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The issue isn’t that four GIs were denied a death gratuity because of the government shutdown, the issue is that four GIs were killed in the first place because of government incompetence.
Last week, the photos of Marine Lance Cpl. Jeremiah Collins Jr. and soldiers 1st Lt. Jennifer Moreno, Sgt. Patrick Hawkins and Pfc. Cody Patterson were shown on television as victims of legislative branch gridlock. Actually, they were victims of executive branch stupidity.
This isn’t about politics, and one party against another, or which presidential candidate you voted for last November. It’s about an incompetent national leadership in which decisions of the Pentagon and White House kill American GIs on foreign shores.
Because that’s what happened here.
All we heard on the news last week was that these four Americans had been killed “supporting combat operations” in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
It’s more detailed than that, and the families of these service members – and all Americans – deserve to know the truth.
So here it is.
The men and woman in question were involved in a stealth raid on a home in which a “high-value target” was believed to be. The Americans closed on the building, catching all inside and all in the surrounding area unawares.
And here’s what should have happened next.
The Americans should have busted through the doors in a quick move to overcome the occupants and take them into custody. Hit them lightning fast, bring them into submission, accomplish the mission.
That’s how it’s been done for years.
But Washington has new rules.
The smart folks in DC have decided that kicking in doors and taking people by surprise is disrespectful and inappropriate and not going to win the hearts and minds of our Afghan friends.
So we don’t roll that way anymore.
Under new rules of engagement dictated from Washington, American forces involved in a raid must announce their presence before entering.
No more element of surprise.
No more kicking in the door.
No more shouting and gun pointing.
And that’s what killed the lieutenant, the sergeant, the lance corporal and the private first class.
In the incident in which they lost their lives, their special unit closed on and surrounded the house in question. Instead of running in and taking over, they were required from outside to announce their presence.
To shout over a bullhorn that they wanted to talk.
Which takes away the element of surprise and empowers your opponent. Instead of sweeping in and catching him unawares, you alert him, and give him time to respond.
Which is, again, a great way to kill Americans.
In this situation, the loudspeaker announced that there were American combatants outside, and that the occupants were to, one by one, exit the building.
First was a man.
He came out with his hands up. He lifted up his shirt, as ordered, and showed that he had no explosives or weapons.
Then other men and some children, all following, over long minutes, the same routine of slow exit and raising their shirts.
Finally, the last occupant of the house was the mother. She came out with her hands up. And following American rules of engagement meant to respect Muslim women, a female GI from a women’s engagement team spoke with her and brought her toward the Americans.
Where she detonated the suicide vest, killing the four people whose pictures you saw last week.
Again, those pictures were on the news because the government shutdown delayed the $100,000 death gratuity the United States promises its service members.
But those four pictures are reminders of something far worse.
In this situation, the enemy was apparently able to conceive and implement a plan to kill Americans after our bullhorn announcement. Mom got to suit up in the martyr vest while the men were going outside to meet the Americans.
Had the GIs been able to rush into the home, they probably would have caught everyone in their beds, and the people could have been quickly subdued, before anybody had a chance to put on the vest.
That’s what common sense and common practice dictates.
But this is a new kind of war.
A hamstrung war, in which – from the very start – we have seemed intent on using our own stupid rules to kill as many of our sons and daughters as humanly possible.
Police in America operate under more flexible rules of engagement. Drug houses in the United States are handled more aggressively than terrorist houses on the battlefield.
And so these four Americans died.
Yes, it is wrong that their payout was delayed. But it is more wrong that they were killed in the first place.
And they were killed by the stupidity of the White House and Pentagon.
And they weren’t the only ones.