As the Middle East rages in violent anti-American protests, the dirty little secret that few in Washington want to discuss is how military families have worried for years about whether their loved ones serving in Afghanistan (and previously in Iraq) would be killed by insurgents or by the bureaucracy and policies of their own government.
Intrepid journalist and author Diana West reports from an alarming letter written in June by Army Staff Sgt. Matthew S. Sitton that was sent to U.S. Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young asking for help after his commanders in Afghanistan told him to “quit whining” about orders to lead patrols twice daily without objective “or purpose” through, basically, “a mine field.” As SSG Sitton wrote, “As a Brigade, we are averaging at a minimum an amputee a day from our soldiers because we are walking around aimlessly through grape rows and compounds that are littered with explosives. Not to mention that the operation tempo that every solider is on leaves little to no time for rest and refit. The moral and alertness levels on our patrol are low and it is causing casualties left and right.”
“I’m concerned about the well being of my soldiers and have tried to voice my opinion through the proper channels of my own chain of command only to be turned away and told that I need to stop complaining,” SSG Sitton continued. “It is my responsibility to take care of my soldiers …”
Two months later, on August 2, the U.S. policy COIN/nation building, a so-called counterinsurgency plan to win the hearts and minds of Afghans that SSG Sittons wrote about, killed him and another U.S. soldier while on foot patrol in an IED-riddled field in Afghanistan—a death trap. SGG Sitton was 26-years old and leaves behind a wife and son.
The troops are not being sent to war to win. Take off your ideological glasses, and look at the facts.
Under President George W. Bush, the “catch and release” policy in Iraq, where troops were ordered to catch terrorists only to release them to appease the Iranians to supposedly discourage their nuclear enrichment program, failed miserably and emboldened Iran. As the Washington Post reported in 2007, “There were no costs for the Iranians,” said one senior administration official. “They are hurting our mission in Iraq, and we were bending over backwards not to fight back.” The Bush administration changed course to the “catch or kill” program.
Under the Obama-Clinton regime, despite its obvious failure, the “catch and release” policy was embraced. As the Washington Examiner reported, “It’s as if the Taliban have more rights than us or the people of Afghanistan,” said a U.S. Army medic with 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, in Zabul province. “We have to let these guys go all the time no matter what they do, and then we find them trying to hit us again. But if they think I’ve screwed up once, then [the military will] have no problem throwing me to the wolves.”
To be clear, the failure of leadership at the expense of the troops should be directed at both the Democrats and Republicans.
The Bush administration sacrificed U.S. Marines on the altar of “political correctness” when they ignored a basic American principle, “innocent until proven guilty”, which they denied Marines by their silence in what became known as “Haditha.” Haditha was the highest-profile atrocity prosecution of servicemen out of the Iraq war where 24 Iraqi civilians were tragically killed after an IED explosion killed U.S. Marine LCpl Migel “T.J.” Terrazas.
Before an investigation was complete, the press and several elected U.S. government officials, including Congressman John P. Murtha (now deceased), bearing false witness, condemned and declared the Haditha Marines guilty of cold-blooded murder. Last year, the last Marine was exonerated.
Under both Bush and Obama, U.S. soldiers serve war-crime-related sentences in Leavenworth prison in Kansas. Meanwhile, Taliban prisoners are set free on a “pledge” declaring that they will “never support the Taliban or fight for the Taliban ever again.” It is a double-standard policy that shows mercy to the Taliban and no mercy for America’s military.
The Obama-Clinton administration’s policies of apology and appeasement have emboldened America’s enemies, including those in Afghanistan. After Islamic religious materials, for instance, that “contained extremist messages or inscriptions” were destroyed at Bagram Air Field and violent riots broke out, they apologized and reprimanded the soldiers. Meanwhile, President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, or Defense chief Leon Panetta never once demanded an apology from Afghanistan’s President Karzai, whose Afghan forces, trained by the U.S. military, have been turning their weapons on U.S. and NATO forces in what has been called the green-on-blue/insider attacks or “epidemic murder.”
As Diana West wrote, “It is time for Generals Petraeus, McChrystal, Allen, Dempsey, Admiral Mullen and many more to face us and explain. It is also time for former President Bush and his advisors and President Obama and his advisors to answer for the failure of their misbegotten and irresponsible policy of nation-building in the Islamic world, which COIN supports.” If I may add, it is time for both administrations to explain why they sent troops to war under restrictive rules of engagement to catch terrorists, only to release them and somehow expect to win.
In what would probably be SSG Sitton’s last written words, he wrote: “I understand that as a commander you are to follow the orders of those appointed over you however there needs to be a time where the wellness of your soldiers needs to take priority over walking around in fields for hours a day for no rhyme or reason (emphasis mine).”
Rep. Young has since reversed his stance on Afghanistan and called for the troops to be brought home; “I just think we’re killing kids that don’t need to die,” he recently said. Questions remain. How many others in Washington will show leadership and a conscience and join him? How much higher will the number of U.S. casualties’ grow, and how many more military families will suffer or be shattered before Washington and the upper echelons of the military take responsibility for their policy and leadership failures? Do they fear God or man?
As Navy Seal Marcus Luttrel, author of Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10, warned three years ago about events that occurred in 2005: “Look at me, right now in my story. Helpless, tortured, shot, blown up, my best buddies all dead, and all because we were afraid of the liberals back home, afraid to do what was necessary to save our own lives. Afraid of American civilian lawyers. I have only one piece of advice for what it’s worth: If you don’t want to get into war where things go wrong, where the wrong people sometimes get killed, where innocent people sometimes have to die, then stay the hell out of it in the first place.”
Washington’s dirty, little secret that is killing the troops and harming America’s national security must not continue to be ignored. Not to speak is to speak. Because the troops have not been allowed to win, bring them home now.
(Read the full text of SSG Sitton’s letter.)
Marinka Peschmann, the author of The Whistleblower: How the Clinton White House Stayed in Power to Reemerge in the Obama White House and on the World Stage (One Rock Ink), is a freelance journalist. She has collaborated, ghostwritten, and contributed to books and stories from showbiz and celebrities to true crime, politics, and the United Nations. After freelancing behind the scenes in both the mainstream press and the new media, it was time to step forward. Please visit marinkapeschmann.com for more details.
Photo credit: terrellaftermath