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May 12, 2009

On the Right Side: SEALs deserve all of our respect


Last week, a student brought in a book for me to read titled "Lone Survivor," a No. 1 best-seller about the personal story of a U.S. Navy SEAL and his experiences in the mountains of Afghanistan.

I literally couldn't put it down until I finished it. The review that follows will probably take two columns and then I can tie it all in with Janet "from another planet" Napolitano's Department of Homeland Security report that pointedly slanders our military forces and American conservatives in general.

It begins with the author, Marcus Luttrell, sadly making a trip to visit families of his fallen comrades to console them and tell of his fellow SEALS' bravery; they died while he and these men carried out a sensitive and dangerous mission in Afghanistan.

It then moves on to tell the reader what the requirements are to become a SEAL. It is impossible for you or me to comprehend the intensive training these young men go through. Many, although totally dedicated and fit, don't make it.

They don't go through all the pain and suffering of the program for monetary gain or personal recognition. They simply want to be the best of the best and serve their country to the best of their ability, willing to sacrifice their lives, if necessary, to keep you and me free and protected.

And it is not just the SEALS who are willing to go through hell to keep us safe. There are also the Green Berets, Rangers and Delta Forces. The bravery, heroism, selflessness and patriotism of these young Americans and other service members make you proud to know we have individuals like these defending the freedoms we take for granted.

Unfortunately, some Americans don't give back the respect our military deserves. Fortunately, those in the service see right through this and view with disdain the liberal politicians, the liberal press and the "I support the troops but not the war" crowd.

Our soldiers are becoming more and more aware of the growing problem that faces all our forces throughout the world.

As Lattrell puts it, "For me, it began in Iraq, the first murmurings from the liberal part of the U.S.A. that we were somehow in the wrong, brutal killers, bullying other countries; that we who put our lives on the line for our nation at the behest of our government should somehow be charged with murder for shooting our enemy. It has been an insidious progression, the criticisms of the Armed Forces from politicians and from the liberal media (and liberals in general) which know nothing of combat, nothing of our training and nothing of the mortal dangers we face out there on the front line. We constantly had in the back of our minds the ever-intrusive rules of engagement."

These rules of engagement are drawn up by some air-headed politician sitting safely in his Washington office "a very long way from the battlefield, where the slightest mistake can cost you your life."

SEALS, contrary to what John Kerry and others say, are not stupid individuals; and they, more than most Americans, read the stories coming from the American media.

Lattrell takes issue with "serving members of the armed forces who have been charged with murder in civilian courts for doing what they thought was their duty, attacking their enemy."

The rules are very straightforward. Don't open fire until being fired upon or have determined who the enemy is and have proof of his intentions. Sounds very noble, doesn't it? The author saw how these rules worked in his specific case, and it resulted in costing the lives "of three of the finest SEALS who have ever served." There is no way you can ever convince me, or them, that all those sign-waving, quote-spieling groups care one bit.

Lastly, for this column, let me tell you what additional fear these men have when they go into combat against the Taliban or al-Qaida.

"The fear of our own, the fear of what our own Navy judge advocate general might rule against us, the fear of the American media and their unfortunate effect on American politicians. We all harbor fears about untrained, half-educated journalists who only want a good story to justify their salaries and expense accounts. Don't think it is just me. We all detest them, partly for their lack of judgment, mostly because of their ignorance and toe-curling opportunism. When the media gets involved, in the United States, that's a war you have a damned good chance of losing, because the restrictions on us are immediately amplified, and that's sensationally good news for our enemy."

Truer words have never been spoken.

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Tom Sears is a professor of accounting at Hartwick College in Oneonta. He can be reached at SearsT@hartwick.edu. His column appears every other week.