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Giving Thanks for Our Warriors

From the Scrapbook

Dec 6, 2010, Vol. 16, No. 12
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What follows are excerpts from remarks by Marine Lt. Gen. John F. Kelly to the Semper Fi Society of St. Louis on November 13. Kelly’s son, Marine 1st Lt. Robert Michael Kelly, 29, had been killed in action four days earlier in Sangin, in southern Afghanistan, while leading his platoon on a combat patrol:

Giving Thanks for Our Warriors

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"Those with less of a sense of service to the nation never understand it when men and women of character step forward to look danger and adversity straight in the eye, refusing to blink, or give ground, even to their own deaths.  .  .  . No, they are not victims but are warriors, your warriors, and warriors are never victims regardless of how and where they fall. Death, or fear of death, has no power over them. Their paths are paved by sacrifice, sacrifices they gladly make .  .  . for you. .  .  . 

“Two years ago when I was the commander of all U.S. and Iraqi forces, in fact, the 22nd of April 2008, two Marine infantry battalions, 1/9 ‘The Walking Dead,’ and 2/8 were switching out in Ramadi. .  .  . Two Marines, Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter, 22 and 20 years old respectively, one from each battalion, were assuming the watch together at the entrance gate of an outpost that contained a makeshift barracks housing 50 Marines. .  .  . Yale was a dirt poor mixed-race kid from Virginia with a wife and daughter, and a mother and sister who lived with him and he supported as well. He did this on a yearly salary of less than $23,000. Haerter, on the other hand, was a middle-class white kid from Long Island. They were from two completely different worlds. .  .  . But they were Marines, combat Marines, forged in the same crucible of Marine training, and because of this bond they were brothers as close, or closer, than if they were born of the same woman.

“The mission orders they received from the sergeant squad leader I am sure went something like: ‘Okay you two clowns, stand this post and let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass. You clear?’ I am also sure Yale and Haerter then rolled their eyes and said in unison something like: ‘Yes, Sergeant,’ with just enough attitude that made the point without saying the words, ‘No kidding sweetheart, we know what we’re doing.’ They then relieved two other Marines on watch and took up their post at the entry control point of Joint Security Station Nasser, in the Sophia section of Ramadi, al Anbar, Iraq.

“A few minutes later a large blue truck turned down the alley way—perhaps 60-70 yards in length—and sped its way through the serpentine of concrete jersey walls. The truck stopped just short of where the two were posted and detonated, killing them both catastrophically. Twenty-four brick masonry houses were damaged or destroyed. A mosque 100 yards away collapsed. The truck’s engine came to rest two hundred yards away knocking most of a house down before it stopped. Our explosive experts reckoned the blast was made of 2,000 pounds of explosives. Two died, and because these two young infantrymen didn’t have it in their DNA to run from danger, they saved 150 of their Iraqi and American brothers-in-arms. .  .  . 

“What we didn’t know at the time, and only learned a couple of days later after I wrote a summary and submitted both Yale and Haerter for posthumous Navy Crosses, was that one of our security cameras, damaged initially in the blast, recorded some of the suicide attack. It happened exactly as [Iraqi policemen on the scene] had described it. It took exactly six seconds from when the truck entered the alley until it detonated.

“You can watch the last six seconds of their young lives. Putting myself in their heads I supposed it took about a second for the two Marines to separately come to the same conclusion about what was going on once the truck came into their view at the far end of the alley. Exactly no time to talk it over or call the sergeant to ask what they should do. Only enough time to take half an instant and think about what the sergeant told them to do only a few minutes before: ‘Let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.’ The two Marines had about five seconds left to live.

“It took maybe another two seconds for them to present their weapons, take aim, and open up. By this time the truck was halfway through the barriers and gaining speed the whole time. Here, the recording shows a number of Iraqi police, some of whom had fired their AKs, now scattering like the normal and rational men they were—some running right past the Marines. They had three seconds left to live.

“For about two seconds more, the recording shows the Marines’ weapons firing nonstop .  .  . the truck’s windshield exploding into shards of glass as their rounds take it apart and tore into the body of the son-of-a-bitch who is trying to get past them to kill their brothers—American and Iraqi—bedded down in the barracks, totally unaware of the fact that their lives at that moment depended entirely on two Marines standing their ground. If they had been aware, they would have known they were safe .  .  . because two Marines stood between them and a crazed suicide bomber. The recording shows the truck careening to a stop immediately in front of the two Marines. In all of the instantaneous violence Yale and Haerter never hesitated. By all reports and by the recording, they never stepped back. They never even started to step aside. They never even shifted their weight. With their feet spread shoulder-width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could work their weapons. They had only one second left to live.

“The truck explodes. The camera goes blank. Two young men go to their God. Six seconds. Not enough time to think about their families, their country, their flag, or about their lives or their deaths, but more than enough time for two very brave young men to do their duty .  .  . into eternity. That is the kind of people who are on watch all over the world tonight—for you.”

 

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Another Expensive Bridge to Nowhere

Connoisseurs of the New York Times will recall its breathless, voluminous coverage of the conception and birth of Air America, the left-wing alternative to conservative domination of talk radio. Curiously, the swift collapse and demise of Air America did not rate the same saturation coverage—in fact, other stories seem to have crowded that one altogether from its pages—but the episode did affirm the Times’s status as the herald of Good News for right-thinking people. Which is why The Scrapbook chuckled with delight the other day when we noticed another glimmer of progressive hope in the pages of the New York Times: “Effort to Set Up Liberal Counterweight to G.O.P. Groups Begins.”

As readers are no doubt aware, Republicans never prevail in elections on the basis of issues, or as winners of a contest between liberalism and conservatism. Republicans win because their candidates are actors who know how to hypnotize the electorate (Ronald Reagan), or because of race-baiting Willie Horton ads (George H. W. Bush), or because the governor of Florida conspired with the U.S. Supreme Court to steal an election (George W. Bush), or this year’s excuse—that malevolent, anonymous “outside” groups spent untold millions to paralyze Democratic voters. 

Well, help is on the way. “In what may prove a significant development for the 2012 elections,” writes reporter Michael Luo, 

David Brock, a prominent Democratic political operative, says he has amassed $4 million in pledges over the last few weeks and is moving quickly to hire a staff to set up what he hopes will become a permanent liberal counterweight over the airwaves to the Republican-leaning outside groups that spent so heavily on this year’s midterm elections. 

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a former Maryland lieutenant governor and the eldest of Robert F. Kennedy’s 11 children, has agreed to serve as the chairwoman of the group, which will be called American Bridge, lending to the still extremely nascent undertaking the weight of what remains one of the most significant families in American politics.

The Scrapbook cannot help but admire Mr. Luo’s deft deployment of the English language. American Bridge, it turns out, is nothing more than a new, ever-so-slightly-dodgy fundraising vehicle for the ever-so-slightly-dodgy David Brock’s Media Matters organization. It even features the same deep-pocket leftists—the ubiquitous George Soros, Taco Bell heir Rob McKay, and Elizabeth Hurley’s baby daddy, Hollywood producer Steve Bing—who regularly shower Brock with cash and may now contribute “openly” to American Bridge or secretly to something called the Media Matters Action Network, a 501(c)(4) lobby. 

But of course, that is not quite the way the Times sees it. This standard political fundraising sleight of hand is depicted in its pages as something that “may prove a significant development for the 2012 elections” (wanna bet?) conceived by a “respected political player” (David Brock?) who is “moving quickly” to hire staff whose figurehead is a member of “one of the most significant families in American politics.” 

The Scrapbook need hardly point out that Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, despite the significance of her DNA, managed to lose her race for governor of one of America’s bluest states, and that the booster rhetoric of this particular Times story is indistinguishable from its coverage of Air America. But we are not complaining! So long as the Times and its progressive readers continue to believe that only money separates Democrats from success at the ballot box, and that David Brock is anything other than a well-financed Pied Piper, we look forward to the continuing saga of Air America—or, rather, American Bridge.


 

Sentences We Didn’t Finish

"No one can completely understand the motivations of the North Koreans, but it is entirely possible that their recent revelation of their uranium enrichment centrifuges and Pyongyang’s shelling of a South Korean island Tuesday are designed to remind the world that they deserve respect .  .  . ” (Jimmy Carter, the Washington Post, November 24, 2010).

 

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