This is the mean season. One week before the mid-term elections, the kitchen sink has been unbolted and tossed around. George Allen has exposed himself for what he is – a cowardly shifty-eyed politician who would rather troll for sex in the pages of fiction than address the very serious issues facing our state and our nation. While George Allen has his aides read him passages from novels that arouse his political drawers, brave men and women of this country continue to lose their lives in Iraq as a result of the "stay the course" mantra of the senator and his president. That is unacceptable.
It is time for serious leadership in the halls of the United States Senate. It is time to elect James Webb as United States Senator.
I do not agree with James Webb on everything, nor do I need to. However, I respect Mr. Webb immensely. He is a serious and thoughtful man with strong values. He is a strategic thinker with broad foreign policy experience. He has served our country with honor and distinction both as a United States Marine and as a Secretary of the Navy. He is an author, thinker, citizen and hero.
Let me introduce you, mainly in his own words, to the man who Virginians have an opportunity to elect as their Senator on November 7, 2006.
During the Vietnam War, 363 brave Marines earned the Navy Cross for bravery. The Navy Cross is the second highest medal that can be awarded by the US Navy. James Webb earned his Navy Cross on July 10, 1969. Mr. Webb has refused to use his Navy Cross award in his campaign, but I am under no such obligation. Below is the full text of the citation:
The Navy Cross is presented to James H. Webb, Jr., First Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism while serving as a Platoon Commander with Company D, First Battalion, Fifth Marines, First Marine Division (Reinforced), Fleet Marine Force, in connection with combat operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam.
On 10 July 1969, while participating in a company-sized search and destroy operation deep in hostile territory, First Lieutenant Webb’s platoon discovered a well-camouflaged bunker complex which appeared to be unoccupied. Deploying his men into defensive positions, First Lieutenant Webb was advancing to the first bunker when three enemy soldiers armed with hand grenades jumped out.
Reacting instantly, he grabbed the closest man and, brandishing his .45 caliber pistol at the others, apprehended all three of the soldiers.
Accompanied by one of his men, he then approached the second bunker and called for the enemy to surrender. When the hostile soldiers failed to answer him and threw a grenade which detonated dangerously close to him, First Lieutenant Webb detonated a claymore mine in the bunker aperture, accounting for two enemy casualties and disclosing the entrance to a tunnel.
Despite the smoke and debris from the explosion and the possibility of enemy soldiers hiding in the tunnel, he then conducted a thorough search which yielded several items of equipment and numerous documents containing valuable intelligence data. Continuing the assault, he approached a third bunker and was preparing to fire into it when the enemy threw another grenade.
Observing the grenade land dangerously close to his companion, First Lieutenant Webb simultaneously fired his weapon at the enemy, pushed the Marine away from the grenade, and shielded him from the explosion with his own body.
Although sustaining painful fragmentation wounds from the explosion, he managed to throw a grenade into the aperture and completely destroy the remaining bunker.
By his courage, aggressive leadership, and selfless devotion to duty, First Lieutenant Webb upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service.
Ask yourself who you would rather have in a foxhole with you: James Webb or George Allen. I would not only want Mr. Webb in the same foxhole, but I would feel much safer knowing that a man of his character was in the United States Senate fighting to protect us.
In addition to the Navy Cross, James Webb earned the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, and two Purple Hearts in Vietnam. After Vietnam, Mr. Webb continued to serve his country with distinction. James Webb was this nation’s first Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs from 1984 to 1987. He then became the Secretary of the Navy until his resignation in 1988. Mr. Webb resigned as Navy Secretary after refusing to accept reductions to the size of the Navy. Mr. Webb explained his reasons in his letter of resignation to President Reagan:
Like many others, I have serious concerns regarding the entire budget reduction process. First, the Department of Defense has been required to absorb cuts at a ratio almost twice as great as non-defense programs. Second, many Defense reductions themselves have been made in the wrong areas, and without clear strategic thought. I am particularly upset with the nature of the cuts as they affect the Department under my authority.
On three separate occasions, the uniformed and civilian leadership of the Navy Department provided the Secretary of Defense with proposed cuts totaling the amount required to meet the budget reduction, but which also would preserve the cherished goal of your administration to rebuild our Navy to a minimum level of 600 ships. In each case the advice of this senior leadership, concurred in by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was ignored. I can only conclude that the decision to reduce the level of our fleet to a point that it may never reach the 600 ship goal was motivated by other than military and strategic reasoning.
During the four years I have served in your Administration, I have repeatedly expressed my gratitude at your decision to rebuild the greatest Navy in the world. Since I became Secretary of the Navy last year, I have stated just as frequently my belief that the force levels of our sea services remain minimal and must not be reduced. Even in the current budget environment such force levels could have been maintained. Since recommendations to that effect were rejected by your Secretary of Defense, I am unable to support him personally, or to defend this amended budget during budget deliberations. Consequently, I find it necessary to resign from my position as Secretary of the Navy.
James Webb has always been a defender and supporter of the soldier in uniform. He is driven by his love for this country and his support for its soldiers. Recently he defended Jack Murtha in a New York Times op-ed against the cowardly attacks on his service from desperate Republicans:
IT should come as no surprise that an arch-conservative Web site is questioning whether Representative John Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat who has been critical of the war in Iraq, deserved the combat awards he received in Vietnam.
After all, in recent years extremist Republican operatives have inverted a longstanding principle: that our combat veterans be accorded a place of honor in political circles. This trend began with the ugly insinuations leveled at Senator John McCain during the 2000 Republican primaries and continued with the slurs against Senators Max Cleland and John Kerry, and now Mr. Murtha.
Military people past and present have good reason to wonder if the current administration truly values their service beyond its immediate effect on its battlefield of choice. The casting of suspicion and doubt about the actions of veterans who have run against President Bush or opposed his policies has been a constant theme of his career. This pattern of denigrating the service of those with whom they disagree risks cheapening the public’s appreciation of what it means to serve, and in the long term may hurt the Republicans themselves.
The political tactic of playing up the soldiers on the battlefield while tearing down the reputations of veterans who oppose them could eventually cost the Republicans dearly. It may be one reason that a preponderance of the Iraq war veterans who thus far have decided to run for office are doing so as Democrats.
A young American now serving in Iraq might rightly wonder whether his or her service will be deliberately misconstrued 20 years from now, in the next rendition of politically motivated spinmeisters who never had the courage to step forward and put their own lives on the line.
James Webb’s own son serves in Iraq. He has a personal connection to the men and women of the armed forces. He understands the stakes.
After the attacks of September 11, 2001 James Webb understood the stakes better than most, and certainly better than the current Administration and its dude ranch senator George Allen. In a remarkably prescient article in the United States Naval Institute Proceedings written on October 17, 2001, James Webb laid out the fight before us and warned against misadventures to come:
What we need is a clear articulation of the national strategy to the American people. When we commit to something like this, which involves many unknowns, people need to know what the endgame really is. In my view, there are two endgames.
The first is homeland defense. We must create an environment here in the United States in which our intelligence apparatus has been reinvigorated. So we can feel secure inside our borders, we must find terrorist cells, penetrate them, and eliminate them. And we must develop a capability to prevent similar groups from entering and operating in this country. It’s sort of like rule number one in any operational military environment: you cannot go on patrol if your perimeter isn’t secure. This is our highest priority, in my view.
Step number two is to convince every country in the world to accept responsibility for policing and eliminating terrorist training and other activities inside their own borders. In a way, this is my reading of what this administration began when it told several countries that have very bad records in this area, You have the chance to demonstrate to us that you will do this.
In those countries that do not agree with us, I think we need to do the policing for them for a while. And we need to start with a basic premise: if fundamentalist Muslim terrorists want to die for a cause, you are not going to stop them. The most important thing you can do, if you are their adversary, is to kill them on your terms, not on theirs. That makes some Americans—particularly American media—squeamish. But that is the reality of the situation we are in.
My final admonition—and I got into some trouble with this during the Gulf War—is that we are not in a position as a nation, and particularly as a military, to occupy large pieces of territory. The Wall Street Journal editorialized repeatedly during the Gulf War that we should set up a MacArthurian regency in Baghdad. There has been a lot of discussion about why we did not take Baghdad during the Gulf War. I think as much as anyone in this country, I would like to see Saddam Hussein go. To my knowledge, I was the only guy in the Reagan administration who opposed the tilt toward Iraq, in writing, in 1987. I do not think we had nor have the resources to occupy Iraq.
If you think we have problems in Israel, try putting a Judeo-Christian military system in the cradle of Muslim culture. And when you think about a military of 1.4 million people, with other responsibilities around the world, that is not a winnable situation. I tried to say ten years ago, over and over again, that we must be involved only to the extent that it directly involves our national interests. These arguments have been going on for 3,000 years. And when they do relate to our national interests, as this international terrorist movement does, we must act with a great deal of specific lethality. We must go after the people who are doing this and eliminate them.
Before the invasion of Iraq, James Webb provided a clear strategic direction for the United States, that if followed, may have saved us and the world from the mess the Bush Administration has driven us into. I have quoted from only part of the article. Read the entire article to get a sense of his grasp of geo-political forces, especially the roles of Pakistan, India and China.
On November 30, 2001 James Webb wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal entitled "A New Doctrine for New Wars". In the op-ed he argued for a focused and flexible approach in the fight against the terrorists that attacked us, while at the same time warning against the temptation of widening the conflict:
The recent focus on international terrorism raises the prospect that traditional deterrence, both nuclear and conventional, could be minimized in the public’s eye. In order to ensure that this does not happen, our leadership needs to articulate a clear national strategy that addresses all our responsibilities.
The key elements of a new doctrine seem obvious. We must retain our position as the dominant guarantor of world-wide stability through strategic and conventional forces that deter potentially aggressive nations. We must be willing to retaliate fiercely against nations that participate in or condone aggressive acts, as well as non-national purveyors of asymmetric warfare. But we should take great care when it comes to committing large numbers of ground forces to open-ended combat, and we should especially avoid using them as long-term occupation troops.
The approach to our commitment in Afghanistan fits the above criteria, and should serve as a clear warning to other states that have condoned or supported terrorism. The Taliban were warned, and were offered the chance to rid their country of Osama bin Laden’s forces. Our military campaign has been conducted with lethality, relying on mobile naval and air assets and special forces units. The ground campaign has been carried out principally through local forces. Marine Corps infantry units were inserted at a time when the campaign’s objectives had been clearly focused, in order to perform specific tasks. And around the world, the U.S. military is still carrying out its functions of maintaining global stability.
This formula works, and as the campaign stretches, we should not be tempted by its very successes to change it. If we remain focused on the twin goals of deterring cross-border aggression and eliminating international terrorism we will prevail. If we move beyond these clear objectives, we risk running out of people, equipment, and the kind of clarity that maintains the national spirit. [Emphasis added by me.]
On September 4, 2002, on the eve of the attack on Iraq, in an op-ed in the Washington Post James Webb asked the question on all thinking persons’ minds: "Do we really want to occupy Iraq for the next 30 years?":
Other than the flippant criticisms of our "failure" to take Baghdad during the Persian Gulf War, one sees little discussion of an occupation of Iraq, but it is the key element of the current debate. The issue before us is not simply whether the United States should end the regime of Saddam Hussein, but whether we as a nation are prepared to physically occupy territory in the Middle East for the next 30 to 50 years. Those who are pushing for a unilateral war in Iraq know full well that there is no exit strategy if we invade and stay. This reality was the genesis of a rift that goes back to the Gulf War itself, when neoconservatives were vocal in their calls for "a MacArthurian regency in Baghdad." Their expectation is that the United States would not only change Iraq’s regime but also remain as a long-term occupation force in an attempt to reconstruct Iraqi society itself.
The connotations of "a MacArthurian regency in Baghdad" show how inapt the comparison is. Our occupation forces never set foot inside Japan until the emperor had formally surrendered and prepared Japanese citizens for our arrival. Nor did MacArthur destroy the Japanese government when he took over as proconsul after World War II. Instead, he was careful to work his changes through it, and took pains to preserve the integrity of Japan’s imperial family. Nor is Japanese culture in any way similar to Iraq’s. The Japanese are a homogeneous people who place a high premium on respect, and they fully cooperated with MacArthur’s forces after having been ordered to do so by the emperor. The Iraqis are a multiethnic people filled with competing factions who in many cases would view a U.S. occupation as infidels invading the cradle of Islam. Indeed, this very bitterness provided Osama bin Laden the grist for his recruitment efforts in Saudi Arabia when the United States kept bases on Saudi soil after the Gulf War.
In Japan, American occupation forces quickly became 50,000 friends. In Iraq, they would quickly become 50,000 terrorist targets.
Nations such as China can only view the prospect of an American military consumed for the next generation by the turmoil of the Middle East as a glorious windfall. Indeed, if one gives the Chinese credit for having a long-term strategy — and those who love to quote Sun Tzu might consider his nationality — it lends credence to their insistent cultivation of the Muslim world. One should not take lightly the fact that China previously supported Libya, that Pakistan developed its nuclear capability with China’s unrelenting assistance and that the Chinese sponsored a coup attempt in Indonesia in 1965. An "American war" with the Muslims, occupying the very seat of their civilization, would allow the Chinese to isolate the United States diplomatically as they furthered their own ambitions in South and Southeast Asia.
These concerns, and others like them, are the reasons that many with long experience in U.S. national security issues remain unconvinced by the arguments for a unilateral invasion of Iraq. Unilateral wars designed to bring about regime change and a long-term occupation should be undertaken only when a nation’s existence is clearly at stake. It is true that Saddam Hussein might try to assist international terrorist organizations in their desire to attack America. It is also true that if we invade and occupy Iraq without broad-based international support, others in the Muslim world might be encouraged to intensify the same sort of efforts. And it is crucial that our national leaders consider the impact of this proposed action on our long-term ability to deter aggression elsewhere.
However, warnings from James Webb and other thoughtful observers went unheeded as the neo-cons pursued their fanciful agenda.
As was expected, the Iraq War started to show early signs of the protracted guerilla conflict it would become. James Webb wrote an article in the New York Times entitled "The War in Iraq Turns Ugly. That’s What Wars Do.":
This campaign was begun, like so many others throughout history, with lofty exhortations from battlefield commanders to their troops, urging courage, patience, compassion for the Iraqi people and even chivalry. Within a week it had degenerated into an unexpected ugliness in virtually every populated area where American and British forces have come under fire. Those who believed from intelligence reports and Pentagon war planners that the Iraqi people, and particularly those from the Shiite sections of the southeast, would rise up to greet them as liberators were instead faced with persistent resistance.
If American forces are successful in these engagements, the war may be over sooner rather than later. But if these battles stagnate, guerrilla warfare could well become pandemic, not only in Baghdad but also across Iraq. And even considering the strong likelihood of an allied victory, it is hard to imagine an end point without an extremely difficult period of occupation.
In fact, what will be called an occupation may well end up looking like the images we have seen in places like Nasiriya. Do Iraqis hate Saddam Hussein’s regime more deeply than they dislike the Americans who are invading their country? That question will still be with this administration, and the military forces inside Iraq, when the occupation begins, whether the war lasts a few more days or several more months.
Or worse, the early stages of an occupation could see acts of retribution against members of Saddam Hussein’s regime, then quickly turn into yet another round of guerrilla warfare against American forces. This point was made chillingly clear a few days ago by the leader of Iraq’s major Shiite opposition group, who, according to Reuters, promised armed resistance if the United States remains in Iraq after Saddam Hussein is overthrown.
Welcome to hell. Many of us lived it in another era. And don’t expect it to get any better for a while.
While George W Bush, Dick Cheney and George Allen were screaming "stay the course" at the top of their lungs, James Webb understood earlier than most that the course that the Bush Administration had embarked upon would likely lead to disaster.
Unlike the ideologues in the Administration and their lackeys in congress, James Webb has been consistent and correct about the Bush Administration’s misguided Iraq policy. He has been strong on defense, a defender of our men and women in uniform, and a tireless voice of reason on foreign policy matters. In his writings and in his actions, James Webb has proven to be a serious thinker for our serious times. We need leaders like James Webb to steer us out of the quagmire Mr. Bush and his rubber stamp, George Allen, have waded into.
James Webb is not a career politician, he is simply a patriot. Virginia, the home of patriots, deserves and needs one now. On November 7th, Virginians can send James Webb, a true American hero and patriot, to the United States Senate.