June 23, 2005
A half baked apology, a few tears� and he's good to go?By Dave St. John
An open letter to Congress
Now, let me get this straight. Here is a senator, who by any standard has denigrated the reputation of our nation, disparaged those whose job it is to defend his right to speak those words, refused to apologize and then did apologize in one of the most despicable displays of wordsmithing I have recently witnessed and we, the American public, are asked to put it all behind us and move on? Is that roughly how it went down?
Do you in Congress really think that this is the end of it? Do any of you have a modicum of either self respect or political courage that you would care to publicly demonstrate after this sorry event? Have you become so selfish and protective of your own political careers that only a few of you will step forward and call this performance what it really is? That is, a betrayal, a kick in the teeth to every man or woman who proudly wore or wears today their country's military uniform and willingly serves in the many dangerous places you have sent them.
Have you in Washington developed your own code of ethics which embraces the notion that all you have to do is offer a tearful apology and, suddenly, all guilt and accountability are instantly swept away? Are you above the rules, practices and just plain common decency that you expect from your constituents? If so, when did all this happen? Have you secretly defined an apology as the maximum penalty you or any of your colleagues should be asked to pay as a result of doing or saying something blatantly wrong—headed?
Funny, but when I was growing up as a kid and did something blatantly wrong—headed, my apology was but the first step down a path that almost always ended in a pretty memorable butt whuppin'. Obviously, times have changed.
This is not the end of it. This senator's words are still reverberating around the world in every murky terrorist stronghold that spawns these thugs and gives them life and purpose. No doubt, they are being played over and over again for would—be suicide bombers fortifying their belief that theirs is both a just and winnable cause. And many of you say that it is time to move on and put this all behind us. Look me in the eye, knee to knee and tell me that!
Does this renegade senator get to keep his job? Should you keep yours? Right now, I suspect, that more and more of us who voted for you are concluding that those whom you send to war have decidedly more backbone than those of you who send them there. What happened here?
What do I say to my grandson who asks what it was like to be a Marine officer? Do I tell him that the opportunity to lead Marines is an honor, privilege and challenge beyond anything else he will ever experience, but by the way... don't trust those who send you to bad places? They will cover their assets and hang you out to dry whenever it comes down to you or them.
Is that the message we now need to tell those who would come behind us and stand ready to serve this great nation?
The Marine Corps teaches its members that there are several essential traits in effective leaders. They are integrity, knowledge, courage, decisiveness, dependability, initiative, tact and justice. Would any of you care to have your constituents complete a quick internet survey ranking you and your performance against these traits so close to the mid term elections? The men and women you send into combat are force ranked on these traits every day when they strap on web gear and go off into harm's way in defense of our country and her values. Perhaps you have forgotten this.
Interestingly, on the heels of this senator's insipid attempt at remorse is the announcement that 170 of his party's colleagues are calling for a full independent investigation of the 'conditions' at Guantanamo Bay. Before we assign seats in the hearing room for this one, I as a long suffering tax payer, have a request.
Would someone please conduct the following analysis and publish the findings before convening this investigative charade? Please calculate and publish the costs to the American taxpayers for all the housing, healthcare, food, spiritual requirements, upgrades and modifications to buildings, both accomplished and approved as well as the average weight gain by detainees held there plus a brief statement regarding the overall condition of each thug's health. Please include in these numbers the projected ongoing costs of any project or program we have initiated that has made the standard of living for these thugs better than what their traditional life style would have been had we not captured them as they tried to kill us. Next, calculate the monthly cost per detainee that we as taxpayers must foot. Now, by way of comparison, do the same thing for the soldiers guarding these miscreants. I am interested in seeing the relationship between the monthly cost of maintaining conditions for those sworn to kill us versus the cost of maintaining and supporting those who have sworn to defend us.
Once we know this, perhaps the need for an independent investigation may seem less important and more politically risky. We all know how you will react to the idea of taking a political risk, don't we?
Take a hard look at America, Congress persons. We are not fools. We are not children. And for those of us who have seen and tasted the rotten fruits of wars and all their effects on those who fight them, we are disheartened by your incessant preoccupation with partisan politics versus our national defense, security and the support of those who defend us. We are alarmed that there are those among you who would demean the efforts of our loved ones whom you deployed to distant lands in order to further your own agendas.
Slowly, painfully, we are coming to the realization that we are all Americans first and our political affiliations come in a distant second to that. When ...when ...when... will all of you reach that conclusion? Our patience grows thin.
Dave St. John is a former Marine captain who served in the Corps from 1964—1970. He is a Vietnam Veteran