Sunday, April 17, 2005

Above and Beyond the Call of Duty

Last Friday my father published his first piece in what will now be a regular column in the LA Times. This piece is about US Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith, the first man to win the Congressional Medal of Honor in Iraq, and about the people who are against the war, but claim to honor Smith anyway.

SFC Smith, as his citation says, was working on the construction of a POW holding area on April 4, 2003, in Baghdad, when his Task Force of a hundred men was attacked by a company sized (100-250 men) enemy force. Smith organized a defense of their position, fought the enemy with hand grenades and anti-tank weapons, and organized the rescue of three men trapped in a damaged Armored Personal Carrier. Smith finally moved to man an exposed .50 caliber machine gun and continued to fire on the enemy until he was fatally wounded. The enemy attack was repulsed.

The Medal of Honor has always held a special fascination for me -- I’ve read hundreds of citations about men who ran into exposed positions to aid comrades, jumped on top of grenades, and single-handedly beat off enemy attacks. The citation will famously begin “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty…” and will often end, in the case of a posthumous citation, “He gallantly gave his life for his country.” Surprisingly enough, less than one in five of the more than 3,400 Medal of Honor citations are posthumous.

The following is one of the most remarkable citations I’ve read, awarded to Private First Class Gary W. Martini, who was killed in Vietnam in 1967:

“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Rifleman, Company F, Second Battalion, First Marines, First Marine Division in the Republic of Vietnam. On 21 April 1967, during Operation UNION, elements of Company F, conducting offensive operations at Binh Son, encountered a firmly entrenched enemy force and immediately deployed to engage them. The Marines in Private Martini's platoon assaulted across an open rice paddy to within twenty meters of the enemy trench line where they were suddenly struck by hand grenades, intense small arms, automatic weapons, and mortar fire. The enemy onslaught killed 14 and wounded 18 Marines, pinning the remainder of the platoon down behind a low paddy dike. In the face of imminent danger, Private Martini immediately crawled over the dike to a forward open area within 15 meters of the enemy position where, continuously exposed to the hostile fire, he hurled hand grenades, killing several of the enemy. Crawling back through the intense fire, he rejoined his platoon which had moved to the relative safety of a trench line. From this position he observed several of his wounded comrades lying helpless in the fire swept paddy. Although he knew that one man had been killed, attempting to assist the wounded, Private Martini raced through the open area and dragged a comrade back to the friendly position. In spite of a serious wound received during this first daring rescue, he again braved the unrelenting fury of the enemy fire to aid another companion lying wounded only twenty meters in front of the enemy trench line. As he reached the fallen Marine, he received a mortal wound, but disregarding his own condition, he began to drag the Marine toward his platoon's position. Observing men from his unit attempting to leave the security of their position to aid him, concerned only for their safety, he called to them to remain under cover and through a final supreme effort, moved his injured comrade to where he could be pulled to safety, before he fell, succumbing to his wounds. Stouthearted and indomitable, Private Martini unhesitatingly yielded his own life to save two of his comrades and insure the safety of the remainder of his platoon. His outstanding courage, valiant fighting spirit and selfless devotion to duty reflected the highest credit upon himself, the Marine Corps, and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.”

It is impossible for us to thank men like these enough for their service, but we can at least know who they are -- go to a Medal of Honor site and read a few citations; they make you proud to be an American.


At 9:27 AM, Blogger SinaMoravej said...

I was reading the article. your dad makes it seem like just because we're opposed to the war that we hate the troops? That for all u conservatives out there is BS. We love out troops, we admire they're bravery, thats why we choose not to send them off to their deaths. and

An update on "democracy in Iraq." Some people say it was worse now than during Saddams regime. back then christians could worship freely, food wasn't rationed. Baghdad only gets about 7-8 hours of electricity a day. out of the 18.4 billion dollars alloted, only about 2 billion was spent, not on the Iraqi people, but on defense and private mercenaries. Poverty is still high. unemployment is between 30 and 60 percent. Reconstruction is at a nonexistance. So much for sending our troops to spread democracy

At 4:00 PM, Blogger Alec Brandon said...

So that was a boring post.

Anyone want to argue Cuban Trade Embargo because I see Dan has some bullshit link about troops dying as a justification for a pointless and ineffective embargo?

So here are my arguements against the embargo:
1. Unlike Sina, I do not give a shit about troops.

2. No unilateral (which our Cuban embargo is) embargo has ever achieved anything. Almost no multilateral embargo has ever worked, if a country has goods that people want, they will cheat (think Iraq).

3. Our embargo of Cuba has not effected Fidel Castro power, his prestige, or his fame and power. All it does is further depress the Cuban economy which just hurts the common Cuban, while Fidel is lighting up a Cuban in his palace.

4. The most effective mechanism for political and economic change is advancing a middle class in a country. If you would like examples: South Korea, Taiwan, England, France, Ireland, Spain (which did not democratize until 1976), United States (we did start a revolution over taxes), and China in about 5-10 years. The United States is failing in helping Cuba build a middle class in Cuba by not trading with it. Our trade could instantly cause as much as $800 million to enter the Cuban economy, thats a pretty good start to a middle class, especially when...

5. The United States stands to gain huge economic advantages by trading with Cuba. It is an enourmous market for the United States that would be mutually beneficial.

6. The only reason we have the embargo in the first place is because no one wants to lose Florida in an election.

I can't think of anymore off the top of my head, but if I do, I'll post them.

Where are you Allen, I know you have some objections to what I am saying...

-Mr. Alec

At 4:01 PM, Blogger Alec Brandon said...

Or perhaps, Dan you could exhault us with a response or two, you are right in the middle of your senior slide, not like you have any work to do anyways.

-Mr. Alec

At 6:21 PM, Blogger Republican Dan said...

We are fortunate in having both Mr. Alec and Sina here, so we can see the two types of anti-warrites available.

First of all, Sina, it is impossible to support the troops without supporting the war.

I divide the anti-warrites into two groups, the honest, and the dishonest -- those who make no qualms about their dislike of the military and those who ‘claim’ to like it (or at least to like the soldiers themselves). The honest sort is the type who drives around with a “No Blood for Oil” bumper sticker and flashes his middle finger at the SUV with the Marine Corps emblem on the back. They are the type of people who, during the Vietnam War, supported the now infamous “F--k the Army” tour -- a series of shows organized by Jane Fonda and preformed right outside military bases (as USAF Col. Patterson wrote, “a perverse USO tour in reverse”).

The dishonest anti-warrites are pathetically bad in a different sense. They pity the soldiers -- they feel sorry for them. This is you, Sina, whether you recognize it or not. ‘Here these men are, thinking that they’re defending freedom or whatever and what really happened is they got duped into fighting in this needless war -- they’re nice guys but they’ve been victimized. So of course we support them, we don’t want them to die, etc.’ This type of “support” of course does nothing for our troops’ morale. If you tell them that you support them, but not the war, you put yourself in a position of snobbish condescension. You’re still saying “f--k the army,” just in a different way.

You are both a collective embarrassment to this country.

As far as Cuba is concerned, Mr. Alec B., you are quite right that the embargo is not effective at keeping Cuba from getting the goods it wants. This of course means that there is no great economic impact on the Cuban populous -- thanks to Castro’s murderous corruption, the people are poor now, and they would continue to be poor if we were to lift the embargo which you yourself argue doesn’t really accomplish anything. Our embargo on Cuba is on a point of principle (something which you, as a confessed soldier hater, would not understand). We do not trade with them because we do not wish to do business with a murderer -- despite the fact that agreeing to trade after all could help our economy, we consider money to be of secondary importance in this case. There are, of course, other countries with regimes that we shouldn’t trade with (and if I were in charge of foreign policy, we wouldn’t) but we can’t have everything. While we can have something though, and while we can afford not to trade with Cuba, we won’t.

At 7:18 PM, Blogger SinaMoravej said...

On the contrary, i think your party is the dishonest one by giving the troops false hope. they're risking their necks to "spread democracy," When they truly aren't. How is lying to our soldiers supporting them? I hear you like Reagan so much. What was up with him supporting Saddam? You should have a sense of shame for sending innocent men to their death. (well not you but the republican party)

At 9:11 PM, Blogger Alec Brandon said...

Well, first of all, getting called a, "confessed soldier hater," is probably the most hilarious thing that happened to me all day, I really wondered why I got out of bed this morning, and this was why. I really find it hilarious that you did not get that that was a joke.

Oh man, and you called me anti-warrite too. Which is funny because I wrote a post about a trade embargo with Cuba. But if you wanted to ACTUALLY know my stances on foreign policy, I supported the war in Iraq (and not for WMDs, which I could have cared less about, I wanted to democratize). I was horrified by the way that Rumsfeld botched the occupation in dozens of ways. I was so upset about this because failing to properly democratize Iraq will lead to the prospect of an agressive American Policy still at birth.

Now just because I don't have wet dreams about being special-ops does not mean I am, "an embaressment to this country." Of course, I was making a joke in the first place, something that obviously went over your head. Hilarious.

So, onto your arguements against the Cuban embargo. You make an interesting point about how if we lifted the embargo it would not benefit anyone. Now this is flat out wrong. Would corruption occur? Yes, but China is rated as one of the most corrupt governments in the world. It is not openly capitilist in any sense of the word, however that has not stopped 10-20% GDP growth over the past 30 years from significantly raising the standard of living in China. Has China had plenty of human rights abuses? Yes, but we would be stupid for so many reasons to stop trading with them, because Tiennenmin was 16 years ago, and there is a causation between the significant drop in human rights abuses over the past 5-10 years in China and the rapid GDP growth and development of a strong middle class.

Now your second arguement is pertaining to the principle of it. Well this is quite liberal of you. See I am a realist when it comes to issues of this nature. Quite frankly I do not care about any principle, nor does a dollar bill, and nor does every company in the United States that is licking its chops to get into Cuba. Of course, in so far as I have shown that ending the embargo will benefit the Cuban people, principle does not go very far...other than leading to more human rights abuses.

-Mr. Alec

PS Its good to see that you have found out who I am.

At 8:51 AM, Blogger SinaMoravej said...

Mr alec. you do not understand. I know democratizing is important. however It was reagan that supported saddam and gave all the weapons he did. Reagan strenghtened saddams power. If we want to spread democracy as Dan claims, why do you support Reagan, a strong supporter of terror. And forget the past, what about now? why dont we spend the money on the Iraqi people? out of 81 water reconstruction projects, 68 have been defunded. all we've spent on is stupid private mercenaries and security.

At 1:05 PM, Blogger Alec Brandon said...

Sina, you make a couple of decent points about Reagan's involvement with Saddam and lack of funding. First of all, the issue with Saddam and Reagan is a moot one. It was the Cold War, things were very different. Our human rights transgressions during the Cold War are far worse than just kind of supporting Saddam, but it was done out of neccesity, not ideology. I do not think all presidents, Truman through Reagan particularly enjoyed doing what they had to do at times, but it was better than the alternative.

But the strongest arguement for war is the one Tony Blair often made, as well as writers such as Fareed Zakaria and Thomas Friedman, who point out that rarely has the stated goal of the United States foreign policy been to democratize, and do so agressively. This is the first time that the United State's goals have actually meshed with those of the people of the world. We ought to take advantage of that, especially before things get worse. We ought to work to undo the autocracies we have established and supported throughout the middle east, we ought to do that for humanitarian reasons but also for foreign policy objectives. So lets do it. Why does Reagan's transgressions play into that decision in anyway.

Well, now to your stronger arguement, that we have poorly reconstructed Iraq. This is something I completely agree with. This is something even Charles Krauthammer has conceded. We have done a terrible job reconstructing Iraq, we have done an even worse job reconstructing Afghanistan. None can dispute that. We have a moral obligation to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan to seriously improve their lives. They did not ask us to invade their nations and in doing so we destroyed and killed.

Although many claim that, "well it is better than it was under Saddam, so they should stop complaining" should seriously go fuck themselves. Nothing upsets me more. Tens of thousands of civilians have died in these wars. To put it into perspective, that is a couple of September 11th's. Invading a nation is an act that humiliates all of its citizens. If we did all of this to marginally improve the livelihood of some Iraqis then it was worthless.

Anyways, those are my poorly organized feelings.

-Mr. Alec

At 1:32 PM, Blogger SinaMoravej said...

Im very aware of our human rights policies during the cold war. However you do not have to be inhumane to win a war. Instead of using gross human rights violations, we could show all the people of the world that we are better than the soviet union. Like Truman, he gave a ton of money to Greece and Turkey, supporting the democratic groups there, and they did not fall to communism. If we had allied ourselves with the struggling middle-eastern democracies and supported them we would not have been faced with all our problems today.

At 1:34 PM, Blogger SinaMoravej said...

Also by the way we need to be worried about the well being of ourselves before invading other nations. Right now we face the biggest budget deficit in our history and we must undo it.

At 3:51 PM, Blogger Alec Brandon said...

Well in terms of the deficit, we don't. See my comment to Doug on the prior Post by Dan. Is it reaching a level that is problematic? Yes, but a terrorist attack, or a strong series of ones, as theorized by Richard Clarke in The Atlantic Monthly would be far more devestating than a deficit that exceeded 5% of our GDP (link

We obviously need to be careful when and where we go to war, but I think we did that with Iraq, had it not been for atrocious post-war planning (or lack thereof) Bush would have had a much easier 2004 election and we would not even be arguing about it.

Now your last point pertains to Truman and the Cold War. Yes, we gave some countries money. But that does not always work. You can question cold war foreign policy all you want, and theorize that it ought to have been done one way or another, but that does not mean that the policy itself was unbelieveably effective and successful.

My major point in regards to the Cold War is merely that it is over and that what Reagan did 20 years ago has no relation on what we ought to do in the future. Should the United States never go to war because Vietnam was a debacle? Because that is essentially your rationale.

-Mr. Alec

At 4:04 PM, Blogger SinaMoravej said...

well i would like to hear what dan has to say. anyways the deficit is indeed a problem. Reagan helped the economy advanced but tripled the deficit in doing so, causing us to fall into recession. thats why i liked clinton, he achieved economic success without putting us at a dengerously low deicit.

At 4:04 PM, Blogger SinaMoravej said...

well i would like to hear what dan has to say. anyways the deficit is indeed a problem. Reagan helped the economy advanced but tripled the deficit in doing so, causing us to fall into recession. thats why i liked clinton, he achieved economic success without putting us at a dengerously low deicit.

At 4:36 PM, Blogger Alec Brandon said...

Well the first thing you learn about when you learn about macroeconomics, is that no one has control of anything. Conservatives can give you tons of statistics about how great the economy was under Reagan and can tell you how the Clinton years were not as good in comparison. One thing that no politicians tend to take into account when dealing with economics is causality.

To what effect does any president have power over the economy. In a micro-sense, the president has little to none. In a macro-sense the president has little to none. Congress has little to none. The only individual who has power to effect the economy in the short-term is the Federal Reserve. The reason there was a recession under Reagan had nothing to do with his tax cuts, it was because the Federal Reserve chairman, Paul Volker drastically raised interest rates to clamp down on inflation, something that was devestating the economy. That is why the economy has been in much better shape ever since the 1980s (at least in comparison to the 1970s). In fact, this is not a viewpoint of Liberals. This is the feeling of "Conservative" economists like Milton Friedman who were able to show a causal link between inflation and GDP.

So if you are cheering for Clinton because of "his" economy, you have to understand it is much more Paul Volker and Alan Greenspan's economy than Bill Clinton's.

This is the odd thing about economics, it is talked about and debated so much, but no one knows anything about it. For example, supply-side economics, no economist talks or teaches it. It is not mentioned once in the 3 Economics text books I have read so far. It is just a stupid model that was used to get some into the oval office. The Laffer Curve was flat out wrong. Clinton's economic philosophy was nothing. He sit back and let the good times roll, having a deficit or a surplus does not effect the economy (as long as it is not drasticly large, and I mean as a percentage of GDP, not meaningly normative numbers).

-Mr. Alec

At 4:54 PM, Blogger SinaMoravej said...

well what i liked about clinton was that he cut stuff like missle defense and the military, causing more money to go for the american people.

At 5:01 PM, Blogger Alec Brandon said...

Well Clinton was able to do that because the Cold War was over. It is pretty easy to cut the military if it is the end of World War 2. I don't think you can credit that for Clinton unless you credit the end of the Cold War to him as well.

The one thing that Clinton did that was economically fabulous was Free Trade, WTO and China, NAFTA, and getting globalization going. That is going to have enourmous long-term benefits in the US economy and the international economy. Hell Walmart is cheap because of that, and that is not a bad thing.

-Mr. Alec

At 7:44 AM, Blogger James Howard Shott said...


Excuse me for breaking up this love-fest between alec and sina, but I need some information/help.

I posted a link today to your dad's column on Dems/1974, which I thought was right on target.

I'd like to add him to my list of columnists, but I can't find a link to do that with on the LAT site.

Any suggestions?



At 8:37 AM, Blogger SinaMoravej said...

how do you put a hit counter on your blog?

At 6:32 PM, Blogger James Howard Shott said...

The one I use is Sitemeter. It has some nice features. There are lots of them, in case you don't like this one: Go here

At 8:15 PM, Blogger SinaMoravej said...

that one doesn't appear on the website. where did dan get his?

At 7:03 PM, Blogger James Howard Shott said...

"that one doesn't appear on the website."

What do you mean? What Web site does it not appear on?

"where did dan get his?"

I don't know, but Blogger has some information here.

At 3:13 PM, Blogger ChargeOfQuarters said...

I served with a MOH winner; SGT Patterson (I forget his first name). Oneof hte streets that I was on at Biggs Army Airfield (FT Bliss, Tx) was named after hium. Amazing man...


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