It may surprise you to learn that during the entire Iraq war and post war engagement period, only two of the elite Navy Seals have paid the ultimate price of service. I remember when the Navy created these magnificent combat units during the Viet Nam war, which succeeded the navy’s underwater demolition teams (UDT’s) that became famous during World War II.
When the Green Berets use to train in Viet Nam, they would run up and down the beaches. The Seals would run with them, but would run around them, to demonstrate their competitive spirit and their training.
A Navy Seal unit in Iraq was assigned to a sniper hideout in Ramadi, outside Iraq on September 29th, of this year. The door to the hideout was part of a roof top structure. Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor was the only one near the door. A grenade was thrown into the hideout. It bounced off Monsoor’s chest and hit the ground.
His fellow Seals stated that Monsoor’s eyes never left the grenade. As the grenade moved to the ground, Monsoor eyes followed it. It is a moment like this that can never be trained for, thought about, or reasoned. Everything you are as a human being determines what you do next. What would any of us do? These are questions to which we can never know the answers. We do however know what Michael Monsoor did.
He voluntarily smothered the grenade with his body, and absorbed the full brunt of the explosion. In doing so, he saved the lives of the men in his team. Other members were hurt but not killed. A 28-year old Lieutenant was hit with shrapnel in his legs. There were two Seals next to Monsoor who were hurt but not seriously. Another team member 10 feet away was unhurt.
Seals who knew Monsoor when he was stationed at Coronado Island, in San Diego said that he was a loyal friend, and dedicated professional. Both his brother and his father were former Marines.
Monsoor was no ordinary man. On May 9th of this year, five months before his death, a team member had been shot in the leg, again in Ramadi. Without hesitation, Monsoor and a fellow Seal pulled the insured Seal to safety. There were bullets flying all around them while they performed the rescue operation. Monsoor was given a Silver Star for that action.
How lucky, how fortunate we are as a nation to have such fine human beings walking among us. People that are committing the most selfless acts, they show such remarkable character. They are demonstrating a uniqueness that we could only wish existed in even a handful of our elected leaders. America is a far safer country because such extraordinary people exist and have opted to serve in our armed forces.
It has now come to our attention that the explosive devices being used in Iraq to kill and main our servicemen are not the product of Iraqi insurgents. These devices are being produced in neighboring Iran, and brought across the border to kill our troops. The President has chosen not to share this information with the American people. It would seem to me that these Iranian actions are an Act of War against the United States. Perhaps Mr. Bush feels that have the WMD debacle, he is unwilling to be accusatory against another Arab (Persian really) country.
It is putting our brave soldiers at a great disadvantage. Prior to the war, the manufacturers of the Abrams tank use to boast that no American soldier has ever lost his life in an Abrams. Several have now lost their lives in this, the ultimate tank. What’s worse is that the new, improved explosive devices coming from Iran have the capacity to pierce the Abrams tank, due to the shaped charge now incorporated into the device.
There’s much that the President and his Administration have to be accountable for. We as a nation have to deal with what is. We can look back and question the war because of an absence of Weapons of Mass Destruction. I don’t know how profitable such an examination is at this point.
The President and his advisors through their actions have committed three massive operational decisions that have led to the quagmire, and insurgency that we are now facing. The first mistake was first was the extent of de-Batthification. Our leaders chose after World War II to employ thousands of Nazi’s to keep whatever was left of the German infrastructure going. We also knew that these people would help restore the economy quicker than trying to replace them.
The second major error was getting rid of the army. The Administration would tell you that the army just got up, disbanded, and left. Armies are loyal to whoever pays them. Here were hundreds of thousands of soldiers that could have been employed to help stabilize a new government in Iraq. Instead, we chose to shame them, not pay them, and send them home where there were no jobs, and nothing for them to do. The response is that they are wreaking havoc on our troops, who are paying with their lives and limbs for this tragic error in judgment.
The third error was dumping the leadership group. Saddam’s associates were never Islamic extremists. Yes, we needed to chop off the first layer of leadership that surrounded Saddam, maybe put them on trial for their crimes. At the same time recognize there were thousands of people that were members of the Saddam’s party because they had to be just to hold jobs, like the thousands of teachers that taught the children. Our entire space program was the product of German rocket scientists, including Werner Von Braun, the guys who rained missiles down on London during the war. Could we not have turned these Iraqi leaders to our advantage?
The culmination of these three strategic errors is that such fine young men like Petty Officer Michael A. Monsoor have to pay with their lives because of the tragic leadership errors of our elected officials. Thank God, America produces such fine young men. We always have, and we always will.
Goodbye and good luck
Richard Stoyeck’s background includes being a limited partner at Bear Stearns, Senior VP at Lehman Brothers, Kuhn Loeb, Arthur Andersen, and KPMG. Educated at Pace University, NYU, and Harvard University, today he runs Rockefeller Capital Partners and StocksAtBottom.com