Monday, February 28, 2011

"The Wrong War" A must read for 2011

Bing West
Cpl. Dakota Meyer

I normally don't stop while reading a book to make a recommendation. But in the case of Bing West Marine combat veteran of Vietnam and current author of this unvarnished critique that author Steven Pressfield said was so gritty and real that, "you could practically scrape the dirt off its pages." The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy, and The Way Out of Afghanistan needs to be in the hands of every member of Congress, the Joint Chiefs and the President as well as every American who has supported our men and women these past decade since 9/11.

There are many fine reviews of this work, so I will let such esteemed voices as Dexter Filkins, Andrew Exum, and Col T.X. Hammes, USMC (ret) reviews stand as testament to the quality of this work.

Two stories stood out thus far in the first 100 pages. Amid the many trips that then 68 years young Bing West undertook, was one in the summer of 2009. Orders had come down, pushed from Karzai's office through General McChrystal to retake a small town surrounded by four hills leading into the Hindu Kush. The day before the unit was with was to move into the town, West became violently ill, vomiting and racked with diarrhea. After three trips to the latrine, West was taken by his tent mate Staff Sgt. Eric Lindstrom to the medics who after trying to stop the loss of body fluids from every orifice, evacuated West to the hospital in Jalalabad where a Dr. pronounced the verdict, "Cholera." Later that night as Bing lay connected to IVs, an officer from the company going into the valley, hobbled in dripping blood from an RPG round. The officer began to relate how the company was met by plunging fire of the worst kind and then after a while told West that the Sgt Lindstrom had not made it. The passage that Bing West writes a few paragraphs later about the randomness of death in battle and most poignantly about how Sgt Lindstrom had so carefully packed his gear as he was being evacuated to the hospital, leaves you with a still feeling that makes you want to pause and collect your thoughts before trying to read more.

This second story, has only officially surfaced a few months ago, when it was announced that a young Marine Cpl. with an all American name of Dakota Meyer, had been recommended to be the second living person in the Afghanistan War to receive the Medal of Honor. the official story until Bing's riveting account has been that Cpl. Meyer braved intense fire on at least two occasions in a vain effort to save four fellow Marine comrades who had been trapped in an ambush by over 150 Taliban. This story when fully told, will place Dakota Meyer's name alongside such legendary Marines as Sgt. Dan Daly, John Basilone, and soldiers Audie Murphy and Sgt Alvin York. I will not even try and paraphrase the story of Cpl. Meyers on that day in September of 2009 except to draw a thin outline of his bravery. When a carefully laid ambush by over 150 fighters brought in from Pakistan for the purpose of setting the ambush caught 13 Marines, 2 soldiers and 80 Afghan soldiers and border police in a three sided ambush without hope of breaking free. Meyer and a two companions over a period of six hours, made four trips into the firestorm in armored hummers each time returning with wounded and trapped Afghan soldiers. After almost every trip the hummers were so shot up that they would switch and plunge in again. Finally on the fifth trip guided by a Blackhawk, they got close to where the four marines lay. Meyers braved fire again on foot to fight to their position only to find they had been killed. It it this final action Meyers is nominated for the medal. Bing West wrote that Meyers had preformed the greatest act of courage ever displayed in this decade long war. There are no medals for saving the Afghan soldiers, but the story put together by West from interviews with Meyer and his fellow Marines at the time will make this young unassuming man's name a legend.

In closing, I would again urge anyone reading this to take your next twenty dollars and buy The Wrong War regardless of how you think about the politics, the "honor, patriotism and sacrifice", displayed in those pages will live as a testament to the valor of those who serve.

An Interview with Bing West, by Small Wars Journal

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