Tag Archives: Taliban

Why remembering Pearl Harbor remains important today

On December 7, 1941 the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service delivered a devastating blow to the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii.

This was a preemptive surprise attack by the Japanese, with the hope that they could decimate the U.S. Pacific Fleet. The Japanese believed that the United States was the greatest potential threat to their planned expansion of power in the Pacific region.

The early morning attack would launch in two waves from a half-dozen Japanese air craft carriers. Some 350 aircraft fighters and bombers would sink four American battleships and damage four more, sink eight other vessels, destroy 188 aircraft, and damage 159 more.

Over 2,400 Americans were killed with more than 1,100 injured. Japanese losses of life and equipment were minimal in comparison.

In response, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered one of the most famous and impassioned speeches in U.S. history to a joint session of the U.S. Congress the following day. It began as follows:

“Yesterday, December 7th, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. 

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.”

To that point, the United States had been able to stay out of active involvement in World War II. Meanwhile, the Japanese had become involved in an “Axis” powers agreement with Germany under Adolf Hitler and Italy under Benito Mussolini. Their aim was nothing less than global domination.

Roosevelt’s speech called on the Congress to declare war against Japan, which it did within the hour. Germany and Italy would then declare war on the United States. Thus began U.S. involvement in World War II, the deadliest war in human history.

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the Japanese Marshall Admiral of the Navy and leader of their combined fleet during the war, did not believe that Japan could win a lengthy war with America. 

Following the attack, Yamamoto is alleged to have written in his diary “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.

American had been trying to stay out of World War II to that point. Formally declaring neutrality in the opening years of conflict, the U.S. gradually began to provide aid to Great Britain and others, and imposed economic sanctions on Japan.

The Japanese attack did indeed awaken America from its slumber. It forced us to realize that we could no longer ignore the expansionist aims of Hitler, Mussolini, and Japanese Emperor Hirohito. 

We were now forced to either allow these ideologies to overrun Europe and Asia, eventually becoming a major threat to our own security, or go to war to try and defeat them.

In the end, American military might and civilian industry proved the difference in winning the war. However, it would not be the last time that our nation was attacked on our own shores, or threatened by an ideology bent on world domination.

Flash forward nearly 60 years to September 11, 2001. Most Americans reading this require no reminder of what happened on that equally beautiful morning. Another sneak attack from the skies, this time from radical extremists bent on spreading the dominance of an Islamic worldwide caliphate.

That extremist ideology did not begin on 9/11, and it has not gone away today. The Islamists continue to spread their hope for a renewed global caliphate ruling under Sharia law in both aggressive and passive ways. 

Attacks and bombings by ISIL, ISIS, the Taliban, al Qaeda and others gain headlines in Europe and elsewhere. But the ultimate growth of the caliphate is also furthered by overrunning traditional populations of western nations through waves of unfettered immigration, followed by non-assimilation with that traditional culture. 

So-called “No-Go Zones” have formed in nations around the world. In recent years, they have begun to form right here in the United States of America. These areas have been largely closed off to legitimate authorities, and are being governed by principles of Sharia law rather than the U.S. Constitution. Ultimately, the goal is to build more of these zones, and to grow and expand them.

The lessons of Pearl Harbor need to be remembered by Americans today, because there remain very real parallels. The ultimate goals of the Axis powers in World War II are similar to those of the radical Islamists today. 

The lesson of history is that you must be smart enough to recognize a threat when one emerges, and you must be prepared to face down that threat. To repeat an old but always relevant phrase, if we fail to remember the lessons of history we are destined to repeat them.

War is Not the Answer

One thing that should be fairly clear from Soviet involvement in Afghanistan in the 1980’s, and American involvement in both Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2000’s, is that waging war in the Middle East is not a winning long term strategy.

In the short-term, deposing dangerous regimes and tyrannical rulers with military force is something that may indeed be necessary.

Sadam Hussein certainly was tyrannical, torturing and killing his own countrymen. The Taliban and al Qaeda certainly were dangerous, deadly entities. All had to go.

But in the end, there is certainly one truth that has to be faced up to: the United States of America cannot be expected to place large numbers of troops in any foreign country forever.

There comes a time when we need to bring our troops home or redeploy them. I believe that President Obama is right in bringing our troops home from Iraq by the end of 2011.

Now, I don’t agree with this President on very much. He is likely a Socialist, certainly an ultra-liberal, big government, anti-capitalist. But to say that he is wrong about every single thing the man does on every issue at every turn is to simply be a partisan contrarian yourself.

The important this is the balancing of the mission against the costs. The mission was to remove Hussein, to help Iraq establish it’s own sound alternative governmental process, and to provide the security to allow that process to grow. We have done that. We have done it at the cost of more than 4,000 American lives, more than 30,000 more injuries, and more than a trillion dollars.

The sign displayed on the USS Abraham Lincoln back in 2003 when President George W. Bush landed on the aircraft carrier to give a speech at the end of the first phase of major combat operations, the infamous “Mission Accomplished” sign, was correct at that time. The subsequent Iraqi guerrilla insurgency led to another phase, and here we are, eight years later.

Our American troops, along with those from Great Britain and a number of other allies, have done an outstanding job throughout these Middle East conflicts. Their work has been one piece in helping to keep the U.S. homeland free from further Islamofascist terror attacks following 9/11.

But the sad, truthful fact is that the world will never be completely free from these threats, and we can never do enough policing to ensure such safety. And the economic ramifications of continuing to dump tens of billions of dollars in the Middle East? Simply irresponsible at this time.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am no dove. There is a time to stand up and fight. The United States intelligence services need to stay vigilant. The U.S. military needs to remain prepared to respond to any actions against our nation’s security interests. And our leaders need to remain committed to encouraging and supporting freedom and democracy around the globe.

But the Iraq War is over. We won. It’s time, past time actually, for our troops to come home, at least in this man’s opinion. In the short term, yes, mission accomplished. But in the long term, war is not the answer to the problems of the Middle East. It is likely not going to be avoided in the future, but as history has shown over thousands of years, it will likely settle nothing permanently. That ultimate peace will take an act of God.

Welcome home, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you for your service from an eternally grateful nation. We hope that it is a long time before you are called into active combat service again. God bless America.

Real American Hero: Michael Murphy

On October 7th, 2001 in direct response to the 9/11 attacks on America which had occurred less than a month earlier, the United States military launched ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ in Afghanistan to wipe out the bases from which the terrorist al Qaeda organization was then operating.

The American military worked with a group of coalition forces, and a group of Afghani Northern Alliance forces, and was able to quickly wipe out the abusive Taliban military that were operating in the region and drive them from power. This began an effort which continues today to establish peace and stability in the historically backwards and worn-torn nation.

It was into this continuing conflict that Michael P. “Murph” Murphy from Patchogue, New York entered in early 2005. Murphy was a natural athlete who enjoyed playing football and soccer as a kid, and who became a life guard as well. He went on to attend Penn State University where he graduated in 1998 with degrees in both Psychology and Political Science.

Murph had been accepted to law school, but decided instead to serve his country by challenging himself to try to become a Navy SEAL. He entered the Navy’s Officer Candidate School in fall of 2000, and over the next two years trained with various Army Airborne and Navy SEAL units. He finally realized his goal of joining the Navy SEALS on his deployment at Pearl Harbor in the summer of 2002.

The SEALs are perhaps the most integral part of the Navy’s special operations force. They are experts in special recon and direct action missions. They take their names from the terrain in which they operate: the Sea, Air, and Land. Only an elite few are equipped and able to make it through the rigorous training, and Murph had joined that group.

He was first sent to the Middle East in the fall of 2002, and over the next few years served various roles and missions in Jordan, Qatar, and Djibouti before being assigned to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in early 2005. It was here as an assistant officer-in-charge of SEAL Vehicle Delivery Team One’s ‘Alfa’ platoon that he would make the ultimate sacrifice for his country.

On June 28th, 2005, Murphy was assigned to lead a team of four SEAL’s in what was known as ‘Operation Red Wing’, an effort to kill or capture a Taliban leader by the name of Ahmad Shah who himself commanded a group of fighters known as the ‘Mountain Tigers’.

Murphy’s team successfully infiltrated the area, but were stumbled upon by some passing local goat herders. The team had to decide whether to allow the locals to live and move along, or to kill them and ensure their presence remained unknown. They voted to let the herders live. A short time after the locals left, a large Taliban contingent surrounded and attacked the SEALs.

The SEALs tried to escape, but were in desperate need of backup. Murphy’s communications man ran out into the open to try to get a better signal and was shot in the hand. Murphy realized the radios were not working in the mountainous area, and fought his way into the open himself to try his cellphone. This call for help was answered, but Murphy was shot in the abdomen. He returned to cover and continued to fight off the enemy despite his fatal injuries.

Murphy’s call for help was answered by a helicopter with reinforcements, but the chopper was shot down by an RPG killing all 16 persons aboard. The fighting went on for two hours, resulting in 35 Taliban soldiers being killed. However, Murphy and two of his team succumbed to their wounds. In total, 8 Navy SEALS aboard the chopper added to Murphy and his two team members made for the highest number of SEALs killed in action since Vietnam.

The lone surviving member of Murphy’s team, Marcus Luttrell, had been blasted over a ridge by an RPG and knocked unconscious. Some time later he regained consciousness and managed to crawl away, but was so badly injured that he could not signal to the searchers looking for him. He was ultimately found and tended to by some local villagers, who managed to keep the Taliban from taking him before finally getting him back into American hands after a few days.

On the 4th of July, 2005, Michael Murphy’s body was finally discovered by a military search and rescue team and returned to his family for burial in his home state of New York. On October 7th, 2007, President George W. Bush presented the family with his Medal of Honor. His actions had allowed the location of his unit to be made known to American forces, which ultimately led to Luttrell’s rescue.

As has been stated here before, the Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration that can be awarded. In his citation, it was stated that Murph had “demonstrated extraordinary heroism in the face of grave danger” and went on to state: “Demonstrating exceptional resolve, Lieutenant Murphy valiantly led his men in engaging the large enemy force.”

The citation went on to conclude: “In his final act of bravery, he continued to engage the enemy until he was mortally wounded, gallantly giving his life for his country and for the cause of freedom.” Michael Murphy thus became the first American so honored for their role in Afghanistan. His father, Daniel, later stated that Murph carried with him a patch from the NYFD’s Engine 53 and Ladder 43 “as a symbol of why he was there and what he was doing.”

Throughout our history, brave men and women have risen to the challenges and responsibilities of repeatedly defending the cause of freedom that is at the very core and nature of the United States of America. Before we came into existence there was never a nation such as ours, and it is only because of the heroic and selfless sacrifices of individuals such as Michael P. Murphy that we continue to exist and thrive today.

NOTE: This is the latest in a continuing series titled ‘Real American Heroes’, all entries of which can be viewed by clicking on the label below this article at the http://www.mattveasey.com website

Islamism Series: Back to Afghanistan

For a land-locked nation that is basically a pile of rock and sand, Afghanistan holds some serious sway in the international community. The reasons are many, but they are sometimes difficult to grasp until you look more closely.

Afghanistan is bordered on the west by an Islamic nuclear-power wannabe ruled by a mad President in Iran, and on the east by the already nuclear-powered and increasingly fractious Pakistan.

There is even a small slice of northeastern Afghanistan that borders up against a Communist behemoth known as China. Along its northern borders lie a trio of former Soviet states in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

Its land-locked status means that it has virtually no natural water supplies. There are no seas against which it borders, no rivers running through it, no lakes in which water has gathered. In short, there is very little of the life-sustaining, not to mention economy-sustaining water that is necessary for a country and people to survive, let alone thrive.

The median age is less than 18 years, which might make you wonder where are all the adults? Many of them are simply dead, as the average life expectancy is only a little over 44 years.

Because of the poor economic conditions there is a high risk of infectious diseases and wide-scale problems with other illnesses such as malaria, typhoid fever, hepatitis A, and ‘bird flu’ influenza strains.

So why does everyone care so much about a country that is so desolate and so inhospitable? Simply because of its strategic location as a ‘buffer zone’.

Afghanistan was founded in 1747 when Ahmad Durrani was able to organized the native Pashtun tribes into one people. For a long time it served as a buffer between the Russian and the British empires before gaining independence from Britain in 1919.

In the 1970’s, the Soviets propped up a Communist government there, and then directly invaded the country in 1979 to put down rebellions from various native Afghan tribes and groups. This led to a decade-long war in which the rebels emerged victorious thanks to aid from the international community, most notably the United States (see the film ‘Charlie Wilson’s War’.)

In the aftermath of the Soviet-Afghan war there was continual civil war in the country, with the Taliban finally emerging with control in the mid-1990’s. The population is 99% Muslim, and the Taliban demanded observance of a strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law. They also allowed the use of Afghan territories by Osama bin Laden and his radical Islamic followers, which al Qaeda used to operate terrorist training camps.

Following 9/11, the U.S.-led coalition invaded, destroyed the terrorist camps, and drove the Taliban from power. This began a process of attempting to install a democratic government and elected leadership, which ultimately led to the current democratically-elected government of Hamid Karzai (pictured). Many felt that the U.S. lost focus from this important rebuilding program when it switched gears and invaded Iraq.

With the Afghan situation appearing under control, President Bush redeployed many American forces to topple the regime of dictator Sadaam Hussein in Iraq. As noble as removing the evil Hussein from power may have been, it did allow the Taliban to begin slowly regrouping and regaining some influence in Afghanistan.

The new American President Barack Obama inherited both the Iraq and Afghanistan situations when he took office. It is his position that Iraqi defense forces and the Iraqi government are becoming strong enough that they will soon be able to stand on their own, and is planning to slowly draw down U.S. presence in that area. At the same time he plans to increase the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.

There is an upcoming international conference on Afghanistan that will take place at The Hague and which will be attended by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton along with leaders from all of the world nations having a stake in Afghanistan’s short and long term future.

With both the historical and current instability in that region of the world, and with their significant strategic locations, successful democracies in both Iraq and Afghanistan are worthy and important efforts. The Afghans absolutely need and deserve more U.S. support, not just military but also economic and in other areas. But the Iraqis cannot be abandoned to fend for themselves to the point where the loss of 4,000 American lives over a half decade ends up being for nothing.

President Obama is basically taking us back to Afghanistan, and that is a good and necessary thing. But at the same time we need to be very careful in the process of drawing down in Iraq.

In the ‘big tent’ meeting at The Hague, two groups with a stake in Afghanistan’s future which will not be represented are the Taliban and al Qaeda. But the groups who do meet should not forget their presence or their interest.

Radical Islamic forces are still fighting in both countries to undermine the American-led efforts, convinced that if they just wait us out we will eventually retreat to our own homeland and leave these Middle East countries with little defense against their continuing Jihad.

NOTE: This is a continuation of the Islam Series, all items of which can be read by clicking the below tag 

Islamism Series: The Mujahideen and the Taliban

One of the most difficult hurdles for someone to overcome in understanding the meaning behind the many stories that they hear bandied about the airwaves and internet is basic definitions.

Who are we talking about, what exactly are they doing, why are they doing it, and how does it affect me?

The stories, people, cultures, and issues are usually not easily definable in the few short sentences or paragraphs that a blog or column allows in order to really educate someone.

When discussing the issues of radical Islam here, I usually try to be as simplistic as possible, because that is all that space allows, and it is enough to paint a picture that gives someone a basic education on the issue.

Anyone who has paid attention to the news over the past decade or more has heard of both the terms ‘mujahideen’ and ‘taliban’, but few know who or what these terms represent.

The most that many know is that they might have something to do with Afghanistan, and something to do with the war. Let’s try to give you a basic primer.

First, in our modern terminology a ‘mujahideen’ is generally one who struggles as a fighter for a radical Islamic cause and is inspired by religion and idealogy.

Picture yourself in the Afghanistan of the late 1970’s. The government of your country is aligned with the Soviet Union, and you don’t like that, so you join a group which actively fights your own government to free itself from that influence.

Your government asks the Soviets to come in and directly join the fight against your group. Your group is then joined by other anti-Soviet and anti-government groups in this struggle, which you perceive to be largely about defending your Muslim faith.

The groups joined in this struggle are the beginning of what we know today as the ‘Mujahideen’ forces. They will fight in and around Afghanistan throughout the 1980’s against the Soviet troops and their influence.

Your group, these ‘Mujahideen’, are largely supported with funds and weapons from the outside by forces that wish to see the Soviets fail. This includes the United States, China, Saudi Arabia, and even Iran.

Finally in the late 1980’s, the Soviets pull their troops out, and you are seen in your country as victorious defenders and heroes. Ronald Reagan himself calls you “freedom fighters”, and you are portrayed positively in a number of western films.

A key leader in those battles was a Saudi national named Osama bin Laden, who not only used his vast monetary fortune to help support the war effort, but also personally fought in the war himself.

In the aftermath of the Soviet pullout, various Mujahideen groups fight one another for control in a devastating civil war that lasted for years.

In an attempt to bring some order back to Afghanistan, a new group known as ‘The Taliban’ (literally meaning ‘students’) was formed from among some of the students from the most restrictive Muslim schools.

The Taliban wrestled control at the capital of Kabul around 1996, and then ruled over Afghanistan through 2001. During their rule they instituted the most strict and severe form of Sharia (Islamic law), including the mistreatment of women, that the Muslim world had ever seen.

The Taliban had a very strict interpretation of Islam, and refused to allow other strains of the faith to gain a voice. They began an attempt to spread their views and their power into neighboring Pakistan as well.

Mullah Mohammed Omar (pictured above) was considered the Taliban leader during this time, and he went into hiding at the start of the post-9/11 war in Afghanistan, when the United States and others went into the country to begin addressing radical Islam by driving out the Taliban.

After gaining control of the country, the U.S. and NATO powers began to assemble and help support a new, democratic Afghan government.

Omar continues in hiding as a wanted man for supporting and hiding Osama bin Laden, who had gone on from his heroic Mujahideen days to become the leader of a world-wide Islamic terrorist organization known as al Qaeda, which perpetrated those 9/11 attacks.

After being driven from Afghanistan, The Taliban eventually gathered its remaining forces and adherents in the tribal areas of Pakistan and began to reconstitute itself. The Taliban now has begun fighting back in an attempt to overthrow the U.S.-backed Afghani government and regain control.

The bottom line: the Mujahideen who fought the Soviets in the 1980’s, and the Taliban who fought America after 9/11, are both radical Islamic groups wishing to gain territorial and political power. That want this in order to support and strengthen their radical religious beliefs.

These are exactly the types of groups, and both Mohammed Omar and Osama bin Laden the kinds of people, that we desperately need to eliminate in order to crush the oppression of Islamism and help the freedoms of democracy spread throughout the world.

NOTE: this continues the “Islamism Series” created to educate and inform Americans and others around the world of the ongoing threat. It can be fully accessed through that below ‘Tag’