We’ve received two more messages responding to the Diana West column to which I linked below in “This May in wartime.” The immediate object of Diana West’s criticism is Major General Eldon Bargewell, who apparently supports Article 32 dereliction of duty charges against Marine Captain Randy Stone for his alleged failure to investigate properly 24 civilian deaths in Haditha in November 2005. We first heard from former Special Forces officer Rob Crowley, who had served under Major General Bargewell:
As a former Special Forces officer who served under Major General Bargewell, I was very surprised to see him described in the same article as the phrase “politically correct.” General Bargewell, to whom Ms. West refers incorrectly as “Major Bargewell,” is a warrior and straight-shooter of the first water. He’s not one of the perfumed princes, and he’ll call things as he sees them. While I don’t disagree that the military may be a bit skittish about things these days, I do disagree strongly with the idea that Bargewell’s investigation was anything but an accurate reflection of what he found.
For a better idea of the man Ms. West saw fit to criticize for political correctness, I commend you to Google. The man is a Distinguished Service Cross wearer with service in MACV-SOG, the 75th Rangers, and Delta Force. Not the sort usually associated with political correctness or anything but the unvarnished truth.
Reader K.D. responded:
It was very fair of you to publish the supportive letter from one of General Bargewell’s supporters. It is, however, not mutually exclusive: one could have an excellent combat record and still develop into a PC general – which clearly the General has….Clearly, the Pentagon has been horrible in getting out the story of the heroes of this war. The fact that the only Gold Star Mother known by name is the horrid Cindy Sheehan, is an indicator on just how badly they have performed.
It’s not just limited to DOD, however, the CIA, State and DOJ share the honors. Example: A US soldier goes on trial in Italy Monday for a friendly fire incident our allies have chose to label “MURDER.” Any decent State Department would have negotiated this away. They were incapable or unwilling to do so.
It is not at all clear to me that American diplomacy could do anything to derail Italy’s pursuit of Marine Mario Lozano. An April 17 Times (London) story reports on the upcoming trial. It appears that the trial is scheduled to commence this coming Monday.
Another reader currently serving in Iraq writes to criticize the thrust of Diana West’s column:
I’m a long time reader and infantry officer currently 7.5 months through an Iraq tour with an Army combat battalion. I’ve been in firefights in residential areas and on enough combat patrols to feel that I understand the conditions those Marines were operating under. I’m compelled to respond that Diana West’s take on the incident seems very wrong. The thought that 24 civilians could be killed in an incident that was limited to ground fire only strikes me as shockingly high and unusual. If nothing else, the incident merited further investigation.
Counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism are indeed tough work, and collateral damage is often an unavoidable part of that, but that does not mean that civilians can be written of because of some accident of birth. They have not volunteered, they are not trained, they do not get special protective equipment, and they typically have little say in when or how the fighting occurs in their neighborhood.