There are lines. Lines that are meant not to be crossed. Every person has their own. Some are purely personal. Some are dictated by policy. Lines, in certain cases, that are there for the protection of others, even others for which we have no real loyalties. When we as a country signed the Geneva Convention, we agreed to a lot of lines. Lines such as, well… I dunno… using chemical weapons (much less on unarmed civilians). We also drew that line when it came to allowing other countries to do such atrocities. This line was drawn in the sand. The sand in Iraq to be exact.
When President Bush decided to take his military to war as the Commander in Chief, he did so with the deepest regret. He had an understanding of the lives he was putting in harms way, and the bloodshed that would follow. When the intelligence sources provided evidence that the famed leader of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, had been using chemical weapons to affect a genocide against the Kurdish people of northern Iraq, there was a huge red line crossed.
Now, many people over the years have argued that there were never any chemical weapons. That President Bush had fabricated the intelligence to wage an illegal war to avenge his father’s efforts with Iraq in the early 90’s when Saddam Hussein had tried to invade his remarkably smaller neighbor country of Kuwait. For years, I have heard news report after news report stating that the inspectors had found no weapons of “mass destruction”, while I encountered fellow servicemembers that had become sick from exposure to these weapons that did not exist. Apparently, these imaginary chemical weapons were able to cross over from the realm of dreams and drop from the sky in the form of a mortar round containing sarin gas onto the base I was stationed at as well. Luckily, the poorly manufactured round proved to be a dud and only a minor contamination occurred, but within itself that dud proved that these weapons did exist, and that we had a purpose to be there. Lines had indeed been crossed.
It took a few years, but the proof revealed itself eventually.
Personal experiences aside, we trudged on fighting in Iraq against the fall out of the fascist regime’s Army, who had been disposed and wished to reclaim their lost power over the people. All the while, sects of muslims battled each other, and us, for control over the country which was left with only a weak and fledgling government after its dictator was removed. These sects and its religious fanatics were the ones who continued the fight in Iraq. The ones who began terrorizing the civilian populace of their own country in an effort to force them to their side. These savages, as they have been critically referred to in media such as Chris Kyle’s book, “American Sniper”, would go to homes of able bodied family men and hold their families hostage to force these men to emplace improvised explosive devises, to fire mortars upon their enemies, to walk into a crowd with an explosive vest, and to drive cement trucks packed with explosives towards whatever fortified target they could. To force a man to assume the risk of your actions while you hold his family hostage is nothing short of savage, and those monsters shall be referred to as such.
People will try and argue that without our presence there these savages would not have anyone to fight. There would have never been an issue if we had not gone to Iraq. I believe the Kurds would say otherwise, as Saddam’s intent was to remove them from his country, and subsequently the mortal coil. Genocide was the goal. A holocaust, if you will. Our presence stopped that from becoming a reality. But what if we had left after? They surely wouldn’t have anyone else to focus their fighting upon. As I stated, it was a fight between religious sects with power and control of Iraq being the prize of the victor. Men who seek such power rarely care for the innocents that are sacrificed along the way. The fight would happen, regardless of who was there to fight. I witnessed this personally. There were police officers in Iraq, similarly to any other country, and despite their country imploding, they stepped up heroically to attempt to keep the peace within their cities. Their efforts didn’t go unnoticed. They, like the military, were shot at, rocketed, mortared, ambushed, and ultimately roadside bombed in their police cars while attempting to keep their cities safe.
This Iraqi police car was hit by an IED. The guy that was in it was a friend of mine. He often brought us kebabs and we would drink chai tea and for a split second, you could believe that you weren’t in a war where people slaughtered each other just to say they were in charge. He was a good man trying to do good things for his family, friends, and his own country, and I watched his friends pick his brains off of the dashboard of that police car. Look closely, there’s still some grey matter there. Soak it in.
So when someone says that America didn’t have a purpose for being there, it’s a little more than insulting. In fact, I spend most of my days biting my tongue as to avoid engaging every would-be foreign policy correspondent that comes across social media with an ill word to say on the subject simply because I would spend every day of my life infuriated from arguing with people who are so wrapped around 1st world problems that they can’t see past the thick black frames of their ironic glasses. The world is a cruel place. There are people who want to do you harm. You may not see it. You will probably write this off as paranoia, because its convenient for you to, but they are there, and they want to hurt you because your life is better than theirs and they are pissed off and jealous. They hate you because you are different. They hate you because you have a different god than them. They hate you because in their religious belief you are a sinner because you wear jeans and don’t cover your face in public. They hate you because their father before them hated you. They hate you for reasons dating all the way back to slights that occurred during the 1st Holy Crusade. Some even have no earthly idea why they hate you, but that doesn’t stop them. Given the chance these people would invade and bring their religious sect’s order upon you and cleanse you of your sins through death and conversion. Who are our troops protecting us from? If that is a legitimate question coming from your mouth the you need only keep up with ISIS on twitter. Why, if they can succeed in demolishing the Iraqi Army with such ease, do they not simply float on across the ocean and bring their fight to America (short of a onsey and twosey jihadist that attack unsuspecting people)? Why have they not taken over any American cities? Is it because we are such a nice country then? Or is simply by having shown that our forces can endure them. We can fight them, we can reduce them, and we can dwindle them because we have time and time again on their turf. How much harder would we fight on our home field when our families have stray bullets flying at them? That show of force in other countries has kept those freedoms protected. Those very freedoms that people seem to think they are naturally entitled to regardless of whether there are soldiers standing guard to keep them in place. Those freedoms that were fought for and won by an Army of the people way back in 1775, and upheld by an Army ever since.
For any American to say that a servicemember who served honorably and did his duty is not a hero, regardless of his kill count or his apathy towards the lives he took, is treasonous. If you denounce the very people who have ensured your rights and freedoms then you had might as well denounce your rights and your citizenship to this country along with it because you don’t deserve it. Land of the free, home of the brave is our motto. Often it is misquoted to say “because of the brave”. Being misquoted doesn’t make it any less true. Bravery doesn’t come from a scathing editorial about an honored Navy Seal from the comfort of a padded rolley chair with an orthopedic keyboard. Bravery isn’t found sipping a dangerously hot latte whilst using free wifi to belittle the sacrifices of men and women who put themselves in harm’s way to protect innocent people. Bravery isn’t scrutinizing the emotional turmoil that goes hand-in-hand with having to take lives, watch lives be taken, and to not be able to save the lives that needed to be saved. Those are lines you simply do not cross.
As for the recent attacks that have been focused on my sniper brethren, that is a whole different line. The insults towards what we do being “cowardly” are nothing short of inflammatory and ridiculous. I have stayed more or less silent in regards to them, but once again, there are lines. “I think most Americans don’t think snipers are heroes”. Personally, I would say Michael Moore is pretty detached from the average American. The “average” American household brings in approximately $50,000 annually, whereas Mr. Moore’s net worth is placed at $50 million (http://www.celebritynetworth.com/richest-celebrities/directors/michael-moore-net-worth/). I’m not entirely sure on this, but I’m fairly certain that a person worth $50 million runs in different social circles than most American citizens and probably didn’t get a fair census of what Americans truly think of snipers. More accurately I would say his social circle is fairly limited to extremely leftist, highly pompous, and overly arrogant Hollywood elitists who’s major life accomplishment was winning an award for aiming a camera in a provocative manner. It’s infuriating to suffer the comments generalized at my friends, colleagues, and myself, though it’s not for the insult itself, but rather the fact that such an insignificant person who hasn’t seen a shot fired in anger can judge the honor and courage of various roles on a battlefield. Comparably, the irritation that I feel when I see these tweets is reminiscent of having your hands tied while a gnat gnaws on your cheek. Ultimately, its not going to damage you, but fuck all if you don’t just want to swat the shit out of the damn thing to make it stop. But then there’s those lines again. It would be crossing quite a major one to swat such an insignificant little insect; as pleasing as it would be to many.
I’m not an obtuse man. I have a bit of clarity that most people see movies and see snipers in movies and have a general belief that a sniper is some guy that gets up in a bell tower somewhere and shoots a bad guy in the face. While that’s not completely untrue, there is much more to it than it seems. Snipers operate in the smallest groups on the battlefield. We have less guys watching our backs. We go deeper into unfriendly territory than everyone else, and we survive against the greatest odds. We are masters of precision fire. A sniper and his rifle can do with one well placed shot what it would take an artillery barrage to accomplish, and do it with a lot less collateral damage. We are more than just a gun. We are a psychological factor. If you need proof, Mr Moore’s uncle was shot by a sniper and to this day he feels the need to demonize them. Psychologically effected an entire generation into the future with one single shot which Mr. Moore didn’t even witness. Now imagine the enemy’s resolve after the man next to them is taken out by a single accurate shot. You just took two men out of the fight, maybe more. We create chaos. Imagine trying to ask your boss what your tasks for the day are, but he decided not to show up for the day. What work gets accomplished? Who takes charge? Who has to do the work of the guy that took charge? Disorder ensues. Leadership is the priority target of a sniper.
Snipers are not as base as an anti-war sensationalist would lead you to believe. We are feared on the battlefield and can do more to shape it than an entire battalion of soldiers. A single, well-placed, arrow completely ended the Battle of Hastings in 1066 by reportedly piercing the skull of the then crowned king, King Harold. This one arrow changed the future of England and allowed the Normans to conquer it and establish a new ruling dynasty in Britain. Obviously, when you are that effective there is going to be some animosity thrown in your direction. There is going to be a lot of misunderstanding and fear. There are, apparently, even going to be people calling you a coward. All you can do is toe the line, keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you intend to fire, and, from time to time, shoe away some gnats gnawing at your cheek.
Stay hidden; stay safe. – But sometimes you need to stand up and let your shots ring out.