October 13, 2009
Michael Yon on Afghanistan and 'Operation Market Garden'
Have you been following Michael Yon's dispatches from Afghanistan? It's obvious Obama hasn't.
If the president would bother reading what's happening there from someone who, like, you know, actually knows first hand what is happening there, he wouldn't still be dithering over what to do.
Yon is a national treasure - an Ernie Pyle and Edward R. Murrow rolled into one. It is writing like this in Big Hollywood that makes Yon deserving of a Pulitzter.
Slowly, surely, the city is being strangled. Signaling the depth of our commitment, security forces are thinner in Kandahar than the Himalayan air. During the days and evenings, there were the sounds of occasional bombs-some caused by suicide attackers, and others by firefights. The windows in my room had been blown out recently and now were replaced. We came here to kill our enemies, but today we want to make a country from scratch.
Yon and a friend are trying to get out of Kandahar city - under virtual siege by the Taliban (I didn't know that either) - in order to fly to Holland to take part in a commemoration of "Operation Market Garden" that liberated Holland 65 years ago. But trying to get out of the city proved an extremely hazardous undertaking as Yon reports:
Shortly after this photo was taken, my friend, who had been a South African cop for 16 years, spotted two men in a white Toyota Corolla who had locked onto us. They drove swiftly by for a look-see, then hit a Y intersection ahead on the right. They tried to get back in, but traffic slowed them by about ten seconds. I was watching over my shoulder when they dangerously bolted back into the traffic a couple hundred meters behind us. The camera was on the floorboard. I had picked up a pistol and rested it on my right thigh. My friend rolled down his window and I rolled down mine. They were moving in. In less than a minute, someone probably would die. The car was speeding closer when per chance a green Afghan police pickup rocketed by the pursuers. The green police truck was mounted with a machine gun, and a long belt of ammo was dangling, while a policeman kept his hands on the gun. I hid the pistol. The pursuers slowed. We continued at about 40mph as the police swooshed by. The police pulled off the road a few hundred meters ahead of us and the white car fell back more, until it passed the police and began to speed up, but that was it. The pursuers were caught behind too many trucks and fell away. I put down the pistol and picked up the camera.His report on the moving ceremonies and re-enactments in Holland will have you shedding a tear while being in awe of those young men so many years ago who parachuted 100 miles behind enemy lines in order to establish a bridgehead into Germany's Ruhr Valley.
The plan failed - tragically. But the Dutch people remember who it was that freed them.
The movie based on the event - "A Bridge Too Far" is mostly accurate and places blame for the fiasco on Montgomery's shoulders - right where it belongs. But as Stephen Ambrose points out in his book "Band of Brothers," Eisenhower did not have to approve Montgomery's plan and indeed, was ordered to accept it by Roosevelt himself. Ike later regretted not fighting harder to stop it. Considering the loss of life and the paltry strategic gains, he probably should have lobbied more intensely.