February 23, 2010
The Man Who Wants to Take Murtha's Seat for the GOPBy Alan Fraser
Lt. Col. Bill Russell is running for the the congressional seat of the 12th District of Pennsylvania, left open by the sudden death of Jack Murtha. In an interview with AT Military Editor Alan Fraser, Col. Russell discusses the U.S. military in American culture and how, in the GWOT, the enemy is using our own cultural institutions as weapons in an attempt to defeat us, with the Haditha fraud as a prime example.
Col. Russell has nearly 29 years of Regular Army, National Guard, and Army Reserve service, and he served six tours in hostile fire zones, including Operation Desert Storm, the Balkans, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He and his wife Kasia were both in the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. Their son Stasiu was born three months later, making him the youngest known Pentagon 9/11 survivor. Bill was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in December 2004 while serving in Iraq and retired from the Army in 2008. His military awards include the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star. Welcome aboard, Col. Russell.
AT: Col. Russell, I'd like to ask you about the mechanics of this special election to be held on May 18, 2010 and then the general election in November of 2010. Can you describe how all of this will work?
Col. Russell: On May 18, there will be a primary election to select the party nominees for the general election in November 2010 to fill the seat for the 2010-2012 Congress. This will follow the normal election schedule.
There will also be a special election to fill the remainder of Mr. Murtha's current term. The Republican nominee for the special election will be selected by 134 Conferees who will be selected from each of the nine counties in the 12th Congressional district based on the counties' population in the 12th District and the number of votes John McCain received in the last election. While I am very confident that I am the best candidate for both elections and will win the popular election in the primary, how the party will select conferees and the nominee for the special election is true "insider baseball." It is my hope that they will not ignore the will of the people.
AT: Increasingly, we live in a society where 99% of the population has little idea of what their military does. And often any mental picture they do have tends to be very inaccurate. The institutions that shape public opinion -- e.g., the major networks, newspapers and Hollywood -- it seems like they have a blackout on good news about our military but beat each other up trying to report or fabricate or exaggerate bad news. And what's frustrating for people who think and vote the way I do is that this is in stark contrast to what these very same institutions were doing over sixty years ago during WWII. At American Thinker, we think that beyond being unfair, this cultural phenomenon actually threatens national security.
What can you as a U.S. Congressman do about this cultural problem, namely the growing detachment and ignorance on the part of those who don't serve?
Col. Russell: I think the biggest thing is simply to educate and try to get the message out there as how much the men and women in uniform today are doing to protect this nation, and not just in terms of doing the very hard jobs that they're doing, but also letting people know how smart these folks are. Today we've got some of the nation's best-educated people in the military -- these people are multilingual, well-traveled, have multiple college degrees ranging from engineering to the liberal arts. They are people who truly have a great worldview, tempered by real-world experience, who really understand and appreciate many of the things that go on. Talk about being politically savvy, culturally savvy -- many times, they are financially and market-savvy. They're very smart people who are doing very good things.
But unfortunately, all you hear about are the guys who happen to "step on it" and do something silly. Unfortunately, a lot of times it goes back to the old adage "if it bleeds, it leads" when it comes to reporting.
U.S. Army LTG William Caldwell gave a terrific speech in Nov. '07. The topic of the speech was "The Changing Face of Warfare in the 21st Century." And he spoke about how in the GWOT, the enemy knows that they cannot defeat us militarily.
Col. Russell: Yes.
AT: He talked about how the enemy is consumed by or obsessed with the "information battlefield" and how they use the "weapon of information" against us in waging what he described, I think quite accurately, as a "strategy of exhaustion."
Col. Russell: Yes.
AT: What can you tell us about that?
Col. Russell: It is a very real issue. I mean, if you want to go back and look at it from an historical standpoint, and it really came to the forefront during the Vietnam War...the ways in which the enemy would capitalize on and watch American public opinion and the antiwar movement.
There are some great articles on the subject that people can read. One was a Wall Street Journal article by Col. Bo, who was a North Vietnamese brigade commander who took the fall of Saigon. Colonel Bo, as well as General Giap, both mentioned how they would listen to the international news on the radio every day, and listen to how the American antiwar movement was undercutting America's political will to stay in the fight. And that gave them the inspiration that, in spite of the great military losses that they suffered -- for example, the Tet Offensive that essentially led to the annihilation of the Viet Cong as a fighting force...and after the Tet Offensive of 1968, the Viet Cong were essentially a non-player on the battlefield in Vietnam -- they continued to fight. And after Tet, it was the North Vietnamese Army, the regulars, that had to do the fighting. Later, there was the 1972 Offensive, in which the United States military soundly defeated the North Vietnamese Army. But in spite of those massive battlefield losses they suffered, they knew that if they could just keep killing enough American soldiers to keep it in the news, that eventually the antiwar movement, with the press it was receiving -- the popular culture movement led by people like Jane Fonda and the political movement lead by people like John Kerry -- all of these internal movements would eventually cause America to turn tail and leave...and that is exactly how they won. They won by undermining us politically and by watching American popular culture and American news reporting.
Now, the enemy we face today reads from those same pages of the North Vietnamese Communist playbook.
AT: Can you give us some examples?
Col. Russell: There are great examples out there. First and foremost, and the most notorious, is the Haditha Marine incident. This is an incident in which the accused Marines involved have by now been exonerated. They were engaged in a firefight in November of '05 in Haditha, and the enemy used...literally put innocent civilians between themselves and the Marines. But what the enemy then did was move and rearrange the bodies; they came in and took selective pictures, then they spread the story through an Islamic "human rights" organization that accused the Americans of committing war crimes, they paraded the bodies of the civilians in, and then put out their report stating that the Americans murdered civilians in cold blood.
That then got picked up by Time magazine and was reported, and then we had various members of Congress jumping up and down, calling the Marines cold-blooded murderers. It became a very big propaganda play for the enemy. And of course, when it hit the Arab street, in the Arab news -- especially after the American political figures said that our Marines had murdered civilians in cold blood -- that became gospel truth on the Arab street. So it had two effects: It undermined the American war effort at home by undercutting our political will to stay and fight, but it also became a massive propaganda weapon for the Islamists for them to use in their recruiting efforts. Because it was, by then, a message endorsed by our own institutions that Americans were cold-blooded murderers, when in fact it was the exact opposite. And all the investigations of the Haditha Marines have shown that they conducted themselves at the highest level of Marines in combat. Unfortunately, when you have an enemy that is going to place innocent civilians in a crossfire and intentionally use them as shields, to try to create these propaganda incidents, unfortunately there are civilians that are going to get killed in spite of best efforts to protect them.
AT: What about the American media's role in this? Let's take the Haditha story as an example. What role...how can I put this...?
Col. Russell: They didn't investigate it...they didn't do an investigation.
AT: They didn't seem to be very curious about it, did they? They just took the enemy's word about what happened at face value.
Col. Russell: Yes. And they didn't bother to look at the evidence. There were glaring inconsistencies. I remember when the story first broke, my first thought was "OK, the bad guys are trying to create a new My Lai incident" for America.
AT: Didn't Chris Matthews use that phraseology in describing it? He was interviewing somebody, it may have even been Congressman Murtha, where Matthews asked whether this was the My Lai Massacre of the Iraq War...or something to that effect.
Col. Russell: Yeah, I don't recall what Chris Matthews said, but as I mentioned before, had the press at least done their homework and done some due diligence to investigate this group... because it did not take long for someone to find out that the Islamic human rights organization that put out this story was, in fact, an al-Qaeda propaganda front. In terms of the way the incident was reported, where the story was broadcast and sensationalized without any due diligence on this, speaks to the lack of professionalism on the part of some of those in the journalistic world.
To be continued...