Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Two Fathers of Dead Sons

Politically correct wars cannot be won in today's world.

Our enemies hide behind civilians.

This isn't the first time.

The Japanese were the first.

The Viet Cong mastered it.

Now the chickenshit "fundamentalist Muslims" have taken it to a new level.

In the attempt to be the most partial to local situations in war, the United States has lost more men and women than any country in history.

Pete wrote me about the "Rules of Engagement".

If their group was fired upon by a sniper, they could shoot the sniper if he was behind his gun. But, if he ran, they couldn't shoot him. They had to chase him down and arrest him.


A sumbitch just shot one of your men, but now he's running down back alleys and you have to try to arrest him? You see him at 300 yards just before he jumps another wall, and you can't kill the MF?

Every branch of our military has a warriors creed. Here is the Army version.

I am an American Soldier.

I am a Warrior and a member of a team. I serve the people of the United States and live the Army Values.

I will always place the mission first.

I will never accept defeat.

I will never quit.

I will never leave a fallen comrade.

I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills. I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.

I am an expert and I am a professional.

I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.

I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.

I am an American Soldier.

Not a policeman. Not the Peace Corps.

Today, a former Marine, spoke out about this nonsense. He lost his son in Afghanistan. Read, weep, and understand.

Families outraged over engagement restrictions
By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Nov 3, 2009 20:31:39 EST
Enough is enough. Retired 1st Sgt. John Bernard has had it with the war in Afghanistan.

Enough of “shameful” and “suicidal” rules of engagement that leave U.S. troops vulnerable to ambushes. Enough of worrying more about harming Afghan civilians than American forces. Enough of politics.

Bernard was a scout sniper and platoon sergeant during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, so he’s familiar with the warrior’s creed. But as the father of Lance Cpl. Joshua Bernard, he has reached his limit.

The younger Bernard was killed Aug. 14 by a rocket-propelled grenade, an attack that became a national story after The Associated Press distributed a photograph of Bernard’s son’s last living moments in Dahaneh, Afghanistan. The father wrote his representatives in Congress several times during the weeks leading up to Joshua’s death, each time expressing apprehension about the more-restrictive guidelines put in place by the new commander of U.S. forces there, Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

It wasn’t until he was thrust into the spotlight by the AP photo and the controversy that surrounded it that anyone paid him any mind.

After that, things changed.

Bernard, of New Portland, Maine, was mentioned by name Sept. 15 during the Senate confirmation hearing of Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told Mullen that she had received a letter from Bernard before his son’s death that “expressed serious concerns about the rules of engagement” in Afghanistan. Those rules were altered in July by McChrystal in response to mounting civilian casualties.

The new guidelines call on U.S. forces to limit the use of heavy fire power — close-air support and long-range artillery — when ordinary Afghans may be at risk. A week before Mullen’s hearing, three Marines and a Navy corpsman were killed in an ambush after commanders allegedly refused their requests for fire support for fear it would kill women and children.

“I’m going to send you the letter so that you can read it,” Collins told Mullen, according to a congressional transcript. “I promised Mr. Bernard at [his] son’s funeral that I would do so. And I hope you and General McChrystal will look seriously at the concerns he raises ... about the rules of engagement.”

It wasn’t much, but it was a start, Bernard says now.

A fiery, blunt speaker, Bernard is just one among a growing group of vocal family members whose children were killed in fighting overseas. They support the cause and the troops still in harm’s way, these family members say, but they also believe U.S. forces are handcuffed by rules and tactics and vulnerable as a result, leaving them with little help when such ambushes occur. Some also question whether the U.S. should have launched a counter-insurgency strategy so quickly, rather than employing search-and-destroy missions that proved successful in Afghanistan during the early part of the decade.

“The rules of engagement are so convoluted, so open-ended, that it puts the people on the ground at risk no matter what they do,” said Bernard, who retired from the Corps in 2003. “It’s insane. You don’t let your guys languish there when these things happen. You err on the side of your guys, not the civilians.”

These are not anti-war families. They want the military to succeed in Afghanistan. They’re deeply proud of their fallen sons’ sacrifices.

Army, Marine and Afghan National Army troops experienced the effect of McChrystal’s tighter rules directly Sept. 8, when their small outpost in Ganjgal, in Kunar province near the Pakistan border, was blindsided by insurgents.

Three Marines and a corpsman died that day, and a soldier, 41-year-old Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Westbrook, who was shot through the mouth and neck, died Oct. 7 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. An embedded reporter with McClatchy News Service, Jonathan Landay, reported that “U.S. commanders, citing new rules to avoid civilian casualties, rejected repeated calls to unleash artillery rounds at attackers dug into the slopes and tree lines — despite being told repeatedly that they weren’t near the village.”

In retrospect, it should have been obvious an attack was imminent, family members believe. Two days before the ambush, the trainers came under RPG fire that killed an Afghan soldier and wounded Gunnery Sgt. Aaron Kenefick, 30, of Williamsville, N.Y., and Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class James Layton, 22, of Riverbank, Calif.

Both decided to stick to their mission, and they were quickly pressed back into action. The morning of the ambush, a group comprising 60 Afghan soldiers, 20 border police officers, and 13 Marine and Army trainers were tasked with searching the fortified village for weapons and meeting with the elders to discuss establishing police patrols, McClatchy reported.

The first shot rang out about 5:30 a.m., when the Marines and Afghan soldiers first reached the village. It took nearly two hours for helicopters to arrive and provide fire support, McClatchy reported.

By then, more than a dozen Afghan troops were dead, as were Kenefick, Layton, Gunnery Sgt. Edwin Johnson Jr., 31, of Columbus, Ga., and 1st Lt. Michael Johnson, 25, of Virginia Beach, Va.

Westbrook, out of Fort Riley, Kan., was gravely wounded, but his medical care was delayed because troops carrying him to a helicopter were forced to stop and take cover from insurgent fire several times, Landay reported. The journalist said a Marine lieutenant tossed him Westbrook’s M4 rifle in the heat of the battle, in case he needed it.

While the Pentagon has questioned the accuracy of Landay’s report, the families want answers. They’re angry at the leaders who had a hand in putting the policies in place, including President Barack Obama, McChrystal, Mullen, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and former Commandant Gen. James Jones, Obama’s national security adviser.

Susan Price, Kenefick’s mother, said she’s still reeling from her son’s death but has begun to question how the incident could have taken place.

“I’ve spoken to all the other parents, and we’re all interested in knowing why it took so long for the aid call to be filled,” she said. “My son died the way he would have wanted to die. I have no qualms about that. I just have questions about the aid call being rejected and why we were late. It can’t keep happening over and over again. It’s inexcusable.”

Brent Layton, whose son was shot and killed while providing medical attention to 1st Lt. Johnson, agreed.

“They’re out there with their handcuffs on; that’s the way I look at it,” he said. “I was in law enforcement, and it’s just like it is in the military: Your strength is in knowing that you have help coming if you need it. These boys asked for it repeatedly, and they didn’t get it.”

Brian Johnson, the lieutenant’s father, said he had strongly supported Barrack Obama’s run for the presidency, but now is disappointed not only by the adoption of the new rules of engagement, but also by his delay in making a decision on when and if additional troops will deploy to Afghanistan. A decision is expected sometime after an Afghan runoff election scheduled for Saturday; the leading opposition candidate withdrew from the race Sunday, though, and it is now unclear if the election will take place.

An initial round of voting Aug. 20 was characterized by low voter turnout, widespread fraud and intimidation tactics. First Lt. Johnson sent an e-mail to his twin brother Danny not long before he died, according to their father, expressing frustration that on election day his Marines were not allowed to open fire on possible insurgents unless they had “proof positive” the Afghans had ill intent.

“For [Obama] to say he needs to wait because he doesn’t know which government he’s going to be working with is complete bull— because we need a plan that can working regardless of which corrupt government goes in there,” Johnson’s dad said. “I think the president needs to act like a commander-in-chief instead of manager-in-chief and make up his damn mind. Putting this thing off like a management decision is not sitting well with me at all.”

The parents agree on another point, as well: They doubt they’ll ever receive full disclosure on what happened the day their sons died, or who made the decision to deny the requested support.

“We want the names,” Price said. “We want the ‘who, what, when, where, why and how.’ We all have the flag on our home. We all love the Marine Corps; we just want answers.”

Officials with the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, headed by McChrystal, did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Pentagon officials have said previously that there will be a full investigation of the incident.

Bernard, the former scout sniper and platoon sergeant, says he knows it wasn’t the new rules of engagement that directly contributed to his son’s death. Lance Cpl. Bernard, a rifleman with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, of Marine Corps Base Hawaii, was killed in the opening salvos of a battle in which extra fire support had not been requested.

However, the senior Bernard says there is more to it than that. The overall strategy U.S. forces are using in Afghanistan — especially working side-by-side with Afghan forces whose intentions aren’t clear — should be questioned, he said. The Afghan troops have not proven themselves, but rank-and-file troops have been ordered to rely on their help in battle, Bernard said.

An embedded journalist with the younger Bernard’s company reported after the battle that a young Afghan approached the Marines before the ambush, promising to show them where insurgents had fired on them previously. He begged the troops not to tell them how they knew, though, saying insurgents would kill him if they found out.

When the ambush began, the tipster could not be found, and the interpreter took cover, raising questions in Bernard’s mind about whether they led the Marines into a trap.

“Call me cynical if you want, but some rogue element led them there,” Bernard said. “The bottom line is both of those guys were gone. It’s just another indication of how this counter-insurgency strategy can’t work.”

In an Oct. 13 letter to Collins, Mullen addressed Bernard’s concerns by saying that “the new tactical directive did not change the ROE in Afghanistan, but rather provided more clarification and guidelines regarding the use of force.”

“We have refined our procedures in order to reduce civilian casualties, but at no time have the ROE been modified to place our troops at greater risk,” Mullen wrote. “Our troops still operate under a set of ROE that allows them to protect themselves against enemy actions in balance with protecting the Afghan populace.”

Bernard said the letter is “smoke and mirrors” and overlooks his consistent concern: A counter-insurgency strategy won’t work as long as Afghanistan is filled with warring tribes that have no empathy for the U.S. and its way of life. Counter-insurgency may have helped to pacify Iraq, he said, but the gains came mostly because the U.S. “inundated the country with troops” after a surge in the number of U.S. troops deployed there occurred in 2007.

“I already talked to Collins’ office and said, ‘Don’t let him spin this crap,’ ” Bernard said. “There’s no indication that Afghanistan has changed anywhere. Our mission should be very, very simple: Chase and kill the enemy.”

Collins’ office did not respond to several requests for follow-up comments.

Bernard said he is frustrated that Collins, one of his home state senators and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has handled his complaints as that of a single constituent, rather seeing him for what he is: representative of the hundreds of people he says have contacted him in recent weeks.

“You can’t turn this into one lone idiot in the backwoods of Maine mourning his son,” he said. “This is bigger than that.”

God bless the police in the United States. If it's this bad in war, I can only imagine their frustration in dealing with the killers here.

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