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Three Hundred Berets

Last week President Obama ordered three hundred Green Berets to Iraq. Why? The Islamic State in Syria and the Levant (ISIS or ISIL — take your pick) has taken over western Iraq, gleefully lopping heads as they go. It’s feared that they’re headed down the road to Baghdad, driving purloined, made-in-America Humvees chasing the fleeing Iraqi Army that our country trained with billions of dollars. Can three hundred save the day?

I’m proud to say that I was Green Beret. My contribution was insignificant in the light of my fellow Green Berets who sacrificed so much more than I did. I served in various parts of South East Asia in the early 1960s. One of our missions was to train the South Vietnamese Army in tactics, weapons, communications, field medical procedures, plus other skills to help them combat the insurgent Viet Cong supported by North Vietnam. We read CIA area reports; studied French, the language of Vietnam's departed colonialists, but still spoken by educated Vietnamese in positions of authority, but unfortunately, in my opinion, we didn't study the Vietnamese of rural villages where the war would eventually be fought.

When I first went in-country I wore civilian clothes and carried a passport that said I worked for the American Embassy in Tokyo. I had never been to Tokyo. In those days, it was President Kennedy’s secret war and he liked the Green Berets. Before Kennedy, the Army forbade the Special Forces from wearing their green berets. We were considered a marginalized group with NCO misfits left over from Ranger companies who fought in Korea led by officers enthralled with the guerilla exploits of T.E. Lawrence and his Seven Pillars of Wisdom or the exploits of William J. “Wild Bill” Donovan who founded the OSS at Roosevelt’s behest..

In the early 1960s the Cold War army was focused on tank battalions, massed artillery and mechanized infantry divisions that would combat the Soviet Union on the plains of Europe. The Green Berets were mostly seen as a small group of warrior romantics. J.F.K changed all of that. The day after Kennedy’s election I recall standing in morning formation and the first order of the day was: “Gentlemen, henceforth, you will wear your green berets wherever you go.” Prior to that morning we only wore our berets on base or in our compounds. We were Kennedy’s boys, and perhaps he was a visionary, because so many wars since Kennedy’s time have been fought with or against insurgents folded into regional populations. Of course, Kennedy’s vision was terribly distorted as was that of his successor Lyndon Johnson when it came to Vietnam. One morning in French class, I recall a major, who headed up a B team, stating: “We can never win a war in Vietnam; too many places to hide; too many troops in the north.” That was in 1961 and that major was prophetic, but he was representative of the intelligent class of men and officers attracted to the Green Berets.

So, what about Obama? Why is he sending 300 Green Berets to Iraq after he pulled our troops out in 2011? What do Green Berets do? Anything they’re asked to, is the short answer. However, the primary mission of Green Berets is to train and lead unconventional warfare forces or a clandestine guerrilla force in an occupied nation. De Oppresso Liber is the motto: “To free the oppressed.” Green Berets go “in country” and organize resistance. Witness the initial stage of the war in Afghanistan when Special Forces were inserted into the Northern Coalition, which at that time was in stalemate with the Taliban. Result: the Taliban was driven out as a government and those who were left alive fled to Tora-Bora.

But, what could the current mission of Green Berets be in Iraq where the unconventional forces are already on the wrong side? In Iraq, the unconventional forces are the Islamic head-choppers of ISIS that have surged out of Syria. Will the Green Berets help train the Iraqi Army? Hardly. The Iraqi Army is already a trained Army and it’s cost our country about $41 billion bucks to do it. Courage is untrainable. Obama has promised that the three hundred “won’t be engaged in combat.” That’s nice. So he’s sending some of the most combat-capable operators in the world to a combat zone to do what? Place one-way signs along the highways for the fast-retreating Iraqi Army?

After six years of teleprompting, it’s clear that President Obama is not a man who makes a clear distinction between talk and action. He’s the smartest liberal in the faculty lounge, and that’s about it. When he drew his “red line” in Syria and that red line was crossed, he did nothing except put his head in that sand. Bad men of action read him well. Putin took the Crimea, and now threatens the rest of the Ukraine. ISIS blossomed in Syria; spilled across the border and currently controls one half of Iraq on its way to taking Baghdad to turn the American embassy into a mosque. NPR pundits, Nancy Pelosi, and neo-progs (neo-progressives) at the New York Times may pound their chests claiming that it’s all George Bush’s fault, but what they’ve conveniently ignored is geography and time. ISIS was spawned in Syria during the past three years; three years in which President Obama did nothing to stop them from becoming what they are. This brings us back to the question: Why three hundred Green Berets? Why not four hundred? How about five? What’s so significant about three?

It was done for the appearance of action. While ISIS lined up captured Iraqi soldiers in Mosul and murdered them while shouting “God is great,” Obama spent that weekend at exclusive resorts in Palm Springs playing golf. As Iraq began to implode, he was on his thirtieth (30th!) fund-raising trip since April, dining with billionaire Democrats. Even David Brooks at the New York Times, a long standing Obama shoe-shiner at the apex of the media-political complex, wrote: “Before the country (Iraq) was close to ready, the Obama administration took off the training wheels by not seriously negotiating the NATO status of forces agreement that would have maintained some smaller American presence.”

The first rat was off the ship. Panicked, Obama had to do something other than play a nine iron off the green. Is that when the number three hundred popped into Valerie Jarret’s head or some other White House advisor crafting President Obama’s decisions based solely on domestic, political consumption? “300! Yes that’s it!”

Americans have seen the movie. Remember the brave three hundred Spartans who stood hopelessly fast at Thermopylae against ten thousand ugly Persians?” And, who better to cast as Spartans than the Army’s Green Berets? They be sent to fight, because Obama has already nixed that. However, the three hundred will have symbolic resonance in the mind of America’s popcorn eaters. Thus, the three hundred are off to Iraq to play their part as extras and stage props in President Obama’s latest, symbolic pretense to give the appearance of action after all action is too late.


  1. Jim Updegraff July 3, 2014

    In regard to why our troops left Iraq it was because Al-Maliki did not want them. He made the decision not Prsident Obama. Blaming the President is one of the big lies put on by Cheney and his warhawk neo-coms who got us in this mess with their lies and their crazy idea about planting the seed of democracy in a country that did want it and was certainly was not ready for it. What we have is a religious war. If we want to defeat ISIS then we need to support the actions of Iran and the shites. The enemy of our enemy is our friend.

  2. Louis S. Bedrock July 3, 2014

    The story of 300 Spartans against perhaps 100,000 Persians is mythical. The Spartans were accompanied by several thousand allies. The Greek forces were badly out-numbered, but had the strategic advantage of defending a narrow pass. However, Thermopylae lay next to an even smaller pass by which the main defense could be and was outflanked.

    The Spartans did resemble the Green Berets. They were a culture of militaristic savages who delighted in murder and plunder. However, unlike the Green Berets, the Spartans were defending their homeland against invaders. The Green Berets, like the French Foreign Legion, were one more wave of foreign colonists who had plagued Vietnam since the seventeenth century when the French had sent Jesuit missionaries to impose their filthy religion on the Vietnamese. These missionaries were, as usual, followed by merchants and armies.

    The French and their trained lackeys, the supplétifs, ran Vietnam for the next three hundred years employing mass murder, torture. mass imprisonment, and covert operations. When General Giap and Ho Chi Minh, the Vietminh/Vietcong, and the NVA drove the bastards out, the Americans came in and took over. They killed, tortured, and imprisoned as their predecessors had done.

    So the Americans, The Green Berets, The Navy Seals, and the ugly Americans who led them from Colonel Ed Landsdale to General Westmoreland, Robert McNamara to Henry Kissinger, were more like the Persians than the Spartans or other Greeks who defended Thermopylae and Greece, except they–the Americans were exponentially more sadistic and more barbaric. Read about the Phoenix Program.

    I salute not the Green Berets, but the Vietnamese who stood up to them and defeated them as they had done to the French and Japanese before them.

    As for the 300 Green Berets being sent to Iraq, I don’t pray for anyone and certainly will not pray for them. If they meet the same fate as the over one million people of Iraq that have died as the result of American foreign policy, they deserve as much.

    • Harvey Reading July 3, 2014

      Absolutely. I am sick of military worship. The military has NEVER defended my freedom, which is at all times much more threatened by “my” wealth-serving, power-mad government.

  3. mikeniki September 15, 2014

    September 10th the President addressed the country and said he would send 900.
    September 11th is my birthday I received a text message from my son wishing me happy birthday.
    Then he said cant talk long i’m in cali getting ready to ship out you will not hear from me for awhile and I cant say anything more. I love you dad.

    I responded I love you too Son be Safe and thanks for the happy birthday.

    My Son is a Green Beret.

    God bless all you and stay safe,
    Thanks for serving.


  4. Rick Weddle September 16, 2014

    ‘We’ can’t defeat ISIS until ‘we’ try to. Policy efforts to date have CREATED ISIS. No visible parts of today’s efforts are different from those which CAUSED ISIS. I’m thinking a good place to start would be JUSTICE. Rule out revenge and try a little of the old Due Process. You know, name those who brought on these horrors. The real terrorists are the ones who started all this mess for cash and prizes. Indict them; charge them; arrest, try, and convict them in line with our much-vaunted American System of Justice (remember ‘the rule of law?’). No, I’m not kidding. Identify and prosecute those who’ve profited so mightily in these Petroleum wars. The Corpirate CEO’s and major staff, major stockholders, lobbyists, media shills, suborned ‘public servants,’ the works. Long prison sentences, like lifetime community service going through the mass graves they’ve filled…like that. We could show how it’s done in the U.S. when it’s discovered that the highest offices in the land have been left not simply derelict, but actively subverted to the unlawful rule of the Military/Industrial Cult.
    For starters…

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