Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Fight to win or get out

This March 9, 2007, family photo provided by retired Marine 1st Sgt. John Bernard, right, shows him with his wife Sharon, left, and late son, Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua Bernard, at Joshua's graduation from Marine boot camp, Parris Island, S.C. (Photo courtesy of John Bernard via The Associated Press)

Families outraged over engagement restrictions

By Dan Lamothe - Marine Corps Times Staff Writer
Posted : Monday Nov 2, 2009 9:38:12 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.

The Ganjgal ambush

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."

(To continue reading this article, please go to the link immediately below:)



The Fabulous Diva said...

Dear Fram,

I support this Father's comments.

When we were at war during WWII, the enemy rained death upon civilians and military alike, they did the same in Korea.

Our weapons back then did not have the sofistication as they do today, and even now the horror of the bombing of Dresden is something that many civilized people want to avoid at all costs.

Terrorists do not care.

The use of the Atomic Bomb on the cities in Japan was done with great regret, many military personnel who were involved with helping the survivors were morally affected.

Terrorists do not care--Look at what is happening in Iran.

When we were attacked on Sept 11, 2001, it was on civilian targets, alright some people would say the Pentagon is a military target, but civilians work there too.

Those Terrorists did not care. Remember the images of "jubilations" in the streets of Iraq and Iran that the "great satan" was attacked.

One cannot not fight back or defend themselves with hands tied.

And this enemy does not care about civilian targets, they do not care about the deaths of women and children when they do their sucide bombings, Remember that Building filled with School Children that was destroyed by terrorists not in the middle east but in eastern Europe.

Of course they can say that was in retaliation for the deaths of innocent muslims done at the hands of "military" but as the old saying goes two wrongs do not make a right.

They can say it's jusifiable for their cause, our problem is we are speaking too softly and have forgotten the big stick.

Some of these attacks had our personnel trapped in valleys while the enemy was attacking from high ground---excuse me but I thought high ground was easier to defend.

Who set up those camps or locations for our operations?

Our troops do their best to avoid harming civilians, they do their best to avoid being "animals".

But terroists don't.

And we have our home grown terrorists as well, we don't have to look too far back to remember that.

I'm sorry, I'm speaking off the cuff right now and with passion.

I know that in the long run War is not good, but until other people, other nations become equality peaceful and want to work in harmony with the world, we do not have at this time much choice.

I might be in the minority here and if I've offened anyone, I have to state that it is my own opinion and we are all entitled to opinions even if they are not popular.

But then there are times I'm not in for a populairity(sp) contest.

I will read the rest of the article when I have the chance.

Thank you for posting it Fram.

Fram Actual said...

Diva, a few days in the hospital and several days at home have not changed you a bit. You still speak your mind. Me, too.

When I look at the photograph of that baby-faced Marine and think of him forever dead because of political expediency dictated by a man who has never worn a military uniform in service of his country, I am appalled and sickened. This order to withhold air and artillery support was issued by the military commander in Afghanistan, true, but anyone with a whisper of intelligence knows the only place such an irresponsible and ludicrous policy could have originated was inside the White House in Washington, D.C.

I am proud to the point of arrogance about my Marine Corps time, but, as I wrote to a friend a day or two ago: "I am sick of politicians deciding how wars should be fought. Either fight to win, or stay at home. Politicians always betray soldiers in the end. If I knew when I was young what I know now, I never would have put on a uniform and fought for this country."

Thank you, very much, for the visit and the comment. Sometimes I look for comments; sometimes I do not. On this subject, I was curious to learn if there would be any reaction.

The Fabulous Diva said...

Dear Fram,

Thank you for your thoughts, both here and at my blog.

My Father when he was very young before he met and married Mother, served in the Army.

He really didn't see much in the way of combat, but he did talk to and worked with those who did and it gave him a healthy respect for those who serve our country, even though in my younger years we didn't see eye to eye on things, he did give me a good understanding about things. Including War.

I too am "fed up" with politicians who have never served in protecting our country or who were cowardly in serving (remember a certain presidental canidate?)

Many people say we should always try diplomacy, which maybe fine with some "civilized" countries, but when you are dealing with those that have ---I'm sorry there is no polite word I can use for "Nut Cases and Bullys"--- then diplomacy is useless.

But we should also be careful about certain countries that are trying to "defang" us by using our economic problem. There is no way I can describe this within this space. But I think you are aware of what country (ies) I'm referring to.

In reference to the typewriter, my friend Lillian has what is called a "reporters lap top" portable typewriter. It has a bullet hole in its side, the bullet is still in it, and it still works. It went through the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930's.

I told my Friend when she doesn't want it, I'll take it. Its got a history.

And yes, I haven't lost my bite, but I do keep my teeth well hidden.

Kisses and Be Safe.

Fram Actual said...

Another thought, Diva.

Diplomacy is a strange word. During the Richard Nixon Administration, diplomacy was Henry Kissinger wandering the globe with a check book and many pens. This was not the first use of such a technique, nor has it been the last.

Many "diplomatic victories" are obtained with a bit more subtlety, such as favorable trade agreements. Sometimes, they come about as the result of covert aid to the enemies of enemies, such as arming the Taliban in Afghanistan during the 1980s when they were fighting the invading army of the Soviet Union.

When these forms of "diplomacy" do not work, that is when it is time to bring out the "big stick" of Theodore Roosevelt. The U.S., however, seems to have misplaced its "big stick" sometime since the end of World War II and the emergence of the impudent United Nations.

Thank you, again, for visiting and writing. Actually, I thought I would be out of the country around October 1 and not here to be a reader/writer at all, but my journey was postponed to mid-November. Now, it appears the trip will be postponed again, to around January 1, so I am hoping you will be more active with your own posts since I will be around to enjoy them.

The Fabulous Diva said...

Dear Fram,

I had forgotten the Nixon/Kissinger style of "diplomacy", how usless it was.

Thank you for reminding me.

And "impudent United Nations" more like "impotent" with the despot nations and to have the effrontery (impudent)to bully us. I had an aquaintance that worked there for a few years, she got out. She said she was tired of all that "talk that solved nothing".

She said that Robin Williams suggestions made better sense than what the United Nations does.

Oh, I am so tired even I'm not making sense to myself.

So you won't be traveling until January, in a way that might be better, miss all the insanity of holiday travel---"Trains, Planes and Automobiles".

But you have given me a bit of a challenge, to Blog more. I hope I can do that.

As they say "Watch this Space", well "Blog" really.

Be safe, stay warm.


Fram Actual said...

I am beginning to become accustomed to your daily company, Diva. Better watch out.

Your choice of words regarding the United Nations probably is more accurate than mine. I was thinking in terms of how the U.S. pays the bulk of operational costs for the U.N., but how little respect and cooperation it receives.

The U.N. is like the rebellious child demanding a raise in his allowance, while refusing to do his homework and throwing a temper tantrum. But, yes, impotent is a perfect word to use when describing the U.N. in terms of actual accomplishments.

I might still be out of the country in a couple of weeks. I should have clarified that I meant out of the country and in Europe. The European segment has been delayed for the second or third time. I have lost count.

Now, I am looking for a sunny beach to hide out during December, and Mexico might end up being my destination, which translates into being out of the country sooner rather than later -- but, unfortunately, not to Europe. Read my post for Saturday.

By all means, blog more, and stay out of mischief, young lady.

Something special ....