Friday, June 25, 2010

Gen. Stanley McChrystal - Standing Up For America? Or Bugging Out?

Rolling Stone magazine printed an encyclopedia-sized article on Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his approach to running the war in Afghanistan this week, and within a day of its release McChrystal was summoned back to the White House where President Barack Obama fired him for insubordination.

If you read the article you will find that most of the critical commentary the media attributed to McChrystal actually came from aides or anonymous sources, not the general himself. And most of it was critical of administration personnel, not the president - although I really liked the line where they have renamed Joe Biden "Joe Bite Me." Classic.

But Stanley Allen McChrystal got the blame and we now have the inevitable comparisons of President Harry Truman's similar firing of Gen. Douglas MacArthur for similar reasons in the 1950s during the Korean War.

I have another view on this. Was McChrystal, by granting complete on-the-record access to a not-necessarily friendly reporter, doing the right thing as a soldier, falling on his sword to warn the American populace of dangerous and flawed administration policies? Or did he see the handwriting on the wall and create a plausibly deniable "bug out" so he won't be blamed for failure in Afghanistan?

There is precedent for this question. Back in Vietnam, General William Westmoreland lamented in the early years - from roughly 1965 to 1968 - that he wanted just one good stand-up battle with the Viet Cong guerrillas, rather than the hit and run skirmishes that were the norm. Then came the Tet Offensive of 1968, Westmoreland got his battle and the Viet Cong were crushed decisively and permanently.

The media, sensing that the American military was on the cusp of total victory, immediately turned the communists' crushing battlefield defeats into a public relations coup, and led by the disgraced commentator Walter Cronkite, who later was revealed to be a communist sympathizer, portrayed Tet as a failure of American strategy and tactics.

As a result, Westmoreland was replaced and President Lyndon Johnson refused to run for another term in office.

During the next year the American military put such a horrendous beating on the remnants of the Viet Cong and the regular North Vietnamese communist troops who replaced them, that by early 1969 the NVA military commanders were recommending surrender rather than losing their entire country.

That opportunity was squandered, however, when President Richard Nixon, on the advice of his National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger, announced prematurely that he would begin withdrawing American troops from the battlefield. The communist leaders in North Vietnam squelched any further talk of surrender, until their disastrous losses in the Easter Invasion of 1972 and the subsequent Linebacker and Linebacker II bombings of the north.

Again the communists were on the verge of total surrender and again, acting on Kissinger's advice, Nixon prematurely halted the bombings and another opportunity for total victory was lost. In 1973 the US troop pullout was completed, Congress committed an act of outright treachery by enacting the Case-Church Resolution that cut off all aid to the South Vietnamese, and two years later the north overran the south.

Even though the defeat of a democratic government backed by the US was caused by political duplicity and Congressional actions that are considered treasonous in many quarters, the man who gets the blame for the loss of South Vietnam is the late Gen. William Westmoreland. He never lost a major battle to the communists, and in fact was the overall commander of US troops during three of the most significant American victories - the 1968 Tet Offensive and the simultaneous Battle for Hue City and the Siege at Khe Sanh.

But ask who lost Viet Nam and you won't hear "The US Congress," or "Richard Nixon" or even "Henry Kissinger." You'll hear, "General Westmoreland. He just couldn't get it done." South Viet Nam fell eight years after Westmoreland was removed as commander, and two viable opportunities to force the communists to surrender were squandered in those years by political interference. He did not "Lose" Viet Nam.

Now we have General Stanley McChrystal, who a year ago was left cooling his heels for months after asking for a major troop surge so he could take the fight to the Taliban and their Al Qaeda sponsors, admitting that since he didn't get what he wanted, the war is going badly and the American media is salivating over the word "defeat."

Among the issues raised in the article are the nonsensical and ultimately fatal (for our troops) Rules of Engagement that literally guarantee the survival of Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Our troops are being told not to patrol in areas where the enemy is known to be in control! Why? To keep the casualties down so Obama won't be criticized for troop losses.

They can't eliminate buildings used by terrorists from which to fire on our troops! The article portrayed a McChrystal visit to a front line unit that lost a member specifically due to that Rule of Engagement. His pep talk to the troops didn't seem to win any hearts and minds within the military, however.

On that same note, why is it that our military is stating that the enemy and their property are more important than our soldiers and Marines?

Our troops are even supposed to refrain from fire missions that might cause casualties to civilians who are standing too close to Taliban or Al Qaeda fighters. Want to know why "civilians" are standing next to terrorists? BECAUSE THEY ARE SYMPATHIZERS, NOT "CIVILIANS!"

One reason why the Viet Cong were so badly beaten in the Tet Offensive of 1968 is because they counted on a general uprising of everyday Vietnamese to help them out and show that Americans weren't wanted. But the Vietnamese populace stayed home, out of harms way, except for those who were dragged out and butchered by the Viet Cong terrorists.

Know why the Vietnamese sided with us rather than the communist terrorists? Because we showed strength and determination in taking the fight to the communists, we kept beating them and even before Tet they were taking terrible losses. The Vietnamese knew that if they stood next to the communists they would be in trouble, so they didn't.

My recommendation to the Afghanistan residents is to not stand next to the terrorists if they don't want to become "collateral damage." And scrap these unbelievably stupid Rules of Engagement.

Didn't we firebomb Dresden and Hamburg back in World War II as payback for the Nazi bombings of London? Extreme perhaps but it apparently got the message across because I haven't seen any Germans threatening to wage war against us in retaliation. What's it been now, 70 years?

But instead of time-tested tactics that will eliminate the enemy soldiers and put the populace on our side we get asinine Rules of Engagement based on the La La Land philosophy that if America didn't exist, people wouldn't be mad at us.

Against this My-Hands-Are-Tied backdrop, McChrystal suddenly gives unprecedented access to a reporter for a left-wing rag that is known for inaccuracy and voila he is fired for insubordination! Is this a surprise to anyone? (On the inaccuracy issue the article in question stated that Afghanistan War is now the longest war in US history, surpassing Vietnam. We first went to Afghanistan in late 2001. It is now mid-2010. Eight years plus. The Vietnam Service Medal is for service in the Vietnam War beginning in 1961 through 1975. Fourteen years. Even if you use 1973 as the cutoff year, you still have 12 years. Count 'em.)

McChrystal had to know what was coming. He didn't even issue a public reprimand to the members of his inner-circle who were quoted in the article.

Interestingly, as my son pointed out, the one person in the Obama administration that McChrystal does seem to like is Hillary Clinton - remember, the Secretary of State and former First Lady as well as Manipulator Supreme? "I see the Clintons' hands all over this," he said, and I think he's right.

McChrystal is being replaced by Gen. David Petraeus who was successful with his "surge" strategy in Iraq, but who apparently is so overworked and exhausted that he had a fainting spell while testifying before Congress last week. I don't know if the air in Afghanistan's mountains is going to be good for him.

Isn't General Petraeus the same person that the left-wing propaganda outlet defamed? And didn't our esteemed Commander in Chief vote against any action against moveon?

Yeah, but now Petraeus is their darling. What a crock of hypocrisy.

One last question. If Petraeus continues on as commander of the US forces in Afghanistan, with the cards stacked against him there as they were against McChrystal, will an Afghanistan "defeat" negate his victory in Iraq?
Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Teachers' Anti-War (Military) Protest at School Ceremony - Free Speech or Lack of Decorum?

Two teachers at Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School in South Yarmouth, on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, are under suspension with the threat of being fired, after they waged an anti-war protest during a year-end student awards ceremony last week.

The teachers held up anti-war signs during the part of the ceremony where students who are entering the military after graduation were recognized - generating an uproar from the student body, community, and other teachers as well.

Under our system of government the two teachers absolutely have the right to make their point, just as the school administration has the right to bring disciplinary action if it is deemed justified. There are after all, rules of proper conduct within the schools that apply to staff as well as students.

But there is more to this than political statements and free speech. There is the question of decorum and whether a school awards assembly, the sole purpose of which is to focus on and recognize the students, is the proper place to assert adult political agendas.

The question takes on even more significance since the father of a US Marine who was killed in battle in Afghanistan last year was invited to, and in attendance at, the ceremony. According to the Cape Cod Times, Yarmouth police Lt. Steven Xiarhos lost his son, U.S. Marine Cpl. Nicholas Xiarhos, to a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in July 2009.

Nicholas Xiarhos, a 2006 D-Y grad, was among the first group of students to receive a plaque recognizing their military service, the Times reported. His dad was present when the teachers launched their protest.

And herein lies my concerns with the actions of the two teachers. Did they take so much as a millisecond to consider how their protest would impact the father of a fallen Marine who graduated from that same school, and only four years ago stood at a similar ceremony where his decision to serve his country was applauded?

Did they feel it was absolutely necessary to add a counterpoint to the obvious lesson that is facing every single new recruit at that ceremony - that military service is inherently dangerous, and that they too could be facing injury or death in the very near future? Did the teachers have so little faith in the students, and by extension their four years of teaching them, that they believed the lesson would be lost in the glow of a few seconds of applause during a school assembly?

Did they consider how their protest would feel like a punch in the gut to a man who in all likelihood is still trying to comes to terms with the loss of a child? Did they consider that after their brief moment in the spotlight of publicity - that certainly is shining much brighter due to the timing and location of their protest - that the father of a young man who will never again walk the beaches of Cape Cod or sit at his family's table for dinner, will go home to an emptiness that will never again be completely filled?

Did they have to pick that spot and that time to make their statement? The teachers said after the ceremony that they were protesting military recruitment. OK, I'm fine with that if they believe in it. I don't agree with them, but I do support their right to differ.

So why not go to the recruiting offices? If the military is the source of your disagreement why not protest the military instead of high school students?

Would that not have been just as public? Or was this a calculated maneuver to garner as much publicity as possible? It certainly is within the realm of possibility that the teachers knew Steven Xiarhos would attend the ceremony.

They stood, holding up their anti-war signs when the rest of the assembly was sitting, and they sat silently when the others stood and applauded the coming sacrifices of the students who are joining the military. In retrospect it was a small, but very crude protest, on a par with the viciousness exhibited by members of the Westboro Baptist Church who show up at the funerals of fallen soldiers to protest the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy toward homosexuality.

If the protesting teachers did consider just how hurtful their actions would be to the family of a fallen Marine, then they have lost all credibility in the education profession. Resorting to shock tactics may be a traditional form of protest for street thugs and anarchists, but teachers in a high school assembly?

Definitely not cool.

If the two teachers didn't consider the extended consequences of their actions, they need to return to school themselves for remedial training in humanities and interpersonal relationships.

Regardless, there are far better ways to make a point, that are far less intrusive and far less hurtful to others who undoubtedly are struggling, and will be for the rest of their lives, with the universal questions of war and peace, honor and sacrifice.

Our Constitution guarantees the right to free speech, but our laws also give people the right to remain silent. It would be wonderful if these teachers could distinguish between the two, and apply them at the appropriate times.


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