Qelling Qassem

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As libertarians, you would assume I am not writing this to defend the president, but, in the unlikely event this reflection escapes into the wild, I want to go on record that I did not vote for him last time around. I will not vote for him next time, I do not believe we should have troops in Iraq, and I do not think he should have killed Qassem Soleimani last week.

I think we should have done it years ago . . . the moment we first had him in our sights. I can speak with some authority on this because, half a century ago, the moral cowardice of doing nothing cost me five months in a series of army hospitals and the lives of something like 19 of my buddies.

Back when I drove a patrol boat in Vietnam I was assigned, along with a lot of others, Americans and soldiers of the Republic of Vietnam, to guard a bridge across the Saigon River. The North Vietnamese, naturally, wanted to blow up that bridge. They only had one group of sappers capable of doing that, and only four bridges in South Vietnam worth their effort. Three were on the coast. Ours was inland near the Cambodian border.

The moral cowardice of doing nothing cost me five months in a series of army hospitals and the lives of something like 19 of my buddies.

The odd thing is, we knew where the sappers were. We knew it at the squad level because, every now and then, our sergeant would update us.

“They’re in Hanoi, resting and refitting,” was the first thing we heard.

A few weeks later they’d disappeared from Hanoi. “If they show up on the coast, we’re off the hook. If they’re coming down the Ho Chi Minh trail, they’re heading for us.”

Then, “They’re in Laos. On the Trail.”

In a week or two they were in Cambodia.

We knew America had firepower unparalleled in the history of the world. What we did not have was the political will to use it.

Not long after, they were just across the Cambodian border: 32 river miles upstream. We knew where they were.

We knew why they were there, too. Officers. Men. Sergeants. We all knew.

And we knew something else: we knew America had firepower unparalleled in the history of the world. We had B-52’s. We had carrier-based bombers. We had AC-47 gunships that could put a 7.62 mm NATO slug into every square foot of an acre within seconds. We had attack helicopters with rockets and door gunners. We had artillery and mobile assault teams. What we did not have was the political will to use them and so, we sat on our hands

When sampans started drifting beneath our bridge, the men inside waved as they went by. Three nights later, the bridge went up in a huge explosion. My buddies died. Others were wounded. A bridge that had cost our nation taxes and thought and sweat and skill was gone and I was in the hospital knowing in my bones how serious wars are for the people we send to fight them. And how, if we’re not willing to fight, we shouldn’t be there.

But when we do have people there, we undertake an absolute moral obligation to treat the war as seriously as they have to, which means doing everything in our power to cover their backs. This means not shillyshallying around while the enemy gets into position to kill our people. And it definitely means not giving the likes of Qassem Soleimani a free pass to roam the Middle East murdering Americans.

A bridge that had cost our nation taxes and thought and sweat and skill was gone and I was in the hospital knowing in my bones how serious wars are for the people we send to fight them.

That man wasn’t sitting in his living room watching Netflix when we took him out. He was a uniformed soldier conducting military operations against our country. Specifically, he was an Iranian who, three days earlier, had dispatched a militia to attack the American embassy in Baghdad. He was as legitimate a target as a target could get, as legitimate as Isoroku Yamamoto when we sent our airmen to shoot him down over Bougainville.

I have no opinion as to whether taking out Soleimani disrupted specific future attacks on our troops. What I do have an opinion on is that Soleimani was a soldier, in uniform, on the battlefield, hip deep in killing Americans. And that Iranians have overrun and looted our embassies in the past, and taken our diplomats hostage. And that putting a stop to him was our only possible ethical response. Anything less would have been a betrayal of the people we send to fight people like Soleimani.




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Comments

Michael F.S.W. Morrison

Thank you, Bill Merritt, for this powerful essay.
I was not in Vietnam. The military was smarter than it sometimes seems: It wouldn't take me -- or we might have lost that war even sooner.
Instead I became a young "news" reporter. One of my interviewees was Tennessee's U.S. Senator Albert Gore -- the daddy, not Algore.
Into my sound camera, Senator Gore said, The only reason they keep that war going is to boost the economy.
I kept a straight face (not like CNN or other "news" reporters of today) but I was thinking, "What a nut!"
Except not long after I realized he was right.
Lately I've been reading -- I'm not sure why -- histories of that war, and all the evidence says that, yes, the politicians threw away lives, wasted billions of dollars, and will all go to Hell for their dishonesty and cowardice.
Sure, people will argue with me, but I honestly and strongly believe if "our" government had been serious, it could have won that war in the middle or late 1960s.
Yes, it would probably have had to kill North Vietnamese, but ultimately the deaths would have been many fewer than actually did result.
And far fewer United States troops and South Vietnamese would have been fatalities.
But U.S. politicians gave sanctuary to professed enemies, to blatant and open invaders, who then killed and destroyed seemingly at will, as witness the incident Bill Merritt wrote about.
I make no comment about the Iranian general, but certainly do appreciate Mr. Merritt's analogy. And certainly do appreciate his passion.
And I'm awfully glad to see his work continuing here in Liberty. Thank you, Mr. Merritt and Liberty.

Bill Merritt

Thank you, Michael Morrison.
Your kind comment brought a lump to my throat.
There are times I think we could have won in Vietnam . . . and at much less cost than losing . . . if we’d been serious about fighting. Mostly, though, I think that we as a society could never have done the things we would have needed to do to win, and I’m not so unhappy about that. The societies that could have done those things aren’t places where I’d particularly like to live. And losing had the advantage of getting us out, which I’m not sure we could have accomplished if we’d won. To me, the tragedy . . . and the betrayal . . . came in getting involved in something we weren’t willing to see through to the end.
Anyway, thanks again for your thought-filled note. I really appreciated it.
-- Bill

Terclinger

Thank you for your service. I am ashamed to admit while you were over there risking life and limb to save an imperfect (but still our ally) South Vietnam against communist tyrants, I was a young teen who sucked up Cronkite and Ayers' antiwar BS and was a moron marching against the war.

It took me decades to see my mistake and to read enough history to note that if we had nuked the Chinese coming across in Korea, hundreds of thousands of American's would be alive and many hundreds of millions of Asians and Europeans and Latin Americans' would not have had to live under communist enslavement.

I have said since 9/12 that America should have treated the Mid East the way we did Japan and Germany as we ended WW2: nuke some and flatten the rest of the capitals of most if not every muslim ""nation" in the Gulf and Mideast, and anyone who wanted to eat after that had to graduate dejihadification class.

I respect your right to be a libertarian, but please understand that not voting for Trump/Pence in 2020 will bring us much closer to the disintegration of the American experiment in liberty.

A Dem winner in 2020 means open borders. Open borders means far left Democrats running America FOREVER as they flood the country with millions of future voting DEMmigrants, with gun confiscation at the outset followed by socialism/communism, the end of property rights, and the jail time for "climate and open-gender deniers".

Unless you want the civil war that will ensue, please hold your nose and vote Trump/Pence 2020.

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