynical, to throw in with the 'it's not worth it' crowd, I have to stop and remember who I am. And more importantly, who they were. And are: the Americans and the Iraqis who stand between us and those who would destroy everything we hold dear.

It's easy to make generalizations, to lump people into categories. But what if Iraq judged us all by Harry Reid? Dear God in heaven, what if they judge us by our Congress? That is not the test.

The burden of civilization has always been carried upon the backs of a very few. Most of us are free riders; we coast on the efforts of far better men than we can ever hope to be. And if we are relying on the mainstream media to bring us tales of heroism and honesty and integrity, I fear we shall wait a very long time. Yet those tales exist.

Ask Major Gantt.

And then put this war, with all its casualties and daily setbacks, its moments of triumph and bitter shame, into the context of history. This is a letter, not a binding parliamentary vote. How often have bills come up in our own Congress only to wither on the vine for lack of support when push came to shove? And as to our losses, though they are grievous they too have a place in history. The total number of casualties we've suffered since 2001 is roughly comparable to our losses in one day at the battle of Normandy.

One day.

Yet we say we are tired of war. We have had enough of suffering. We, the richest nation on earth, cannot afford to go on.

But we support the troops, who believe in what they are doing. Oddly, they are not too tired; though they don't spend their time relaxing in comfortable surroundings, shopping and surfing the Internet as we here at home do. They are too busy. I will give up when they say it is time to give up, and not one moment sooner.

Because they are the ones who have bought and paid for this fight with their blood. They are the ones who are there, seeing it all first hand. They are the ones I trust to tell me when it is time, and we owe them something.

We owe them a little bit of intestinal fortitude. Because everything in life is a choice, and it's what you do when you come to those difficult forks in the road that shows what you are made of. Somehow it seems to me that our road is not all that hard.

And our path is crystal clear; at least if honor still means anything.

Posted by Cassandra at May 10, 2007 03:22 PM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.villainouscompany.com/mt/mt-tb.cgi/1515

Comments

God, the Hot Air thread you linked is enough to make the Baby Jesus cry. I commented there earlier, but things have seriously gone downhill.
They're sounding like "Paper Tiger" Democrats, and don't even realize it.

Posted by: Beth at May 10, 2007 07:27 PM

Scary, isn't it.

Sometimes I wonder which side depresses me more: ours or the other side? There are days when it's a toss-up.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 10, 2007 07:29 PM

"Because they are the ones who have bought and paid for this fight with their blood. They are the ones who are there, seeing it all first hand. They are the ones I trust to tell me when it is time, and we owe them something."

Hmmm, not more than a few moments ago I was feeling pretty frustrated after having read Mr. Lowery’s report, knowing that many of the protected species (sheep if you will) could not care less unless directly threatened and so I responded in the Coffee Snorters: Terrorized Edition thread to Mark with a link to McArthur's Farewell address at West Point.

In that speech, Gen. McArthur touched on much of what, at least IMO, ails us as a nation.

Posted by: bthun at May 10, 2007 07:52 PM

I don't know who you are, ma'am, other than a Marine wife (and I suspect, remarkably like your blog photo). I drove in here by accident, and found the "parable of the sheep and the sheepdog". I have not read anything so moving - and so true - in a very long time.

My faith in the US population is restored. At least, until I hear another Democratic lawmaker (isn't that one of those contradictions?) tell us how hopeless it all is. At which point, I'll come back here.

We who sit in the armchairs depend on people like you and Michael Yon to tell us about guys like Maj Grant.

Don't stop.

Posted by: ZZMike at May 10, 2007 08:44 PM

Thank you for the kind words. I'm not sure they're deserved, but they are greatly appreciated.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 10, 2007 10:06 PM

Damn, you're good, little sister.

Please keep it up!!!

Posted by: camojack at May 11, 2007 03:47 AM

Cass,

Your "nom de Web" is very well chosen. You certainly have the gift of prophecy and, unfortunately, I believe, as with your mythological sister, you will ultimately be ignored.

More's the pity.


Keep up the good fight.

Posted by: Country Squire at May 11, 2007 07:15 AM

That was emotionally powerful. Written on my son's 25th birthday too. He is a young infantry officer in Anbar. On Sunday he had a close call with a suicide bomber, no Marine casualties. It just so happens that his myspace moniker is "Strength And Honor".

I too have been the CACO. The carrier of sadness. The mental image of finding one on my doorstep haunts me.

Thanks for writing that.

Posted by: Casca at May 11, 2007 04:11 PM

Thanks for stopping by, and give your son my best. Please tell him thank you for all of us.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 11, 2007 09:44 PM

Petraeus's letter indicates that we are going to lose this war regardless of the amount of troops or the amount of time we are there.

So, since as Petraeus's letter indicates, defeat is certain, I am forced to say - Bring our Troops Home Now. If the government isn't going to let them win, then keeping them out there spilling their blood is tantamount to the Bush Administration murdering them.

Please understand, I am a conservative, but after seeing all the soldiers that Bush has arrested for doing their jobs, I can't be a Bush-bot. Fight to win or don't fight at all. There is no other option.

For the non-Bush-Bots out there look at General Betrayus's record. He hasn't spent a day in battle. He is just a politician in uniform.

Posted by: Fred at May 13, 2007 04:32 AM

Petraeus's letter indicates that we are going to lose this war regardless of the amount of troops or the amount of time we are there.

So, since as Petraeus's letter indicates, defeat is certain, I am forced to say - Bring our Troops Home Now. If the government isn't going to let them win, then keeping them out there spilling their blood is tantamount to the Bush Administration murdering them.

Please understand, I am a conservative, but after seeing all the soldiers that Bush has arrested for doing their jobs, I can't be a Bush-bot. Fight to win or don't fight at all. There is no other option.

For the non-Bush-Bots out there look at General Betrayus's record. He hasn't spent a day in battle. He is just a politician in uniform.


This has turned into another Vietnam. Again we lose not because of our brave soldiers but by our leaders who never intended them to win.

Posted by: Fred at May 13, 2007 04:34 AM

Post a comment




Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)