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A force to be reckoned with

November 07, 2004|by Sid Huguenin

On Nov. 10, the United States Marine Corps will be 229 years old, and every current and former marine will raise a glass or canteen to toast the founding of our corps. Some may think it appropriate that the Marines were born in a bar, Tun Tavern in Philadelphia to be precise.

Since that day in 1775, they have served in every clime and place with distinction and success. They are, to this day, the only amphibious force in the world to have never been thrown off a beachhead. If you see the U.S. Marines forming up off your coast, you know they are coming for business and will not leave until the mission is accomplished. If you are a dictator, emperor or terrorist, your tenure is about to be revoked.

Marines today are prepping the city of Fallujah in Iraq prior to a probable storming of that city to rid it of a rat's nest of terrorists and foreign mercenaries. They did the same thing six months ago, but were ordered to halt their advance when "civilian" casualties grew too high too quickly.

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The Arab newspaper Al Jazeera and the Mahdi army declared any dead a "civilian" after they policed up the weapons the dead "civilians" were carrying and then took pictures of casualties in civilian clothes.

The Marines are now about to go back into harms way after having given the bad guys six months time to rebuild and resupply in preparation for the coming battle. Urban warfare is some of the bloodiest fighting that can be imagined. Most of it is done within feet, not yards, of the enemy. It is also very costly.

Marines are a well-disciplined bunch who abhor senseless casualties, and they will risk their own lives time and again to keep civilian casualties to a minimum.

At the center of Fallujah however, are men with an agenda the polar opposite of the Marines. Muqtada al- Sadr and his Mahdi army, and possibly even the butcher al-Zarqawi, are holed up knowing they will perish or be imprisoned forever once the assault starts. They will surround themselves with innocents and when the shooting starts, point to those bodies and say "See what the Americans have done."

It is going to be a costly affair, but it must be done. Our intelligence agencies say that many of the IED's (Improvised Explosive Devices) are originating in Fallujah, but blowing up Iraqi police and U.S. convoys in other cities. Men like al-Sadr and al-Zarqawi can flourish only in an environment of chaos and terror, but if democracy takes hold in Iraq, their causes are doomed. So the Marines will be ordered back in to destroy this safe harbor for terrorists once and for all. My prayers are with the Marines and the true innocents.

On Nov. 2 we voted for president. Our president, whoever that might be, must have the courage of his convictions and the moral courage to do what is right, even if that course of action is unpopular or might be hazardous to his own political health. In the week leading up to the election, John Kerry has laid the blame for the escape of Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora and the disappearance of 380 tons of high explosives at President Bush's feet. His comments were a desperate and shameless attempt to get himself elected and are completely void of all facts, honor and logic.

Any president worth his salt gives his commanders a mission and a direction as to what his expectations are and then lets them handle the execution of the mission within the rules of engagement. Kerry knew this, but he was attempting to intentionally mislead the public by stating that the president mismanaged the fight at Tora Bora.

The real blame or credit for that matter should fall on the commander of CentCom at the time, Gen. Tommy Franks. The fight for Afghanistan was, by the way, a huge success. Remember that we took Afghanistan in a matter of weeks as compared to the 1980s Soviets, who left in defeat after years of fighting with thousands of soldiers.

The only criticism is that bin Laden and some of the battered remnants of the Taliban managed to slip away. This may be a valid criticism, but let's put the blame where it belongs. I believe that there is an interservice rivalry that has existed in the senior ranks of the army that goes all the back to World War I.

I believe that Franks thought bin Laden was at Tora Bora, but the nearest force he could muster as a blocking force was a unit of 1,200 Marines just 80 miles away, less than an hour by helicopter.

Franks and his soldiers had done a magnificent job in destroying the Taliban and al Qaida in such a short period of time, and the success of the special forces on the ground was dazzling. But now, in the final hour, he chose not to insert the Marines, lest they get the glory of capturing bin Laden. The deputy commander of CentCom, Army Lt. Gen. Michael DeLong stated in a Wall Street Journal article on Nov. 1. that not using the marines was a tactical decision because "using them (the marines) would have meant killing hundreds, if not thousands, of Afghan civilians."

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