When The Sky Really Falls

The e-mail I received today was dark. An American contractor in Iraq was gripped by the fear expressed by someone not in control of their circumstances. It read:

“Water, ammunition and other critical supplies are not being delivered to what few Iraqi troops there are who have not already ripped-off their uniforms and fled. Bumbling US State Department is providing zero support to contractors and other Americans still here…ISIS does not take prisoners…is slaughtering captives and non-combatants alike…has hit lists with names of government officials, opposition, police, military personnel. All are marked for death. The ultimate slaughter will defy imagination!”

Iraq is a far off place to most Americans, a vision on a TV screen and not much more unless they or a family member served in Iraq or in some military capacity. For others it’s real people, faces and memories, lives about to be shattered and a feeling of helplessness to do anything to help them.

We live in a world so interconnected that a hiccup in an unpronounceable location will drastically affect your wallet or your life and pose an indelible threat to the future of your family. Accordingly, we place a great deal of trust in our leaders, particularly national leaders, to deal with these threats efficiently and intelligently. We give them great latitude and almost unlimited resources at their command to shoulder this burden on behalf of we ordinary mortals. That such burdens take a toll on our leaders is well documented; did you ever see a President depart office without significant signs of aging? When Johnson left the White House in 1969, he lived barely two years before succumbing, his health broken by the strain of the Vietnam War. The burden of responsibility imposed upon the President is daunting regardless of his political persuasion. The duties require utmost attention and diligence lest the lives of 300 million Americans be shattered as a result of faulty judgment, ineptitude or indifference to duty.

Every president makes at least one serious mistake for which they pay a political price or worse. Mistakes come with being human and can be forgiven. Virtually all presidents recover to one degree or another provided they recognize a mistake for what it is and are willing to change course given new information. The danger is amplified if ideologically-driven pride trumps judgment and a leader refuses to alter course or worse yet, doubles down on the original error. The result is almost always catastrophic for those directly affected.

Americans are being assaulted on virtually every front with disasters political in origin with daunting consequences.

Internally, we have government bureaucracies openly contemptuous of elected leaders and of the laws passed to govern us. The President, who ultimately holds responsibility for these agencies under his authority, feigns outrage but does nothing, steadfastly blocking requests for a federal investigation or prosecution of offending employees.

Overseas, American foreign policy is in shambles. Chinese warships bully Asian nations with impunity while staking out claims for territory internationally recognized as belonging to other nations. In their quest for energy resources the Chinese government understands that in the face of American weakness, “might makes right.”

In the Middle East, especially Iraq, a war won after much bloodshed is then lost due to fecklessness and obtuseness. The violence occurring there didn’t have to occur but for the ideological blindness and crass political motives of the President. The al Qaeda of Iraq terrorist Army, now called the Islamic State of Iraq, Syria and the Levant (ISIS or ISIL) has effectively partitioned Iraq, terrorizing half the population and boasts of targeting Jordan and its royal family next. They’ve acquired heavy weapons, possibly even chemical ordnance, which if used on Israel will evoke a retaliatory nuclear response. Iran is permitted to keep its 19,000 centrifuges running to process uranium for nuclear weapons even as it builds medium range and intercontinental range missiles for use against Israel, Europe or the American heartland. The region is being set up for a catastrophic regional war involving nuclear weapons. Millions could die.

For 5000 Americans left in Iraq, there is little being done to proactively evacuate them from Baghdad. Moving 5000 people out of the center of Baghdad is logistically difficult under the best of circumstances. Evacuating civilians under fire while running a gauntlet of ambushes en-route to the Baghdad airport is asking for a massacre. Worse still, imagine the image of 100 captive American civilians on your TV screen, hostages of the ISIS. Finally, deploying 300 “advisors” without a quick-reaction force (combat troops) to back them up is criminally negligent. A military officer sending men into harm’s way without proper support would be summarily relieved of command for dereliction of duty. So too should the Commander-in-Chief.

By Al Fonzi, President, Lincoln Club of SLO

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