Friday, March 23, 2007

I just finished reading Evan Thomas' Sea of Thunder, part of which covered the Battle of Leyte Gulf during WWII... and, in particular, the story of US Navy Commander Ernest Evans, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his gallantry during that battle.

Evans was in command of the destroyer USS Johnston, assigned to help protect a group of small (and slow) carriers, when our ships came under surprise attack from a Japanese fleet of heavily armed and armored battleships, cruisers and destroyers. Despite being heavily outgunned and having next to no protection against the Japanese firepower, Commander Evans attacked the enemy, first with torpedoes, then with the Johnston's 5inch guns. Even after the Johnston was hit by enemy fire which wounded him and, among other things, knocked out one of the ship's two engines, making it difficult to manuever, Evans kept on the attack, doing his best to protect the carriers and their sailors who otherwise would have been chewed up by the Japanese. Eventually, the Johnston sank and Evans went down with the ship.

As I was reading this part of the book, I thought of a modern Evans, US Army Sergeant Paul Smith, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his gallantry protecting his comrades from Iraqi forces during the initial stages of the Iraq war.

Both Evans and Smith could have taken a few shots at the enemy and then moved to safety and lived another day. Neither would have been criticized for failing to die. But neither took off. They had a job to do and they did it as best and as long as they could. They did for real what a million Walter Mittys have only dreamed of... staying cool under extreme pressure, thinking of others more than they thought of themselves and having the ability to actually pull off what they were trying to do.

I am thrilled that our military has had and has guys like Evans and Smith... and I'm thrilled that our country is protected by a military that has guys like Evans and Smith.

And I am terribly depressed that guys like Evans and Smith have to die in Iraq because George Bush is too stupid and too stubborn to realize that his plan of saving the world by bringing democracy to that god-forsaken part of the world just ain't going to happen. It was wrong for Bush to have set out to do it in the first place. It was wrong for Bush to keep our troops there once it became obvious to everybody but Bush that it wasn't going to happen. And it's wrong for Bush to keep them there now.

Guys like Evans and Smith are too valuable to waste - yes, waste - trying to do what can't be done... trying to keep a bunch of crazy Muslims from killing one another.

And that's why I won't join those on the right who are blasting the Democrats for their moves to end the war sooner than Bush would prefer. Sure, the Democrats may be motivated more by their hatred for Bush than their love of the troops and they are definitely going where no Congress ought to (ever need to ) go, but, whatever their motivations and notwithstanding the terrible precedent of Congress seeking to micromanage the military, they are on the right side on this issue. Our troops ought not be in Iraq... and the longer they're there, the more of our guys will die... guys we need alive to help us when we have to fight a fight that needs fighting. Keeping the Iraqis from killing one another just ain't our fight. We shouldn't be there.