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'Courageous' Executive Decisions

From the comfort and safety of their homes, our presidents show us how courageous they are by sending young men into harm's way.

I heard a lot of people praise President George W. Bush for “getting” Saddam Hussein.  Hussein was a bad guy; Bush was our President when Hussein was captured.  There’s no doubt about it, no matter who we are, no matter what side of the aisle we’re on, we should all admit, the world is a much better place without Saddam Hussein in charge of Iraq. 

I heard a lot of people praise President Barack Obama for “getting” Osama bin Laden. bin Laden was a bad guy; Obama was our President when bin Laden was killed.  There’s no doubt about it, no matter who we are, no matter what side of the aisle we’re on, we should all admit, the world is a much better place without Osama bin Laden in charge of al Qaeda. 

I heard a lot of people say they were “courageous decisions” the Presidents made.  It takes “courage” and a lot of “guts” to send our military into harm’s way.  In that case, we’ve had a long line of very, very courageous Presidents and Congressmen in our country’s history.  We’ve had no shortage of leaders with the “courage” and “guts” to send other men to fight.  If giving an order from the comfort and safety of the White House, or the Capital, or the Pentagon is courageous, what virtue do the people that actually do the fighting and the dying have? 

Not for nothin', but President Bush didn't get Hussein, President Obama didn't get Osama. There were intelligence types working long hours over many years and months to find them; they all deserve a lot of credit, but how about the actual commandos? Men risking their lives, they’re the people that really "got" them.  There are men that fly into danger on speeding aircraft, under the radar very close to the ground with no lights, rush toward gun fire, enter buildings in enemy territory with no idea of what’s on the other side of each door and kill or capture our enemies; they’re the people that deserve every bit of the credit. Just the training to get to their level of professionalism is more than enough to break the vast majority of us (easily much more than 99% of us). Just training for missions like these is enough to make most of us lose control of our bowels.  The work, the long hours, no time off, not enough sleep and living in conditions that most of us can’t imagine, and that’s all before they get to go on a mission and get shot at.

Presidents Bush and Obama were very, very, very safe when they “got” the bad guys.  In fact, the only thing they really “got” was the good news over the telephone. 

The Presidents might have been playing rounds of golf or attending fund raising events, they might have been sitting at their desks, or on a couch, or on Air Force One, or on a couch on Air Force One, or in the Rose Garden, or in a comfortable bed, they might have been vacationing in Texas or Hawaii, all the while with Secret Service Protection, while the commandos were training and preparing for their missions.

The Presidents might (might) have 'risked' their political careers and legacies, but the people that were really risking were the men with boots laced up, faces blackened and weapons in their hands. The Presidents might have been dodging questions from reporters while the men that were sent on these missions were dodging bullets.  Who was really risking what?  Who would you describe as “courageous”? 

Since when did we start giving the people in Washington credit for what the young people in our military accomplish? That really seems relatively new.  Presidents live in incredible luxury, they wear expensive suits and shoes, they’re pampered by many private servants, secretaries and chefs, they sit in their climate controlled offices, they have their own army of body guards keeping them safe, so what are they risking?  Are they putting their popularity on the line?  Do they stand to lose an election if things don’t go well? 

Did FDR liberate Europe, or was it soldiers, sailors and airmen? Who was struggling up the sand on Omaha Beach getting blown to pieces? Was it the President? Who defeated the Japanese at great cost on Guadalcanal, Tarawa and Iwo Jima? Was it the President or the Marine Corps? Who flew the missions over Germany and suffered more than 30% casualties on those missions? Was it the President or the Eighth Air Force?  Did the President liberate Hue during the 1968 Tet offensive? Was it President Johnson or the 1st Cavalry Division that fought the NVA at the Ia Drang Valley? Who captured Baghdad?  Who repelled Picket’s Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg? Who hung on against the odds at Valley Forge, or Bastogne, or Khe Sanh? Who charged up San Juan Hill?       

When the U.S. and our allies invaded Nazi occupied France on D-Day, General Eisenhower had two speeches prepared, one for defeat, one for victory. In the 'fail' speech (written in advance), he praised the soldiers but blamed himself; in his ‘victory' speech, he just praised the soldiers. He didn't give credit or blame to the president, he never even mentioned the president. In victory, the credit belonged to the soldiers; in defeat, he took the blame. I’m pretty sure that's what leadership looks like. 

When presidents and political leaders like us to think that they’re the ones doing the dirty work, when we hear them use the word “I” to describe successful military operations, when they pose with a flight suit in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner, we need to remember who is really getting the jobs done. The commandos that dragged Hussein out of his hole, or flew into Pakistan to kill bin Laden, those are some of the people that deserve to say “I”, but they can’t. Unless there’s a horrible leak to the press, we’ll never know their names.  That doesn’t mean we can’t remember that they exist.  They’re somewhere out there right now, not saying “I got him”. 

While the presidents and people in Washington are rehearsing and reading their speeches, straightening their ties, having makeup applied to their faces, while they’re sipping cold drinks on the golf course, eating seven course meals with their campaign donors, partying with George Clooney, joking with Jay Leno or getting three hundred dollar haircuts, while they’re living in a luxurious fantasy world, the very serious men that go on these risky missions are somewhere else, underpaid, cold and exhausted, either on a mission or training for a mission. They’re somewhere reading the news stories, about the president’s courage.  

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Eileen Coles May 22, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Don't forget that BOTH Hussein and bin Laden were US allies in the first place. Under Bush's father, the CIA all but invented Osama bin Laden. The origins of Al Qaeda, "The database", are a group of mujhadeen led by bin Laden out of Afghanistan in the late 1980s being secretly supported to revolt against the Soviet Union. The US also supported Hussein by selling him weapons and military equipment. The joke by the cognoscenti who actually served in Desert Storm was, "Of course we know Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction! We have the receipts!" The US has a long, formulaic history of looking the other way when CIA-backed dictators rise to power while they buy from us, smashing them down if they fail to turn into our puppets. Noriega is another example of this. Bush is also not to be let off the hook for his own questionable military service history. Like many other "fortunate sons", he managed to land "skate" (easy) duty as a reserve USAF pilot during Vietnam. Apparently not content with that, he contrived a way not to even bother showing up for a year. When the rest of us go AWOL during wartime, that's called DESERTION and is punishable by DEATH. Much like "admiral's son" McCain's incompetence which led to a fire on the USS Forrestal that killed 142 of his fellow crewmen, this year-long absence from duty was expertly covered up when the time came for elections. The recently reprinted book "Fortunate Son" by J. H. Hatfield should open an eye or two.
Eileen Coles May 22, 2012 at 02:51 PM
It should also not be lost on anyone that most, if not all of the SEAL team that supposedly "got" Osama bin Laden and conveniently disposed of the body at sea before it could be checked for authenticity died in a helicopter accident shortly afterward. It is common knowledge among the military and intelligence professionals who support a new, independent investigation into 9/11 that Osama bin Laden actually died in late 2001. It certainly has been proven numerous times that the person in the videos released after his death is not even close to being the same man.
Eileen Coles May 22, 2012 at 03:12 PM
The problem is that under OPSEC those of us who serve are asked to do questionable things, and then if there is any risk of the truth getting out to the American public there are convenient "suicides" or "accidents". As Smedley Butler said, war is a racket! This is one of the reasons Bradley Manning should be considered a hero for exposing war crimes against civilians committed by the US Army. Without proper prosecution against individual war criminals we place our nation at constant risk for retaliation and terrorism. When the US military acts irresponsibly and hides it from the American public, we as a nation will surely reap what we sow. It should be kept in mind that these acts of irresponsibility and corruption are also frequently kept secret from our elected officials. Federal whistleblowers like Valerie Plame Wilson (CIA), Sibel Edmonds (FBI), Colleen Rowley (FBI), Ray McGovern (CIA) and Colonel Ann Wright (US Army/State Department) are marginalized and punished. The communications disconnect between the 2% of our citizenry who serve in the US military and the rest of the citizenry has never been more immense or unreal. If we don't do our own dirty laundry, America, sooner or later someone else WILL surely do it for us!
Jill Anne Sackler May 25, 2012 at 12:18 PM
Beautifully written and well-thought out. I could easily picture both sides.
Dave Nieri May 30, 2012 at 01:33 PM
Kudos John, for saying it so well. But will the media ever get the message? It is the media that paints our politicians as 'courageous' and a gullible public that laps it up. For the most part, the 'leaders' in Washington don't even have the 'courage' to allow their sons and daughters to serve in combat - but, as in spending other people's money, they have the skill, the will and the 'courage' to commit other people's sons and daughters to the front lines to defend their questionable policies.

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