Red Platoon: Clinton Romesha’s combat memoir will floor you. Buy it — now

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One of the rarest things on earth is the perfect blending between a warrior and a scholar. To meet such a man or to read his wisdom on the written page is truly a blessing, which is why I search … and search … and search for those moments. It is safe to say that Clinton Romesha, Medal of Honor recipient and author of Red Platoon, unequivocally belongs in that elite group. His memoir is exquisitely written, which feels somewhat odd to say given the subject matter.

For those who are unfamiliar with Mr. Romesha’s story — or, rather, the story of the men deployed to Combat Outpost (COP) Keating in Afghanistan on Oct. 3, 2009 — it is the stuff of legend. The former Staff Sergeant and his comrades were told to man an outpost that was in every way imaginable a death trap, and then when all their worst fears came true the majority of them found a way to survive.

Here is an excerpt that in many ways sums up what the book is about:

In 1958, a soldier named J. Glenn Gray wrote a book about soldiers in combat called The Warriors: Reflections on Men in Battle. Gray, who was drafted into the army as a private in May 1941, was discharged as a second lieutenant in October 1945 after having seen fighting in North Africa, Italy, France, and Germany. His book, which is both obscure and revered, touches on something that would later strike me as relevant to what was now unfolding at Keating as our counterassault came in danger of unraveling.

Gray wrote with elegance and precision about how the essence of combat basically boils down to an exchange of trust between two men — or two groups of men — each of whom are providing support by fire for the other. This simple agreement — you move while I shoot at the guys who are trying to kill you, then I will move while you shoot at the guys who are trying to kill me — depends on a willingness to place one’s life into the hands of someone else while in turn taking responsibility for that person’s life in your own hands. When this pact is executed well, it is not only extraordinarily effective but also tends to create a bond between men who enter into it that may stand as the most powerful connection they will ever experience to another human being.

There is, however, one thing that Gray doesn’t explore in his book, which is what can happen when one of the two parties who are supposed to be working in tandem fails — for whatever reason, legitimate or not — to keep his end of the deal. That was what appeared to be taking place right then with Hill’s machine-gun team.” — Clinton Romesha, Red Platoon (New York, Penguin Random House LLC, 2016), 243-244.

I cannot say enough good things about this book. It seems awkward to call a wartime memoir “flawless” (How does one give glowing reviews to true story where men died gruesome deaths without seeming inconsiderate or detached?), but that seems to be the best adjective to use.

Red Platoon is powerful, organized, thrilling, poignant, inspirational and educational all at the same time. It is intelligent, but relatable to a wide audience. It is honest, but respectful to all Americans involved — regardless of how they handled themselves on the battlefield.

In short, buy the book. It is awesome, and probably something I will come back to for many years to come.

RELATED: ‘Black Hawk Down’: Read the book because the movie can never do the men who died justice

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‘Black Hawk Down’: Read the book because the movie can never do the men who died justice

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If you ask most people what they think of Black Hawk Down, then the vast majority of the time the response you’ll get will probably be something along the lines of, “Good movie.” That is understandable, given that it was a blockbuster film in 2001 produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Ridley Scott.

If you are like me, then perhaps you’ve always had an itch regarding the movie and, more importantly, the event — the downing of two MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and the subsequent deaths of 18 American soldiers Oct. 3-4, 1993, in Mogadishu, Somalia.

Sure, it made for a night out at the theater, but perhaps you’ve felt that it was somehow insulting to only know the tale through its Bruckheimerization.

As regular readers of this blog know, I have been working on a book in my spare time that will eventually see the light of day (we’re at the artwork stage now, so hang tight!). There are parts of the novel that required knowledge of Task Force Ranger, and at some point I admitted to myself that it would be literary heresy to not read Mark Bowden’s masterpiece to assist with authenticity. It is safe to say that there probably is not a more comprehensive retelling of the ill-fated attempt to capture two top lieutenants of a Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid.

And if you do not think any of this is still relevant, then I suggest you start reading The New York Times. The paper reported Sunday in a piece titled In Somalia, U.S. Escalates a Shadow War:

The Obama administration has intensified a clandestine war in Somalia over the past year, using Special Operations troops, airstrikes, private contractors and African allies in an escalating campaign against Islamist militants in the anarchic Horn of Africa nation.

Hundreds of American troops now rotate through makeshift bases in Somalia, the largest military presence since the United States pulled out of the country after the “Black Hawk Down” battle in 1993. …

In March, an American airstrike killed more than 150 Shabab fighters at what military officials called a “graduation ceremony,” one of the single deadliest American airstrikes in any country in recent years. But an airstrike last month killed more than a dozen Somali government soldiers, who were American allies against the Shabab.

Outraged Somali officials said the Americans had been duped by clan rivals and fed bad intelligence, laying bare the complexities of waging a shadow war in Somalia. Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said the Pentagon was investigating the strike.

Who, exactly, are we fighting? Why are we there? Should we be there?

Mr. Bowden’s book provides many of the answers, which unfortunately raise more questions:

“In books and movies when a soldier shot a man for the first time he went through a moment of soul searching. Waddell didn’t give it a second thought. He just reacted. he thought the man was dead. He had just folded. Startled by Waddell’s shot, Nelson hadn’t seen the man drop. Waddell pointed to where he had fallen and the machine gunner stood up, lifted his big gun, and pumped a few more rounds into the man’s body to make sure. Then they both ran for better cover.

They found it behind a burned out-car. Peering out from underneath toward the north now, Nelson saw a Somali with a gun lying prone on the street between two kneeling women. The shooter had the barrel of this weapon between the women’s legs, and there were four children actually sitting on him. He was completely shielded in noncombatants, taking full cynical advantage of the Americans’ decency.

“Check it out, John,” he told Waddell, who scooted over for a look.

“What do you want to do?” Waddell asked.

“I can’t get that guy through those people.”

So Nelson threw a flashbang, and the group fled so fast the man left his gun in the dirt.” — Mark Bowden, Black Hawk Down (New York: Grove Press, 1999), 46.

If you want to know what it’s like to have an entire city honed in on killing you and those you hold dear, then I suggest reading Black Hawk Down. The book can be a bit arduous at times — it’s like trying to eat a steak the size of your head — but there is no escaping it because a.) Mr. Bowden leaves no stone unturned, and b.) the experience for the men on the ground was grueling.

Perhaps the best endorsement of the book that I can give is this: I did not know much about the author before picking up the book, and was surprised to find out he is not a veteran. He’s just a reporter who did a damn good job telling a story.

Black Hawk Down is a book about courage and fear, the nature of war, success and failure on the battlefield, and most importantly the experiences of the men who fought valiantly to save one another in situation that was so surreal that it seem like “a movie.”

 It was not a movie — it happened — which is why those who care about national defense issues should read it sooner rather than later.

Kudos to Mr. Bowden for writing a book that will be read by military men and women for generations to come.

Army race termite shows unauthorized ‘white privilege’ slide during diversity training

Medal of HonorA 637-page Pentagon training manual created by the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI) includes a section on “white privilege.” Officers are taught that “white males represent the haves as compared to the have-notes.” The manual was revealed in 2013 due to solid reporting by Fox’s Todd Starnes. It should come as no surprise then that the Army now has an infestation of race termites in its ranks.

USA Today reported Friday:

WASHINGTON — Army officials are investigating a diversity training briefing at Fort Gordon, Ga., in which a slide about “white privilege” was inappropriately shown to soldiers, according to an Army spokeswoman

The Equal Opportunity briefing took place Thursday for about 400 soldiers of the 67th Signal Battalion, Capt. Lindsay Roman, an Army spokeswoman, said Friday. The slide titled “The Luxury of Obliviousness” has bullet-point items about “white privilege.”

One item reads, “Race privilege gives whites little reason to pay a lot of attention to African Americans or to how white privilege affects them. ‘To be white in America means not having to think about it.'”

The presentation was not authorized, nor was it part of the standard slides shown to soldiers, Roman said.

“The unit (Equal Opportunity) instructor deviated from the authorized topic and content which was provided,” Roman said. “To prevent further instances, all unit instructors will receive additional training on the importance of following Army EO training requirements.”

First of all, following lawful orders is a “biggie” in the Army. I hope the EO instructor pays dearly for his or her offense, but I digress.

One of the beautiful things about the Army, which I sadly didn’t appreciate until after I left, was just devoid it was of all the inescapable political correctness found in the civilian world. Race is first stripped of all infantrymen in basic training — your are just a number. I was “Roster Number 144.” After graduation, race wasn’t an issue at my unit because no one really cares about race. They care about performance.

Do you follow orders? Can you be trusted to do what is right even when no one is looking? Are you loyal? Are you a “fat body” or are you a “PT stud”? Can you march 25 miles with 65 pounds on your back without lagging behind? None of those questions have anything to do with race. I can honestly say that I never had any race problems during my time in Charlie Company, 1/18 Infantry Battalion. It was only when I got out of the Army that I realized there was an entire industry of people dedicated to using race to divide the population.

The civilian world is full of people who make excuses — for everything. It’s filled with quitters. It’s filled with people who sit around feeling sorry for themselves instead of getting up off their butt and making the impossible possible. Yes, it’s also filled with millions of men and women with grit in their spit who work hard to and make the world a better place, but it can not be denied that the proportion of professional whiners in its ranks is astounding.

Mitt Romney was rightfully thumped in the polls for the delivery of his “47 percent” comment in 2012, but his core argument was sound: there is a cancerous mass of Americans who do not see work as a virtue and try to avoid it at all costs. One way to avoid work is to blame “white privilege” on any number of life’s unfortunate circumstances and then use it as a cudgel on those who dare to speak painful truths. It is an incredibly frightening realization that race termites have finished hollowing out American culture and found a way to burrow into a world that was previously out of their reach: the military.

Certain occupational specialties will always be resistant to politically correct psychobabble. The problem is that “race-baiter resistant” is not the same as “race-baiter proof.” Will the man to your right trust you when he’s been indoctrinated with Pentagon manuals and EO diversity training courses that say to “assume racism is everywhere, every day”? Answer: Not likely.

If the Army is smart, then they’ll put a boot up this EO instructor’s butt and make sure that “white privilege” slides are only used when they’re printed out and taped to pop-up targets.

Nicholas Irving’s ‘The Reaper’: Sniper’s book gives readers a raw look at the realities of war

Nicholas Irving FacebookMichael Moore’s now-infamous tweet, in which he called snipers “cowards” while moviegoers raved about Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper,” showed that he never read Chris Kyle’s book. Likewise, Mr. Moore’s ignorant tweet also demonstrated that he was unfamiliar with Nicholas Irving, 3rd Ranger Battalion’s deadliest sniper, with 33 confirmed kills. Mr. Irving’s autobiography, “The Reaper,” is available now, and it is certainly worth checking out for anyone who wants to have a better understanding of the profession.

What separates Mr. Irving’s autobiography from others of a similar vein is that he details quite graphically just how close he came to death on multiple occasions. Many of the other first-person accounts of America’s elite war fighters never really recreate the sense of fear that can sweep over them when death closes in. The man known as “The Reaper” doesn’t shy away from acknowledging that real deal was hovering just over his head in many battles. Contrary to what Michael Moore thinks, snipers often put themselves in great danger — and when they’re spotted there is often nowhere to hide.

It takes brains, guts, and grace under pressure to survive on the battlefield when the best laid plans fall to pieces, and Mr. Irving does an impressive job articulating that reality for readers who are unlikely to ever take one step on foreign soil.

One of the other charges of men like Bill Maher is that American war fighters tell their stories in ways that make them come across as “psychopath patriots.” This once again proves that modern American liberals either do not read books like “The Reaper” or they only read them to the extent that they can find quotes to take completely out of context for their own political gain.

Nicholas Irving is certainly not glorifying war when he says of his experience shortly after a brutal firefight:

“Finally, though, when we were waiting for transport via Chinooks, I drifted off, though I heard a loud crack go past my ear. I immediately jumped up, put on my rucksack and stood there looking around, surveying the scene. All I saw was the rest of the guys just sitting there as calm as could be. In my head, bullets were still flying; in reality they weren’t.” (Nicholas Irving, The Reaper. Saint Martin’s Press, 2015. Page 182)

There are certainly passages in “The Reaper” that, taken out of context by partisan hacks, could be used to frame the Mr. Irving as a “psychopath patriot.” The reality is something else entirely: American snipers train for years to perform at the highest level of excellence. They take pride in their work (i.e., saving the lives of their fellow brothers-in-arms and killing enemies when necessary), just as cops or FBI agents take pride in what they do for a living.

If there are disagreements about foreign policy, then late-night talk show hosts and partisan filmmakers should criticize elected officials — not the men on the front lines who are literally diving into streams of raw sewage to avoid being torn to shreds by Toyota Hilux-mounted DShK machine guns.

The charge that books like “American Sniper” or “The Reaper” serve as “propaganda” (as Hollywood actor Seth Rogen might say) is laughable. Mr. Irving highlights this quite nicely when he describes a brief meeting with a young soldier who just recently completed Ranger School:

Just before we got to the car, our CQ, our company quartermaster, a really good guy named Lyons, came up to me.

“Just wanted to make sure you have everything squared away,” he said, shaking my hand.

“Yeah. Thanks for your help with all the gear and stuff.”

“No problem, Irv.”

Behind him, I could see another Ranger standing there. He was an E4 and I could see that he was a cherry guy, freshly shaved, quiet, standing there at parade rest.

Lyons introduced us. “Sergeant,” he said, “I wanted to meet you. All due respect but I heard you killed a bunch of guys. You set some record. I want to break it. I want my deployment to be just like yours was.”

I couldn’t believe what he was saying. Nobody says that. Nobody says that in front of a man’s wife.

Jessica stood there starting at me, looking like she was trying to figure something out, remember a phone number or something that someone had asked her for, something from her past she wanted to bring back up.

I looked at the cherry new guy, held his gaze until he backed his eyes off me, and said, very quietly but very firmly, “No. You don’t.” (Nicholas Irving, The Reaper. Saint Martin’s Press, 2015. Page 306)

If you’re looking for a compelling autobiography to read, pick up “The Reaper,” by Nicholas Irving. It may not be turned into a blockbuster movie anytime soon, but it’s still worth your time.

Related: American Sniper: Chris Kyle, Guardian Angel who doesn’t know it
Related: ‘American Sniper’ success prompts Michael Moore to take pot shots at deceased hero Chris Kyle

Army’s diversity storm troopers fret over numbers of white men leading combat brigades

Army officers APYears ago I served as a mechanized infantryman in Charlie Co., 1/18 Infantry Battalion in Schweinfurt, Germany. Our company had just over 100 guys, and maybe a handful of them were black. I didn’t think about the black sergeants or our black First Lieutenant in terms of race — I just cared that they knew what the heck they were talking about and that they wouldn’t get me killed during a training exercise (like a certain white 1st Lt. almost did), or on a real deployment. Army sociologists, however, do not think like an infantryman.

USA Today reported Thursday:

The lack of black officers who lead infantry, armor and field artillery battalions and brigades — there are no black colonels at the brigade level this year — threatens the Army’s effectiveness, disconnects it from American society and deprives black officers of the principal route to top Army posts, according to officers and military sociologists. Fewer than 10% of the active-duty Army’s officers are black compared with 18% of its enlisted men, according to the Army.

The problem is most acute in its main combat units: infantry, armor and artillery. In 2014, there was not a single black colonel among those 25 brigades, the Army’s main fighting unit of about 4,000 soldiers. Brigades consist of three to four battalions of 800 to 1,000 soldiers led by lieutenant colonels. Just one of those 78 battalions is scheduled to be led by a black officer in 2015. …

“It certainly is a problem for several reasons,” says Col. Irving Smith, director of sociology at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Smith is also an African-American infantry officer who has served in Afghanistan. “First we are a public institution. And as a public institution we certainly have more of a responsibility to our nation than a private company to reflect it. In order to maintain their trust and confidence, the people of America need to know that the Army is not only effective but representative of them.”

The U.S. has an all-volunteer Army. If black people aren’t enlisting in military occupational specialties that might involve stepping on a landmine or getting shot at by snipers, then that in no way should take away from the trust the American people have in the institution.

For those who haven’t been following the exploits of the Army’s in-house race-termites, they’ve been chomping away for quite some time.

Fox News reported in Oct., 2013 on a Pentagon memo that encourages officers to “assume racism is everywhere, every day.”

A controversial 600-plus page manual used by the military to train its Equal Opportunity officers teaches that “healthy, white, heterosexual, Christian” men hold an unfair advantage over other races, and warns in great detail about a so-called “White Male Club.”

“Simply put, a healthy, white, heterosexual, Christian male receives many unearned advantages of social privilege, whereas a black, homosexual, atheist female in poor health receives many unearned disadvantages of social privilege,” reads a statement in the manual created by the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI).

These people are sick, and their worldview will result in a less effective fighting force.

Col. Smith puts his finger on the real problem. USA Today’s piece continues:

Parents, pastors and coaches of young black men and women considering the Army often don’t encourage them to join the combat specialties.

“Why would you go in the infantry?” Smith says of a common question. “Why would you want to run around in the woods and jump out of airplanes, things that have no connection to private businesses? Do transportation. Do logistics. That will provide you with transferable skills.”

I can give parents, pastors and coaches countless reasons why a young man would choose to go infantry. In fact, when I enlisted, the thought of doing anything other than infantry was somewhat strange to me. I briefly considered a job as a writer (shocker), but it didn’t sit well in my mind and I signed on for infantry. Regardless, there are plenty of skills an infantryman learns during his time in service that can make him an essential member of any business.

Does this applicant demonstrate grace under pressure? Check. Does he possess the ability to improvise? Check. Does he have a “can-do” attitude? Check. Does he work well in a team? Check. All those skills can be attained by working other jobs, but I would argue that the harder the pressure, the more beautiful the diamond. Military lawyers do not shine as brightly as the U.S. Army infantryman — unless you’re watching a Hollywood movie starring a young Tom Cruise. If you believe otherwise, then you’ll have to excuse me while I laugh.

Here’s another reason to go infantry for all the armchair sociologists out there: You would die to protect the rights that most Americans take for granted. You love your country and think that it is a force for good in the world, warts and all.

If the Army can’t find more young black men who subscribe to that worldview, then it isn’t the Army’s problem — it’s America’s problem. But instead of having an honest national discussion on race and culture, we balk and tell the Army to find a way to make the numbers look good for future USA Today articles.

The U.S. Army should not be used as a petri dish for the experiments of race warriors. Unfortunately, it seems as though the same ideological men and women who took over college campuses years ago have now burrowed into influential corners of the Pentagon.

Years ago, I would have been honored to follow the black men of my company into any battle. (Sgt. Farrow, if you’re out there, I’m thinking of you in particular.) If Army sociologists want more black officers leading combat units, then they should concentrate more on the race-baiters in the media who are busy warping minority minds at a young age, and less on the officers already in leadership positions.

If you don’t believe me, then maybe it’s because you can’t handle the truth.

It never ends: Thought police say Apache, Chinook helicopters just as bad as NFL’s Redskins

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You can not be surprised when sharks come after dropping chum in the water and you can not be surprised when the world’s perpetually-offended pundit class screeches louder after each time society acquiesces to its demands. Now that they know the federal government will use its limited time, money, and resources to go after NFL football teams (yes, that’s right, a sports organization), professional whiners see an opportunity to get rid of another great “injustice” — the Apache helicopter and every other military vehicle with a Native American name.

Simon Waxman writes in his Washington Post op-ed:

Even if the NFL and Redskins brass come to their senses and rename the team, a greater symbolic injustice would continue to afflict Indians — an injustice perpetuated not by a football club but by our federal government. …

In the United States today, the names Apache, Comanche, Chinook, Lakota, Cheyenne and Kiowa apply not only to Indian tribes but also to military helicopters. …

Why do we name our battles and weapons after people we have vanquished? For the same reason the Washington team is the Redskins and my hometown Red Sox go to Cleveland to play the Indians and to Atlanta to play the Braves: because the myth of the worthy native adversary is more palatable than the reality — the conquered tribes of this land were not rivals but victims, cheated and impossibly outgunned. …

If the native tribes did not stand a chance, this does not imply lack of resistance or of courage; regardless, it doesn’t much matter in this context. Whatever courage they had, the U.S. military is not heir to it. If honor matters to the members of our armed forces, they will agree.

It’s hard to know where to begin with such a convoluted mess. Were the Hopi and Pueblo Indians “victims” who were “cheated” and possibly “out-gunned” by the Apache and the Comanche? Were the Sioux the “victims” of the Cheyenne? What about the Indian tribes that fell victim to the Aztecs and the Incas? Say what you want about those European “cheaters,” but they didn’t offer their victims up for human sacrifice and eat them with a chimichurri sauce like the Aztecs. Or was it a molé sauce because they were in Mexico?

Why was it perfectly okay for the Indians to slaughter each other and take away land by force, but when Europeans came along and did the same thing it was somehow deemed “cheating”? Instead of looking at history as it really is — bloody — Mr. Waxman pretends that all Native Americans did was gather nuts and berries and live happily ever after until those evil Europeans came along and wrecked the good thing they had going. That story is so much more comforting than the tale of the temple priest who passes out from exhaustion after stabbing his human victims for hours on end, so Waxman goes with what makes him feel good at night.

What truly makes the piece classic is Mr. Waxman’s emotional appeal — if honor matters to the members of our armed forces they’ll agree with him. Obviously they don’t, so we must conclude that Mr. Waxman does not believe members of our armed forces have any honor. What can be more hilarious than a Noam Chomsky-loving academic telling soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that they don’t have honor? Not much.

TWT Apache
My piece for The Washington Times.

With that said, we must pause to note what he’s doing because it speaks to a telling difference between a conservative and a liberal. A conservative thinks Mr. Waxman is just incredibly naive while the liberal thinks that if you disagree with him you have no honor. You are a bad person. You are History’s giver of great symbolic injustices and must be personally and professionally destroyed.

I covered this in my post “How to deal with liberal trolls who hate our military and use gay slurs as personal attacks,” but I’ll say it again: the far left does not like U.S. military personnel. Whenever I say that critics complain, “You’re generalizing!”, to which I say, “That’s because it’s generally true.”

Whether it’s the liberal troll who calls himself “Doug’s Dick Vacuum” (whatever the heck that means) while sharing articles titled “Thanks, I won’t support the troops,” or guys like Mr. Waxman, the truth is self-evident — generally, leftists do not like our military men and women but they were forced to put on a charade after the whole “let’s spit on veterans” thing blew up in their faces after Vietnam. Mr. Waxman can’t spit on veterans these days without getting his teeth knocked out, but he can write Washington Post op-eds that charge the vast majority of the military with having no honor.

As the Redskins name controversy takes twists and turns in the months and years ahead, just remember that it will not end with the Washington Redskins. For the thought police, there is an infinite amount of ideas to control.

Drudge hit for my piece for The Washington Times.
Drudge hits are always nice. Here’s my piece for The Washington Times.

 

 

Fallujah falls to al Qaeda: Did American soldiers die in vain?

Fallujah. To anyone who closely followed the Iraq War, the name speaks volumes. No matter where you stand on U.S. foreign policy in a post 9/11 world, Fallujah holds all the stories you will ever need to make your case and defend the position. Now that the city has fallen into the hands of al Qaeda, the story becomes much sadder than it ever needed to be.

The Washington Post reports:

BEIRUT — A rejuvenated al-Qaeda-affiliated force asserted control over the western Iraqi city of Fallujah on Friday, raising its flag over government buildings and declaring an Islamic state in one of the most crucial areas that U.S. troops fought to pacify before withdrawing from Iraq two years ago.

The capture of Fallujah came amid an explosion of violence across the western desert province of Anbar in which local tribes, Iraqi security forces and al-Qaeda-affiliated militants have been fighting one another for days in a confusingly chaotic three-way war.

Elsewhere in the province, local tribal militias claimed they were gaining ground against the al-Qaeda militants who surged into urban areas from their desert strongholds this week after clashes erupted between local residents and the Iraqi security forces.

In Fallujah, where Marines fought the bloodiest battle of the Iraq war in 2004, the militants appeared to have the upper hand, underscoring the extent to which the Iraqi security forces have struggled to sustain the gains made by U.S. troops before they withdrew in December 2011.

The upheaval also affirmed the soaring capabilities of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the rebranded version of the al-Qaeda in Iraq organization that was formed a decade ago to confront U.S. troops and expanded into Syria last year while escalating its activities in Iraq. Roughly a third of the 4,486 U.S. troops killed in Iraq died in Anbar trying to defeat al-Qaeda in Iraq, nearly 100 of them in the November 2004 battle for control of Fallujah, the site of America’s bloodiest confrontation since the Vietnam War.

Events Friday suggested the fight may have been in vain.

“At the moment, there is no presence of the Iraqi state in Fallujah,” said a local journalist who asked not to be named because he fears for his safety. “The police and the army have abandoned the city, al-Qaeda has taken down all the Iraqi flags and burned them, and it has raised its own flag on all the buildings.”

Did U.S. Marines die in vain? It’s an excellent question. The tale is far from over.

In 2011, President Obama failed to secure a Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government and, in many ways, attempted to wish away his responsibilities regarding the aftermath of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Likewise, he disengaged from the world stage as Syria spun out of control. The result: tens-of-thousands of Syrian refugees (including foreign fighters linked with al Qaeda) have flooded into Iraq, overloading a government that could barely control its security situation to begin with. George W. Bush — for all his faults — stuck with “the surge” strategy despite enormous political pressure to raise the white flag of surrender. That opened the door for the al-Anbar Awakening and, when he left office, it appeared as though the U.S. had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

Whether politicians agreed or disagreed with the Iraq War, it is their solemn obligation to ensure that the soldiers who willingly sacrificed themselves for the cause did not do so in vain. If there are no true statesmen left in the U.S. Congress, then Americans should admit it and become like people around the world who are just happy if someone can find them on a map.

Before any hasty decisions are made, it is best to revisit Fallujah:

Fallujah is sometimes called “the city of mosques”; and insurgents made heavy use of them as command posts, arms depots, and defensive positions. Inside the Saad Abi Bin Waqas Mosque in central Fallujah, Marines found small arms, artillery shells, and parts of missile systems. Marines and soldiers engaged insurgents emplaced in mosques, but always with great caution and often using Iraqi troops to finish off assaults. It took Company B, 1/8, fighting on foot, 16 hours of house-to-house combat to capture the Muhammadia Mosque, during which time they were attacked with everything from rocket-propelled grenades to suicide bombers.

The people who are in charge of Fallujah now use mosques as armories, staging areas for attacks, and as bunkers when necessary. They plot and plan from inside sacred walls, in part because Western politicians tend to let them do so with impunity. To ignore that this is happening in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria across the Middle East and in Northern Africa is to invite disaster yet again on American shores.

In the Middle East, our adversaries think and act in terms of centuries. In the United States, the vast majority of politicians cannot think beyond the next election cycle.

In large swathes of the Middle East, words like ‘honor’ — to the family, to the tribe, and to the nation — are taken seriously. In large swathes of the United States, ‘honor’ is now an antiquated notion, and patriots are portrayed as backwoods hicks by the purveyors of popular culture.

In the Middle East, guys who spend years solely focused on memorizing the Koran are in a waiting game with a nation of ADD-suffering narcissists who think they’re geniuses because they’ve accumulated enough hours consuming science fiction masterworks that they can dazzle audiences with Star Wars improvisational skills. These days, Americans are only serious about being unserious — and it will come back to haunt us tenfold.

Fallujah is important because it highlights yet another momentous challenge before free nations, while exposing America’s intellectually underprepared and ill-equipped political class.

Fallujah is important because it demonstrates that while America’s entertainment-obsessed culture pretends as if it can exist within viral video YouTube bubbles, Xbox fantasy worlds and the studios of late night comics who never found a good man or a higher ideal that they couldn’t tear down, the reality is something starkly different.

At one time, vast oceans could be used to make a compelling case that an isolationist America was a safer America. As technology advances, collisions between cultures will speed up. What happens in the Middle East and Northern Africa matters here, and Americans who think that every four years is a good time for a debate on foreign policy are sorely mistaken. When top officials in Washington can make the case that obscure anti-Islam YouTube videos are the cause of terror attacks on U.S. consulates (whether you believe them or not), it’s a clear indicator that the paradigm has changed.

Did U.S. Marines die in vain in Fallujah? The answer is up to us. Political leaders and an informed public have a responsibility to make sure that the vision soldiers sacrificed their lives for — a safer world for future Americans — becomes a reality.

Pentagon declares war — on ‘healthy, white, heterosexual, Christian’ men

US Navy SEALs, SEAL Team One
Years ago I was a proud member of Charlie Company, 1/18 Infantry Battalion. I was a ‘healthy, white, heterosexual, Christian’ man. As it turns out, the Pentagon was at war with me from behind the scenes and I didn’t even know it. Due to some great reporting by Todd Starnes and a courageous officer who knows when enemies are trying to destroy the military from within, we find that race-baiters now have enough rank to warp the minds of future military leaders.

A controversial 600-plus page manual used by the military to train its Equal Opportunity officers teaches that “healthy, white, heterosexual, Christian” men hold an unfair advantage over other races, and warns in great detail about a so-called “White Male Club.”

“Simply put, a healthy, white, heterosexual, Christian male receives many unearned advantages of social privilege, whereas a black, homosexual, atheist female in poor health receives many unearned disadvantages of social privilege,” reads a statement in the manual created by the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI).

It gets worse. This manual, which some sick and twisted souls at the Pentagon approved, encourages officers to “assume racism is everywhere, every day.”

The subject of white privilege emerged in a 20-page section titled, “Power and Privilege.”

“Whites are the empowered group,” the manual declares. “White males represent the haves as compared to the have-nots.”

The military document advises personnel to “assume racism is everywhere, every day” and “notice code words for race.” They are also instructed to “understand and learn from the history of whiteness and racism.”

“Assume racism is everywhere, everyday,” read a statement in a section titled, ‘How to be a strong ‘white ally.'”

Why on God’s green earth are there military personnel who are taking a page out of playbook of race-baiters like Peggy McIntosh?

When I went into the field, conducted a live-fire exercise or was deployed as a young soldier, race never — never — came into consideration. When you know that the guy next to you would lay down his life to protect yours, color is meaningless. When you know in your heart that you would gladly do the same for him, the idea that “racism is everywhere” is repugnant.

I served with men of every ethnicity you can imagine, and all I cared about was whether or not they were a “good guy” at their core. Did he have my back when I needed it or not? That’s all that mattered.  It is quite obvious that whomever wrote this 600-page piece of garbage never went to the field, never was deployed — or, if so, they were the kind of person who finds a way to push paper instead of carry a rucksack.

When I exited the military and entered college, I was shocked by how obsessed with race my college professors were. Their minds were so diseased by intellectual rotgut that they said things like “the American dream is dead” and “all white people are subconsciously racist.” I came to detest everything my professors stood for, because it was obvious that their worldview only sowed anger, distrust, and envy where it didn’t need to exist. At times I often wanted to leave school and return to the military because it was the one place that I knew for sure didn’t have much patience for political correctness and excuses for failure. That appears to be changing…

If officers in the U.S. military are now being subjected to the psychological warfare that professors tried to use on me when I stepped on campus, it’s only a matter of time before things unravel. You can not successfully complete mission after mission if you are told to “assume racism is everywhere, every day.” If you have been told to look at the “battle buddy” next to you in your foxhole and believe that he is a racist, you will behave much differently than if you were allowed to realize on your own that he is and always will be your brother-in-arms.

I pray for the military, because it is obvious that the enemy within is much more dangerous than anything a foreign nation can dish out. I also pray because that’s just what healthy, white, heterosexual Christian men tend to do.

Our “power” doesn’t come from racism or exploitation — it comes from our faith in God, self-discipline, honesty, integrity, personal courage and a will to succeed. That is something that Pentagon paper-pushers who hang out with race-obsessed professors — instead of with real soldiers in the field — will never understand.

Tales from Basic Training: Roster Number 144 speaks

As regular readers know, I spent a few years in the late 90s as an infantryman in the U.S. Army. The experience in many ways molded me into the person I am today, and for that I will always be grateful.

To give you a better idea of what Basic Training was like in the 90’s, I’ve decided to post an excerpt from my memoirs. They were written when I was 21 years old. I am now 34. Basic Training has changed a lot since 1997, but hopefully you’ll find my experience educational and, perhaps, entertaining.

“Douglas Ernst” goes to Basic Training and becomes “Roster #144”:

The lights were turned off and Drill Sergeant Piper exited the room. A red hue poked out from underneath a few bunks. Writing letters was the last thing on my mind. My first official day of basic training, a dizzying blur of agitated authority figures armed with extremely durable vocal cords, had gone rather smoothly.

“Is this what my life will be like for the next three years?” I thought.

I sat and listened as an intricate symphony worked its way through the darkness and into my ears. Roster number 299 was already fast asleep and snoring in the exaggerated manner of a Saturday morning cartoon. If I listened hard enough I was able to make out young men crying into their pillow — probably some of them high-school football standouts. Long drawn-out sobs, short rhythmic sniffles, and a variety of other cries filled the air. There weren’t many, but they were definitely there. God only knows how many others were internally wrestling with their tear ducts. Somewhere shortly after thoughts of my older brother’s experience at West Point and how good a glass of Gatorade would have gone about then, I fell asleep.

“Will you shut the fuck up! Fucking crybabies! I don’t need to hear that shit now!” somebody yelled into the night, waking me up. The multiple “smoke sessions” we had during the night were pushing (literally) a few people to the breaking point. I laughed hard into my pillow. I wished I had the guts to say it first, but only for a fraction of a second — one of the Drill Sergeants had heard the noise.

“Damn it,” was my last thought before the onslaught began.

“What the fuck is going on in there? Oh, you wanna talk in my barracks? You must want some push-ups. I see. Just get down! Oh, you don’t want to say ‘at ease’? All right, I got a joke for that ass.”

The lights were flicked on and I didn’t have time for my eyes to adjust to the light before noticing everyone doing push-ups. I looked down at my watch. It was 4:00 a.m.

“Who gets up at 4:00 a.m.?” I thought. “And how the hell am I supposed to yell ‘at ease’ while I’m half asleep?” I didn’t understand, but I figured I better start doing push-ups like everyone else.

Drill Sergeant Piper paced the length of the room. When he wasn’t looking, some people decided to lie on their stomachs, a futile attempt to save energy. Whether or not one cheated mattered little. Before he was done with us, every ounce of energy would be converted into a puddle of sweat and left to evaporate on the barracks floor.

He slithered across the room like a king cobra set loose in a chicken coop. He darted between bunks and around corners, and before long the stomach-slackers were brought to justice. Their beds were torn apart and they were instructed to continue with their exercise in the middle of the aisle.

A flustered fat kid to my right lay sprawled out on the tile floor. He had given up on push-ups with the short-breathed exclamation, “Muscle … failure.” For a moment he caressed the cracks in the floor with his fingertips. A mantra of “Cold, cold floor. Cold, cold floor” dribbled off his lips. I briefly cracked a smile, and the muscle contractions I was experiencing weren’t due to oxygen starved muscles ready to burst at the seams, but laughter.

“You think this is funny, funny man?” said the Drill Sergeant. “That’s good, because I got a bag a jokes for that ass! Keep pushing!”

My smile returned to its original, more “drill-sergeant-friendly” grimace, and I resumed the exercise. At this time two more Drill Sergeants shot through the door and into the fray. Drill Sergeant Piper was free to turn his undivided attention toward the mysterious mantra-boy beneath him.

“What on God’s green Earth is going on here, Private? What’s your name?”

The heavy kid shook free of his altered state and looked up. A black strand of sewing thread and a piece of lint stuck to his moistened cheeks. Again, I turned my head and smiled. The lactic acid was stockpiling within the cell walls of my chest quickly, and the energy used to muster a smile was better suited someplace else. I bit my lip and focused on locking my arms. A full push-up was now definitely out of the question, but I’d be left alone as long as I gave the impression I was trying to hold myself up.

“Roster number 138. Private Duke,” said the soldier in a Southern draw.

“Where you from Private?” said the instructor. “You a Southern boy? Down with Dixie and shit?”

“North Carolina, Drill Sergeant.”

“Figures,” said drill Sergeant Piper. “All you Southerners are dumb as a box a rocks. I knew it.”

“Yes Drill Sergeant.”

“Shut the fuck up! You take the little yellow bus to school or something? I didn’t ask you to talk. Damn.”

I couldn’t take it. The “little yellow bus” remark sent me reeling. An insult on that level was completely unexpected. For four years I had waited for an outburst like that from one of my high school educators, but to no avail. There must be a finite number of times high school history teachers could deal with students still lacking our 16th president’s name from their memory bank before snapping. I had probably just missed the occasion.

Unfortunately, my sudden outburst of giggles soon had me gasping for breath at the hands of a disgruntled instructor. Drill Sergeant Piper left Private Duke and ordered him to commence with “the side straddle hop,” known to the rest of the civilized world as ‘jumping jacks,’ before directing his wrath in my direction.

“Funny man again?” hissed the Drill Sergeant. “Wrong answer, Private. That’s a ‘no-go.’ I gave you a chance and you blew it. And I never give second chances. Wrong motha-fucking answer. Now let’s see what I got in my bag of tricks. Roster number…”

“144, Drill Sergeant.”

“Roster number 144, when I say ‘front’ you will perform the push-up. When I say ‘back’ you will immediately flip over and begin knocking out sit-ups.”

“Yes Drill Sergeant.”

Drill sergeant Piper hurled my bed to the right, almost taking off roster number 145’s head in the process. I glanced at the nearly decapitated soldier for a brief second before experiencing what was, at the time, hell-on-earth.

“Front!”

I didn’t plant both my hands before a succession of orders spewed from Drill Sergeant Piper’s mouth.

“Back! Front! Back! Front! Back!”

I looked like an exotic insect performing a mating ritual for his camouflaged counter part—or a break-dancer on crack.

“Front! Back! Front! Back!”

I gasped for breath and caught a dizzying glance of my fellow soldiers. The scuff marks my combat boots were leaving behind as muscle failure set in were unavoidable. I should not have left them on after a previous smoke session. Within minutes I had somehow managed to trap myself within a circular shoe-polish enclosure. My comrades didn’t look happy. The amount of time we’d have to rid the floor of the black blemishes would be miniscule, and our inability to do so would more than likely end up in another feeding frenzy of Drill Sergeants.

“Front! Back! Front! Back! What’s wrong funny man? You’re slowing up! You ain’t laughing now! Laugh, funny man! Laugh!”

Needless to say, I never laughed. I didn’t cry either. I was probably just too tired. Crying would’ve involved stomach muscles to contract and expand with my sobs, which meant feeling the after-effects of our pre-dawn smoke session. Crying involved wiping away tears, which meant raising my arms. I had a hard enough time wiping my butt after a bowel movement, let alone having to deal with tears. My muscles were just too sore. Any amount of quiet time I gained wasn’t going to be spent wallowing in misery. It was going to be spent sleeping.

Late that night I was finally “ordered” to sleep. I contemplated the effects my hair-trigger laughing attacks had spawned earlier that morning. I decided that I’d have to work on my self-control if I were to have any chance of making it out of basic training alive. If the Drill Sergeants didn’t kill me for the constant schoolgirl tittering, my fellow soldiers would.

For a moment the thought struck me that Private Duke might seek retribution for mocking his “Cold, cold floor” mantra, and I tensed. Instead of peering through the darkness for my would-be attacker I drifted off into deep sleep filled with nightmares. I woke up the next day with the realization I wasn’t going to have sexual dreams involving Sports Illustrated swimsuit models for at a long, long, time.

Sometimes I think back on this period of time and wish I could go back there, if only for a few days. If I ever met Drill Sergeant Piper again there’s really only one thing I’d want to say to him: “Thanks.”

CUNY kids stalk Petraeus, fail to intimidate former Army Ranger and war hero

King Hippo Petraeus

Meditation can go a long way towards bringing inner peace, but if I was on the streets of New York today when a bunch of clueless King Hippo-resembling City University of New York kids screamed in David Petraeus’ face, I think I would have lost it. There’s something about fat bodied losers screaming expletives at a man who dedicated decades of service to his country that gets the blood boiling. Who knew?

The Washington Times reports:

A YouTube video shows Mr. Petraeus flanked by students shouting at him from inches away.

“Warmonger! … You are nothing but a disgusting pig! … You have blood all over you. I can smell you!” they say, along with the promise to hound him throughout the semester.

Business Insider reported that the war hero had a “great game face” and refused to acknowledge the group, which included a student with his belly inexplicably exposed.

Listen as belly boy gasps for breath between insults, unable to even walk a block with the former Army Ranger before lactic acid (or was that hate?) runs through his veins. Sad.

As a friend of mine pointed out, these students are so lost that they probably don’t even realize that it was President Obama who assigned Petraeus to his last two posts. Where were the CUNY anti-war kids when Mr. Obama was running for his second term? Missing in action. Or as another friend of mine said, they were probably focused on “Cheetos and bong hits.” Bingo.

Not since the infamous MoveOn.org ad that took “General Betray Us” to task have I seen such disgusting behavior aimed at a military man.

A newspaper ad from the anti-war group MoveOn.org that attacks Gen. David Petraeus has prompted a Republican outcry in Washington, D.C., as supporters of the surge strategy in Iraq change the subject from the progress in Iraq to the rhetoric used by war opponents.

“General Petraeus or General Betray Us?” reads the full-page ad (CLICK HERE), which cost the liberal group MoveOn.org approximately $65,000 and ran in section A of today’s New York Times.

Is it any wonder that Ann Kirschner, Dean of the Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, was quick to put out the following statement only hours after the story broke?

“Our university is a place where complex issues and points of view across the political and cultural spectrum are considered and debated in the hopes that we might offer solutions to the problems in our world. In order to advance reasoned debate on such issues, it is important that multiple points of view be heard.

Great universities strive to connect their students with remarkable leaders and thinkers so students can examine a variety of ideas, debate them, and form their own opinions. Those perspectives find expression through discussion in and out of the classroom.

We may disagree, but we must always do so in a spirit of mutual respect and understanding. While the college supports the articulation of all points of view on critical issues, it is essential that dialogue within the academic setting always be conducted civilly.”

Indeed, Ms. Kirschner. I’m assuming you wouldn’t like it if a bunch of slovenly imbeciles chased you down the sidewalk while sputtering nonsense in your face. That’s why it’s a little surprising that the statement you’ve just issued is so mealy mouthed. David Petraeus is hounded by a roving pack of CUNY goons on the way into work, and the best you can come up with is “it is important that multiple points of view be heard”? Give me a break.

Those who follow this blog regularly know that my political identity was shaped by academic bullies when I exited the military. I had to put up with lines like “only red neck Republican hicks join the military because they’re happy they get a free pair of boots.” I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same.

My suggestion for any New York City veterans — particularly Army Rangers — is to head on down to CUNY if the kids want to continue to get in David Petraeus’ face. Let’s see how tough they are when a few infantrymen enter the equation. My guess is that that their tough guy posturing won’t last long.