May 22, 2004
The Valley of the Shadow
"Yea, though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me." (Ps. 23:4)
The days are quickly passing by.
We will deploy in just over a month. But our climate has changed. We will not be going in theater with the same country that invaded Iraq. Since the fall of Saddam, this has become a much less popular war.
I am still convinced that we were right.
We know that he had WMD.
We know that he did not comply with UN directives to account for what he had.
We know he was willing to use them.
We know he had billions of dollars, and at least a passing relationship with various terrorist organizations.
To say that we should have allowed the UN to continue to try and negotiate compliance is the pinnacle of naivety in light of their failure to force compliance with 19 separate resolutions.
Given the events of September 11, 2001, we had no choice but to view Saddam as a threat. I contend that if the United States government had said prior to 9/11 that we were going into Afghanistan to take down the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden, there would have been public outrage at the unprovoked, pre-emptive nature of the action.
The fact is we failed to act on what we did know, and 3,000 of our citizens went to their graves.
So don't tell me that Saddam wasn't a threat.
The political pundits who trumpet the righteousness of the UN are blinded by their own intelligence. The UN has proven itself to be an ineffective, straw man existing for the sole purpose of giving mental comfort to people of weak constitution with the idea that "something will be done".
There is a feeling of discontent with the events in Iraq.
The weapons have not been found, allowing those who hate the current administration to rail against the president unchecked.
Meanwhile, soldiers have continued to fight and die in a country where a growing number of their countrymen don't think we should be in in the first place.
And as if this weren't enough, the spectacle of the Abu Ghraib prison has come to light. This has to be the single most disheartening blow to morale since this whole thing started.
My emotions are mixed. I personally am willing to tolerate a lot more in terms of gathering intelligence if:
A) they are known terrorists
B) there is good reason to believe they have knowledge of impending attacks on Americans.
I will not say how far I would be willing to go, but I will say this- I will not weep for the guilty.
The problem is that there were innocent Iraqis that were swept up into prison and that is to be expected. To keep them confined, to strip search them, to remove them from the luxuries of life, to keep them isolated- that is all justifiable. Remember, Iraq is a war zone, not your home town.
The things that were done beyond that are absolutely despicable and the soldiers involved deserve what's coming to them. And I mean all the soldiers.
1) The junior enlisted knew that what they were doing was wrong.
2) If they were given orders, they knew they had not just a right, but a responsibility to refuse those orders.
3) If there was confusion as to who was in charge, then they are guilty of negligence in determining the chain of command.
4) Their NCOs are guilty for their own participation.
5) The NCOs are guilty of not providing leadership, support, and moral guidance.
6) The platoon leaders and company commanders (officers) are guilty of dereliction of duty for not being in control of their soldiers.
7) The officers and NCOs are guilty of failing to enforce standards when the soldiers were in Reserve Component status, thereby fostering the climate that allowed soldiers to live without discipline.
8) The Commanding General is guilty of failing as an officer at so many levels that I can't bear to speak of it.
....and so on and so forth.
It is true that the chain of command is liable for the actions of its soldiers. What is less clear is how far up the chain you go.
Regardless, for those unfamiliar with the Uniform Code of Military Justice, let me assure you that is is fair, it is harsh, it is applied swiftly, and I am quite confident that several soldiers will go to prison for their actions. I am also confident that it will not be limited to the junior enlisted.
On top of this, I still hear people use the phrase "..during the war". What does that mean? No, there is no huge movement of troops and machines going into Baghdad. But the war is still going on. In fact, the fight has in a sense become harder, as the enemy has us where he wants us. Our soldiers are surrounded, and they are being forced to fight his kind of war. If you must refer to the specific period of time during the push to Baghdad, please the use the phrase "..during the invasion". To say "during the war" only lessens what the servicemembers with boots on the ground are doing.
So what does this all mean to me?
I am leaving my family, my home, my job to go fight in a war that is supported less and less everyday. My commander-in-chief is attacked every day by the media, the congress, Hollywood, most of whom have never given anything in the service of their country. I have been ashamed of the behavior of fellow soldiers, and there is evidence that the actions of the chain-of-command are little better. My enemy is using tactics that are nearly impossible to predict.
I feel that I have already entered the Valley of the Shadow of Death, for there is a cloud hanging over this nation. The only good thing about a valley is that in order for one to exist, there must be hills and mountains.
"I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills- from where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. ( Ps. 121: 1-2)"
This has been my state of mind over the last weeks, so I was looking forward to the EMS awards banquet this past Wednesday night. It was a chance to put the business of the Army behind me for awhile and see my coworkers again. It was quite the enjoyable evening with good food, good friends, good fellowship, and free babysitting. I chose to wear my Class A (suit and tie equivalent) uniform. I wanted to do that as a show of respect for those soldiers who weren't enjoying a night on the town. After the banquet my wife and I were not ready for the evening to be over, so we went to a local pub to enjoy a beer and some time alone. As we sat there, me with the uniform and symbols of 14 years of service to my country, I couldn't help noticing the crowd and wondering what impact the war, the lives lost, and the sacrifice made by our men and women in uniform had had on them. Did they care? Did they realize what millions of men and women had given up? What would they be willing to sacrifice? As I sat there I started to sink lower and lower, convinced that these people would continue their lives, blissfully unaware, and unconcerned. The Shadow that had been pushed back, if only for brief time, had returned on me full force. Our waitress came to check on us.
"Can I get you anything else?"
"No thank you. We'll just take the check please."
"Actually," she replied, " Your tab has been picked up by someone, and I'm not allowed to tell you who."
Have you ever noticed how a tiny candle can push back the darkness?