It is New Year's Eve, time to look back on the past year, appreciate our good fortunes and mull over those moments that weren't our best.
Then it is time to make resolutions for the coming year.
My suggestion for the first thing on President George W. Bush's To-Do List is to pardon the Marines and corpsman being held at the Marine Corps brig at Camp Pendleton, California on murder charges involving an action against terrorist bombers in Haditha, Iraq, last year.
I have written before about the group of seven Marines and one corpsman who were arrested and charged with illegally killing civilians in Haditha. The case, the treatment of the men involved, the duplicity of the Iraqi government, the paucity of evidence against them, and the fact that the charges are ludicrous, all say that they are not criminals but political pawns, being used by some in Iraq to push America out of that country before it becomes an independent democracy.
Unfortunately, our own politicians are looking the other way and letting this case go forward when the only place it should go is in a trash can.
So what can be done? Well, as I pointed out in my last column on this issue, if officers who were not on the scene can be charged with dereliction of duty, as they have been, then the commander-in-chief, President Bush, also can be held accountable, and even face impeachment if the Democrat-controlled Congress decides to go that route.
Think how horrible that would be for the country. Think how divisive, how painful, how harmful to us as we continue to face a world where terrorist attacks are a way of life not an aberration.
President Bush can do the right thing here on many levels. He can pardon the Pendleton 8 and avoid any further erosion of morale in our armed forces. He can win back the support of everyday Americans who believe this is a crock. And he can reassure the mothers and fathers across America who are having second thoughts about their sons and daughters serving in a military that may well use them as political pawns and punish them for doing their jobs.
Also, by pardoning the Pendleton 8 the president can avert any unpleasantness in a Congress that has shown a willingness to embrace unpleasantness as a means of gaining power. A pardon would shunt that issue to the far edges of the political universe where it would remain frozen and unseen.
There have been far too many reports out of Iraq from our troops regarding this and other instances of alleged crimes against Iraqi citizens, where the evidence is either non-existent, or has been manufactured by insurgents. There are far too many reports of the US taking the word of the very people who are bombing and shooting our troops over the word of our troops and the evidence.
It is time for President Bush to step up and take some decisive action here. The news has been non-stop for weeks that all is not well in Iraq and that Mr. Bush intends to make some changes. Well, let's start with changing our attitudes about believing whoever came up with the idea of prosecuting troops, when by all trustworthy on-scene accounts they were doing their jobs.
Rather, issue a pardon to all involved, and then let's change direction in Iraq by putting a smackdown on the insurgency and making sure the new government understands it better be taking up the slack and asserting itself rather than engaging in chicanery against the people who fought so Iraq could be free from terrorism and internal butchery.
A Word From Quang Pham
Quang X. Pham was born in Saigon and escaped literally as South Vietnam fell to the communists in 1975. He and some members of his family made it to America where he went to school, enlisted in the Marine Corps as an officer candidate, went to flight school, and served as a CH-46 helicopter pilot in the Persian Gulf War. He flew with HMM-161, the same unit I served in during the Vietnam War.
I met Quang in California when HMM-161 came back from the Gulf. Past members of our unit had banded together to support the squadron while it was in combat and I was invited to join the homecoming ceremonies when the war ended. Quang met my wife and me at the airport when we arrived in California.
Quang now is a businessman and the author of "A Sense of Duty: My Father, My American Journey."
He wrote an article on the passing of President Gerald Ford that was carried in the Washington Post. I refer to it here partly because it is a great article, but also because many media commentators have been saying that Ford was defeated by Jimmy Carter because he pardoned Richard Nixon.
I don't think so. I think Ford was defeated because he didn't take action to save an ally. That is my opinion, and it matters here because of what I just wrote about President Bush issuing a pardon to the Pendleton 8.
Please see Quang's article here:
I wrote to Quang to let him know that I have been wrestling with my own feelings about the late president, but that Quang's perspective certainly was an eye opener.
President Ford is the man who was at the helm when South Vietnam fell, and he was the man who takes responsibility for that. Marine officers are taught that you can delegate authority, but not responsibility.
President Ford was the Commander in Chief when the south fell to the communist
army, thus he bears the ultimate responsibility.
It would be easy to blame President Ford for all that happened to Vietnam, even though he was just one of many who were in on the decision to abandon an
Yet, Quang chose to remember that Ford made it a priority to help the
Vietnamese refugees resettle, and thus Quang and many others became Americans, contributing to and participating in the democratic process. That action alone stands as a credit to our nation and to President Ford.
As with so many other leaders, history will be the ultimate judge. For the moment, I would like to express my condolences to the family and close friends of the late President and join the nation as it mourns his passing.
And I would like to wish all who read this column a Happy New Year, filled with health, prosperity and peace.
Sunday, December 31, 2006