Hillary Clinton, Trey Gowdy, and the True Victims of Playing Politics With War
While Washington, D.C., focused last week on who ‘won’ the Benghazi hearings, the U.S. lost yet another life in the Middle East.
By the time Trey Gowdy and Hillary Clinton finished their opening remarks at Thursday’s congressional inquiry on Benghazi, Joshua Wheeler was dead in Iraq half a world away from Washington, where policy is set that sends men just like him to the fight. Sgt. Wheeler was a 39-year-old, highly decorated Army veteran of 14 deployments to the long wars waged in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
He was killed in a gunfight as a handful of U.S. Special Operations troops accompanied Iraqi soldiers who tried, successfully, to rescue hostages held by ISIS terrorists. On Friday nearly all the headlines as well as the cable chatter was devoted to the hostile attitude of Republican interrogators and the calm demeanor of the Democrat’s frontrunner for the party’s presidential nomination.
Sgt. Wheeler and the other Special Ops Rangers were in Iraq because of a deeply flawed and failed strategy set in place 12 years ago. Mrs. Clinton was in Washington testifying about Benghazi and four dead Americans because of a deeply flawed and failed strategy set in place four years ago.
It is an old story.
Political people give speeches and espouse positions declaring that America is the best and strongest nation in the world. And then in order to prove our power we too often send the few, the young and the brave off to fight and die in lands that will remain chaotic, ungovernable and violent for decades to come.
We send people just like Joshua Wheeler.
Sgt. Wheeler enlisted in the Army 20 years ago. He went to Muldrow High school in Muldrow, Oklahoma, a town with a population of about 3,500 people located along the Arkansas border, a poor town where in order to live better many just leave.
“In that area, if you didn’t go to college you basically had a choice of the oil fields or the military,” Wheeler’s uncle, Jack Shamblin, was quoted telling The New York Times.
The United States of America, justifiably and proudly, went to war in Afghanistan in early winter of 2001. The United States invaded Iraq on a false premise in the spring of 2003.
Sgt. Wheeler deployed to one combat theater or the other 14 times in 12 years. He had a wife and four children. Like thousands of others, his absence from home began with hugs, tears, goodbye kisses and a sea bag over his shoulder as he shipped out on another assignment, his family left to worry every hour of each day that he was gone.
In Washington, politicians worry about their “base.” About polls. About ideology. About raising money. About re-election. They measure their future in two- or six-year increments.
It is an old story.
Earlier last week, a new book by Bob Woodward went on sale: The Last of the President’s Men. He wrote about Alexander Butterfield, a former aide to Richard Nixon who helped install the Oval Office taping system that ended Nixon’s presidency in the aftermath of the Watergate break-in.
Butterfield kept thousands of files from his years in the White House. As reported by Woodward, the files are both informative and depressing because they are compilations of the cynicism and duplicity that surrounded Nixon’s role in continuing the war in Vietnam.
From the day Nixon took the oath of office in January 1969 until his departure in August 1974 more than 21,000 Americans were killed fighting in Vietnam, a war Nixon knew to be hopeless. The vast majority of those who died and whose names are now carved on the Vietnam Memorial wall in Washington were between the ages 18 and 22 years old.
Across the weekend, both sides involved in Thursday’s Benghazi hearings spun their stories hoping for political advantage. On Saturday, largely unnoticed, Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler’s body was returned to the United States of America, his home, land of his birth.
It is an old story.