Im­por­tance of back­ing up the troops

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

If a pic­ture is worth a thou­sand words, per­haps the pic­ture of Pres­i­dent Obama that did not get taken dur­ing his re­cent visit to El­men­dorf Air Force Base in Alaska is worth a mil­lion of them.

The men and women of El­men­dorf who play a vi­tal role in the air de­fense of our na­tion and, if nec­es­sary, in pro­ject­ing dom­i­nant aero­space power over­seas un­der­stand­ably wanted to have as the back­drop for an im­por­tant pres­i­den­tial ad­dress their best weapon sys­tem, the F-22 Rap­tor.

There was only one prob­lem: Mr. Obama had made the can­cel­la­tion of pro­duc­tion of this state-of-the-art air su­pe­ri­or­ity fighter one of his sig­na­ture “de­fense” ini­tia­tives.

Mr. Obama’s han­dlers freaked out at the prospect of a photo op that could prove as in­op­por­tune, and per­haps po­lit­i­cally costly, as the im­age in 1988 of then-Demo­cratic can­di­date Michael Dukakis looking ridicu­lous in the hel­met of a main bat­tle tank crew­man. So the Air Force was or­dered to sub­sti­tute a decades-old, and in­creas­ingly dated, F-15 to frame the pres­i­dent’s speech.

The photo that wasn’t al­lowed to be taken speaks vol­umes about this pres­i­dency, and its real at­ti­tude to­ward the U.S. mil­i­tary. Iron­i­cally, it also made a mock­ery of the pledge Mr. Obama ut­tered on that oc­ca­sion to the as­sem­bled ser­vice­men and women at El­men­dorf — and to their com­rades else­where around the world:

“We’ll make sure you can meet the mis­sions we ask of you. [. . .] The United States of Amer­ica will have your back. We will give you the strat­egy and the clear mis­sion you de­serve. We will give you the equip­ment and sup­port that you need to get the job done. And that in­cludes pub­lic sup­port back home. That is a prom­ise that I make to you.”

An even more dra­matic man­i­fes­ta­tion of Team Obama’s fail­ure to “have the back” of those who pro­tect us is the de­ci­sion first re­ported by ace na­tional se­cu­rity re­porter Rowan Scar­bor­ough on Three mem­bers of this coun­try’s most highly skilled and ef­fec­tive fight­ing units — the Navy’s elite Sea, Air and Land (SEAL) teams — face courts­mar­tial for hav­ing punched a top ter­ror­ist in the course of a danger­ous mis­sion to ap­pre­hend him. Far from be­ing pun­ished, th­ese men, Petty Of­fi­cers Matthew McCabe, Jonathan Keefe, and Julio Huer­tas, should be revered as he­roes.

Un­for­tu­nately, this action — like the El­men­dorf photo in­ci­dent — is symp­to­matic of a larger prob­lem: In the space of 11 months in of­fice, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has se­ri­ally cut the na­tion’s de­fenses, de­mor­al­ized its mil­i­tary and com­pro­mised its in­tel­li­gence ser­vices.

Add to this ap­palling litany ac­tions taken in re­cent months by At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric H. Holder Jr. to: af­ford un­law­ful en­emy com­bat­ants like Sept. 11, 2001, mas­ter­mind Khalid Shaikh Mo­hammed con­sti­tu­tional rights they do not de­serve; ac­knowl­edge the right of for­eign ju­di­cia­ries to pros­e­cute Amer­i­cans on pur­ported “war crimes”; and sig­nal its will­ing­ness to co­op­er­ate in such pros­e­cu­tions.

The im­pli­ca­tions of th­ese sorts of ac­tions are grave, es­pe­cially in time of war. What on Earth should be the re­ac­tion of those tak­ing risks for us ev­ery day — whether they are fight­ing on dis­tant bat­tle­fields, per­form­ing ex­fil­tra­tion op­er­a­tions deep be­hind en­emy lines, car­ry­ing out strikes with un­manned aerial ve­hi­cles, in­ter­ro­gat­ing or de­tain­ing un­law­ful en­emy com­bat­ants, coun­ter­ing ter­ror­ists in­side the United States or mak­ing hard choices about the poli­cies and rules of en­gage­ment gov­ern­ing such ac- tiv­i­ties? They could scarcely be blamed for con­clud­ing that the gov­ern­ment they serve may de­cide to dis­avow their ac­tions on the grounds that they flout our “val­ues” and/or “in­ter­na­tional law,” then be­tray them to its own or for­eign pros­e­cu­tors.

That con­clu­sion, of course, can only trans­late into greater vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties for all of us. Not only will our de­fenses in­evitably be di­min­ished. Our en­e­mies are likely to re­dou­ble their ef­forts to de­stroy this coun­try, con­fi­dent that their suc­cess is be­com­ing all the more cer­tain.

Let’s be clear: It is not an Amer­i­can value to in­dulge in na­tional sui­cide. Yet, the prac­ti­cal ef­fect of the sorts of de­ci­sions be­ing taken by Team Obama, par­tic­u­larly cu­mu­la­tively, is to put our coun­try and its peo­ple at ever greater risk.

The time has come for the pub­lic and its elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Congress to rec­og­nize the peril as­so­ci­ated with the Obama doc­trine of di­min­ish­ing our coun­try, em­bold­en­ing our en­e­mies and un­der­min­ing our friends. Our ser­vice­men and women, de­tainee in­ter­roga­tors, CIA op­er­a­tives and civil­ian pol­i­cy­mak­ers and lawyers must be pro­tected from il­le­git­i­mate for­eign prose­cu­tion. They must be al­lowed to do their dif­fi­cult and of­ten danger­ous jobs con­fi­dent that we do, in­deed, have their backs.

As New York­ers af­flicted by the at­tacks of Sept. 11 made plain with a re­mark­able rally last Satur­day near ground zero, ter­ror­ists like Mo­hammed must not be brought to Amer­i­can shores and granted con­sti­tu­tional rights and tri­als in civil­ian courts that will as­suredly be­come in­stru­ments for po­lit­i­cal war­fare and law fare against our na­tion.

Last but not least, our most skilled and coura­geous war­riors like Petty Of­fi­cers McCabe, Keefe and Huer­tas should be rec­og­nized and hon­ored for their dar­ing and suc­cesses, not pros­e­cuted.

Let the world see a true core Amer­i­can value — namely, that we trea­sure those who self­lessly serve and pro­tect us. And let those who are our foes be un­der no il­lu­sion: We will nei­ther com­mit na­tional sui­cide nor fail to fight them re­lent­lessly, with ev­ery in­stru­ment at our dis­posal and to victory in this war for the Free World.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is pres­i­dent of the Cen­ter for Se­cu­rity Pol­icy and host of the na­tion­ally syndicated pro­gram “Se­cure Free­dom Ra­dio.”

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