By Verne Strickland
Most members of the U.S. Congress don’t have a clue how battles and wars are fought. They haven’t been there.
The disconnect shows in muddled decision-making, callous calls on Rules of Engagement, dangerous and naive micromanagment, and — perhaps most vital of all — failure to offer up a prescription on how to win, decisively and honorably.
As a result, America — still the most powerful nation on earth, and the most magnanimous – limps through combat situations with its fighting forces hobbled by naive directives from U.S. Congressmen who project a sanitized mentality of life — and death — in the savagery of desperate combat.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, the enemy wears no uniform, squanders its own “soldiers” behind the cowardice of suicide missions, human shields, and wantonly kills innocents at every opportunity to weaken the resolve of the “government” to resist.
Who could understand this war? Who could deal with it? Lawyers? I don’t think so. But these are the ladies and gentlemen who send our fighting forces into combat, then waste their potential, and safety, by imposing military impotence.
According to the Congressional Research Service 170 members of the House and 58 Senators have law degrees.
Is that enough? Or way too many? The troops who fight for our freedom are having their say now about this issue.
The choice is crystal clear in the Seventh Congressional District of North Carolina, where seven-term incumbent Mike McIntyre, an attorney who has never been in uniform, is being challenged by former combat-seasoned Marine officer Ilario Pantano.
The crying need in Washington for American patriots who have fought our wars, and who are doing so now, is powerfully expressed in a statement by Kieran Michael Lalor, founder of Iraq Veterans for Congress. These are excerpts of his comments:
White Plains, NY – August 17, 2010: The number of veterans in Congress has been dwindling since the end of the Cold War. In 1980 more than sixty percent of Congress had served but now barely twenty percent of our leaders in Washington DC spent time in uniform.
The number of combat veterans is even smaller. According to a report by the House Armed Services Committee only five percent of House members served in combat zones and even fewer saw actual combat.
Also quite rare is the member of Congress who served as an enlisted man. Only about forty percent of the veterans in Congress were enlisted despite the fact that eighty-five percent of our military are enlisted rather than commissioned officers.
In short, those who actually fight our wars are severely underrepresented in Congress. For a variety of reasons, it is in the national interest to have in Congress a critical mass of enlisted men with trigger time.
While colonels and generals craft the overall strategy of any conflict, the execution is done primarily by privates, corporals and sergeants of the infantry, artillery and cavalry. Because they operate where the metal hits the meat, enlisted men of the combat arms have valuable insights into equipment, tactics and policies.
The debate over the Rules of Engagement in Afghanistan highlights the desperate need for enlisted combat veterans of the War on Terror in Congress. Someone with a worm’s-eye view of the impact restrictive rules have on morale and a small unit’s ability to accomplish the mission would be invaluable when questioning the Pentagon brass about the wisdom of current and future rules.
Voters in North Carolina need look no further than Wilmington, NC, for a shining example of a patriotic young American who enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps at 17, fought in the First Gulf War as an anti-tank gunner, re-enlisted after 9/11, won his commission at OCS, was deployed to Iraq where he took command of a Infantry Platoon and led them in combat in the “Triangle of Death” Region of Iraq, engaging the enemy in Latayifah, Yusufiyah and Falluja.
That former Marine, Ilario Pantano, was praised today (August 19) by retired Major General James E. Livingston, recipient of the highest military decoration bestowed by the United States – the Medal of Honor — for heroic actions in 1968 during the Vietnam War.
Livingston served on active duty in the Marine Corps over 33 years before retiring on September 1, 1995. He visited Wilmington, NC, Pantano’s hometown, to support the GOP nominee at a campaign news conference.
“Ilario is a true leader, a man of honor and integrity,” said General Livingston. “As a Marine who led men into battle in Vietnam, I understand the challenge of combat leadership, forged in the toughest crucible known to man.
“Ilario has once again decided to heed the call to service, this time to serve as a Congressman to stand up for us in Washington, to return fiscal responsibility to our government, to protect our national security, and preserve our values,” said General Livingston.
He particularly praised Pantano for pledging to limit his service in the U.S. House of Representatives to six terms, or a total of 12 years.
Pantano secured his pledge with a $250,000 personal bond, which will be forfeited to “Step Up for Soldiers”, a 501(c)3 charitable organization, should he fail to honor his commitment.
Meanwhile, Mike McIntyre, seven-term Seventh Congressional District incumbent, a Democrat, is ignoring his own pledge to cap his service at 12 years — a promise he made when first elected in 1996.
“He wasn’t supposed to run for re-election again in 2008. He did it anyway. And, worse than breaking his word, he’s reversed himself and voted sgainst term limits for committee chairmen, thus ensuring a cycle of corruption amongst his peers. Now he’s running again in 2010,” observed GOP candidate Pantano.
Perhaps voters in the conservative Seventh NC District, turned off by McIntyre’s claim of conservatism while voting repeatedly with liberal House Speaker Pelosi, will make the decision for the congressman, to spare him the anguish of retiring voluntarily.