Michael's Dispatches

Don’t Tar and Feather our Warriors

16 December 2011

I’ve made it back to America after being away about one year.  I cannot begin to tell you how good it feels to be on US soil.  This morning, in Tucson, two A-10 Warthogs flew overhead.   The last time I saw A-10s was in Afghanistan.  They were shooting just about every day.

Now for some sad news.  Today there are more stories about Dakota Meyer.  Dakota was awarded the Medal of Honor for actions during his incredible and honorable service in the Marines.  These stories are saddening because the more you read, the more you realize that Dakota is being tarred and feathered.  This clearly is about politics and business.

And so this morning I emailed to someone I know to be close to Dakota, offering moral support.  This American remains beside you.

A trusted source also sent this dissection of recent comments that are designed to cut down Dakota:

Jonathan Landay has alleged that the Marine Corps deliberately inflated the heroism of Sergeant Dakota Meyer. This allegation has tarnished the reputations of the Marine Corps and of Sergeant Meyer. Landay quoted not one individual. Instead, he used statements made two years ago by those on the battlefield.

There are many contradictions internal to those statements. For instance, Staff Sergeant Rodriguez-Chavez at one point stated, “… the fourth time we went into the valley.. we saw Swenson.” Actually, that happened during the second trip into the valley. Such inconsistencies in memory are normal. Ask eleven football players what happened in a game, and you will receive eleven different answers. Imagine how much more confusing it is in battle!

Landay spent months poring over written statements. He wrote, “It's impossible to reconstruct a clear, chronological account of much of what followed from the statement.”  He then selected some sentences that supported his bias, and ignored other sentences. The result was a series of half-truths, inconsistencies and errors, as illustrated below.

1 Landay: “Rodriguez-Chavez recounted the Afghans got into the vehicle themselves on both runs. He said Meyer stayed in the turret, firing a Mk 19.”

Error: On the first run, the Mk 19 jammed. They switched to a truck with a .50 cal for the second run.

2 Landay: “Meyer didn’t save the lives of 13 U.S. service members… helicopters saved the remaining (six) Americans.”

Comment: Two outposts with four Americans and over a dozen Afghans were under continuous fire, as were the six Americans pulling out of the valley. Meyer and Rodriguez-Chavez, in the only vehicle in the valley, became the bullet magnet for the insurgents, drawing their fire and, with Meyer on a .50 cal in the turret, preventing open enemy maneuver.

Consider these written statements: Rodriguez-Chavez: “Meyer laid down suppressive fire” Swenson: “They (Meyer and Rodriguez-Chavez) drive forward; they provide suppressive fire.”

The fact is there was suppressive fire both from the light helicopters and from Sgt. Meyer’s .50 caliber. Landay knew that, because he saw Meyer. Yet he chose not to report what he saw.

3 Landay: “Meyer killed one, not eight”

Comment: The most famous Medal of Honor recipient in World War II - Audie Murphy - is credited with killing over one hundred Germans. His book is filled with killings. Yet if Murphy required eyewitnesses, nowhere near one hundred would have been credited. Similarly, this is true of the MoH for SEAL Lt Murphy in the 2005 battle in Afghanistan. There wasn’t the verification or exactitude Landay is demanding.

Consider these other statements not used by Landay: Fabayo: “I saw 2 woman/children fire two RPG at CPL (Meyer).” Swenson: “How close the fight actually was, we are talking about people 20 meters away..” Rodriguez-Chavez: “Meyer shot one right next to the door with his M4.”

(Rodriguez-Chavez drove over another one, and later Meyer killed another in hand to hand combat)

Meyer, a deadly shot, fired over a thousand rounds of .50 cal and 7.62 machineguns. Are we to believe he killed insurgents at point blank range, but missed every other target over the course of six hours of shooting?

4 Landay: “Statements undermine the claim that Rodriguez-Chavez and Meyer drove into the valley against orders… Marine Corps doctrine authorized the two staff sergeants to take that initiative.”

Error: the night before, Meyer told SSgt Rodriguez-Chavez he had arranged with his team to drive in to get them if an ambush occurred. When the ambush began, over the radio 1st Sgt Garza ordered Meyer not to   come. When Rodriguez-Chavez and Meyer called a second time, they were told to get off the radio. Meyer then said, “we’re going in”.

Two staff sergeants did not discuss this; up at his observation post, SSGT Valadez was told they were going in. He then offered to observe the road. It is disingenuous to assert that Marine doctrine authorized the two staff sergeants to take initiative. It was Meyer who persistently showed initiative, despite orders to the contrary.

5 Landay: 1st Sgt Garza “called Meyer forward” when he (Garza) was at the Casualty Collection Point”

Error: Meyer had already been forward in the valley on three trips, and had covered Garza’s escape to the Casualty Collection Point.

6 Landay: “Meyer didn’t ride in the unarmored Ford Ranger pickup with Swenson.”

Error: Meyer was in the Ranger with Swenson. It was just the two of them. Swenson has said this repeatedly. Swenson was driving. He helped Dakota put the body of Dodd Ali, Dakota’s best friend among the Afghan soldiers, in the back of the Ranger while they were under fire.

7 Landay: “The account of the battle in Swenson’s nomination is sharply at odds with the Marines’ account of Meyer’s deeds.”

Error: the fact is that the Marines and Meyer have struggled for two years to insure Swenson is recognized as equally courageous and determined. In fact, Meyer has sent to the Army two pages of testimony, explaining in detail that Swenson was the man in charge on the battlefield and concluding that he, Meyer, is alive only because of Swenson. By portraying battlefield confusion as deliberate exaggeration, Landay has jeopardized Swenson’s nomination.

8 Landay: “No sworn statements refer to him leaping from the Humvee’s turret to rescue 24 wounded Afghan soldiers.”

Error: Both Rodriguez-Chavez and Swenson have said that Meyer repeatedly left the safety of various vehicles to run in the open under fire to aid Afghan soldiers.

9 Landay: “The official account doesn’t explain how the pair could have evacuated 24 Afghan soldiers."

Misleading:  Does not take account of the whole battle. Meyer began picking up Afghans at about 0700. First trip: 5. 2d trip: 4. That’s nine.

Then from 0930 (when Landay left the battlefield) to 1130, Meyer stayed in the valley. Between 0930 and 1130, at least six Afghan pickups drove in and out behind the gun truck. Meyer was in at least five different trucks during six hours of battle. All witnesses attested that Meyer was hopping in and out of the trucks to help the wounded. There were 90 Afghan soldiers in the valley when the battle began. Meyer had an overstuffed medbag, with more than 14 tourniquets. He used all the tourniquets.

Nine plus fourteen equals 23, not 24. But the figure of 24 is not misleading; it is illustrative of Meyer’s efforts.

In sum, Landay selected sentences to buttress his assertions. But other statements contradict Landay. There is no evidence of deliberate exaggeration. There is ample evidence of battlefield confusion. That is to be expected.

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