Since writing the widely—published poem "Fightin' Words," I've had some emails and posted comments indicating the belief that I'm just another rightwing, media—hating nutcase with an ax to grind. Actually, I'm more of a moderately conservative nut case and I'm not against the media as a whole, just some segments. Nor am I against all combat reporters. Kevin Sites, a reporter of recent notoriety, has one of my poems, "The Sheepdogs," on his website, and I have seen a few comments on various blogs that the very presence of my poem, which is a tribute to our warrior class, is evidence that Kevin truly does support the troops.
I also have written an essay quoting a reporter embedded with the 101st Airborne during the invasion of Iraq that is quite respectful of his wisdom and insight.
But, yes, it is true: I do have an ax to grind, although it would give me greater satisfaction to metaphorically bury it in a few carefully coiffed talking heads. You see, what I'm wholeheartedly for is the troops, and not in the sense that most liberal Americans profess to be, in that they believe they are demonstrating their support of the troops by calling for them to be brought home and removed from harm's way. If that's what you call supporting the troops, then take it from an old trooper who's been there and done that, the troops don't see you as supportive at all. They see you as undermining their mission, which is to go in harm's way, with deliberate intent to prevail by force of arms.
What the troops perceive as support is hearing you cheering not jeering when they are seriously kicking the butts of jihadi terrorists. So, on behalf of the troops you support, it's with you peace—at—any—price liberals and your synergistic media pals that I have an ax to grind.
Warriors don't train endlessly and exhaustively to be withdrawn ignominiously from the battlefield before they can implement that training and achieve victory, simply because a well—intentioned but weak—willed segment of the citizenry can't abide the losses that the warriors themselves understand as necessary and sustainable. Not infrequently, troops are killed in the course of their rigorous training programs. Do you not suppose that if they are able to accept the deaths of comrades during training and continue to soldier on, that they probably suspect that they and others may well perish in the accomplishment of the mission for which they trained? Anyone who's ever served with such men knows the easy answer to that; and unlike certain weak—willed civilians, warriors do not shrink from this reality.
So yes, our troops do expect losses, and while they indeed mourn their dead, they accept those deaths and honor the fallen by completing the mission and killing those who killed their brothers in arms. And that includes making sure, very sure, absolutely certain that there is no question the bad guys are truly dead, totally, completely, 100 percent dead, on the highway to their hedonistic Hell, where multitudes of virgins await them, but, alas, no Viagra. They want to die for Allah? Then by all means, help them observe their faith, and if a bullet to the brain is needed to insure their fealty, so be it.
What warriors can't accept is the constant, backbiting hyper—criticism by puerile pundits who have no idea of what it is to be in the midst of an intense firefight. These elitist expositors, pontificating from their safe havens, have the temerity to admonish the troops for failing to adhere to the media's interpretation of the Geneva Accords and some silly, schoolboy sense of fair play they harbor. Guess what, girlie—men: in ground combat, there is little time to think about inapplicable treaties or the rules of fair play learned by gentlemen 'on the playing fields of Eton.' Fair play in war is a construct of fools who think of combat as sport, fools who have never faced uncontrolled mayhem in which their lives can be snatched from them in the first moment of weakness.
In a firefight what you desire most is fire superiority. You want to be throwing so much s**t at them they can't possibly throw any thing back without getting hit. You want it to be totally one—sided for your side. There isn't anything fair about it at all and there shouldn't be. Of course, it is seldom that easy, that one—sided, but you can damn well bet that's the way the troops and their commanders want it to be. You try your best to make the rules all work your way, so it's Chuck out of luck, not you. Tactical rules of engagement are fluid and ultimately determined by those immediately engaged and those in control of the battlefield, not some snide network know—it—all or some corrosive columnist at the New York Times.
My poem, "Fightin' Words" is about those in the media who report on war but have little understanding of the intensity and immediacy of ground combat. Hell, most of them never gain enough understanding of the military system to get the military ranks and unit structures reported correctly. Yet these blow—dried blowhards want to tell the professional warriors how to fight?
Look at it this way: if they were sports reporters covering a football game for their local newspaper or television station, they might second—guess some of their home team's play—calling, but they wouldn't be complaining if their team was getting away with holding on every play, or tripping, or face—masking, or committing other fouls against the opposing team, would they? Nope, they'd keep their mouths shut and hope the officials didn't call the infractions. Nor would they be demanding their team be pulled back into the locker room and forfeit the game just because of a few blown plays or a few serious injuries to some of the key players. Hell no, they'd be exhorting those players to stay out there and fight, to get tough, play hard, play rough and not come off that field with anything less than a victory.
Now that's supporting the team, right? So why can't these oh—so—smart liberals and the see—all, know—all, decide—all—for—you media, see it's the same way for the troops? No wonder they lose elections.
2d Bn, 327th Parachute Infantry Regiment
101st Airborne Division
Russ Vaughn is the Poet Laureate of The American Thinker.