When Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) took to the Senate floor to denounce media commentator Rush Limbaugh for comments that he made on his nationally broadcasted show, Senator Reid called upon Mr. Limbaugh to apologize for his remarks — ending his statement by saying, "I ask my colleagues, Democrat and Republican alike, to join together against this irresponsible, hateful, and unpatriotic attack — by calling upon Rush Limbaugh to give our troops the apology they deserve." Well, I have listened to the comments Rush made on his 26 September show and have come to the clear conclusion that Rush has nothing to apologize for.
But first, let me apologize for coming late to the dance. As one of two American Special Forces officers assigned to an Iraqi Counter Terrorism organization, I spend my days on a compound with over 100 Iraqis and little connectivity to the U.S. by way of computers (we are on an Iraqi network) or TV.
During a break in the battle however (and I mean that in a literal sense) I was able to devote a few minutes to some research, and here is what I came up with:
On his 26 September show, Rush was engaged in a conversation with a military caller. The chat focused on people claiming to be military veterans while denouncing our current efforts in Iraq and on Soldiers who falsify their military service and/or lie about atrocities that they have never seen.
The exchange went like this:
CALLER: No, it’s not. And what’s really funny is they never talk to real soldiers. They pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and spout to the media.
RUSH: The phony soldiers.
CALLER: Phony soldiers. If you talk to any real soldier and they’re proud to serve, they want to be over in Iraq, they understand their sacrifice and they’re willing to sacrifice for the country.
The dialogue before and after above snippet clearly referred to people like Jesse MacBeth, the young man who claimed that at as an Army Ranger he deployed to Iraq where he and his fellow Rangers committed numerous atrocities.
Shortly after making his claims, Mr. MacBeth was debunked when it was discovered that he had never been a Ranger, had never been to Iraq, and had been thrown out of the Army shortly after joining (side note: his story hit the web ages ago and the Special Ops community had a good laugh that he was even being taken seriously. Like any tight knit group, you can usually pick out an imposter who claims to be a member of your tribe).
And yet despite the obvious linkage between Rush’s use of the term "phony soldiers" and the story of Jesse MacBeth, some political leaders like Senator Reid chose to ignore the obvious and pursue the spurious.
And I guess that is just politics. I get that. After serving as a Legislative Liaison for the Department of Defense, I understand the way the game is played.
Yet there are a few things about Senator Reid’s floor speech that bothered me.
For starters, Reid states: " Rush Limbaugh took it upon himself to attack the courage and character of those fighting and dying for him and for all of us." I have conducted a non-scientific survey of those of my colleagues who are "switched on" enough to have been following this brou-ha-ha, and not one of them believes that Rush denigrated our service. If that is what this is all about, then it is a non-issue. There is no "there" there.
Reid goes on to say, "He never served in uniform. He never saw in person the extreme difficulty of maintaining peace in a foreign country engaged in a civil war. He never saw a person in combat. Yet he thinks that his opinion on the war is worth more than those who have been on the front lines."
Well, if combat service or observing entities in conflict is the arbiter as to who gets to voice their opinion about this war, then there will be precious few who will be allowed to talk. One could even argue that Mr. Reid would have to forfeit his right to opine because, like Rush, he has never worn a uniform and his one-day visits to the combat zone hardly qualify as seeing people engaged in "the extreme difficulty of maintaining peace in a foreign country engaged in a civil war."
In fact, if only Soldiers were allowed to voice their opinions on the war, Mr. Reid might find himself in trouble.
Today’s military remains staunchly Republican and in support of the war effort. Many of those who have spent a lot of time in the combat zone are ardent supporters of the war (but not all. Let’s not forget that superbly written Op-Ed in the NYT in which 7 serving enlisted men voiced their disagreements with the current course of the war. But by and most of the military folks that I talk to are supportive of the war glad to be over "in the suck"). Like Rush pointed out — we are at war, and if you join, expect a combat tour. Like immediately. And repeatedly.
This is the point: we all get to have an opinion regardless of whether you do or do not have combat experience — and that is a good and healthy thing. Rush gets his, Senator Reid gets his, and I get mine.
Continuing on, Senator Reid went on to say, "And what’s worse, Limbaugh’s show is broadcast on Armed Forces Radio, which means that thousands of troops, overseas, and veterans here at home, were forced to hear this attack on their patriotism."
Well, a few things:
– DoD members are not "forced" to listen to Armed Forces Radio (AFN). While not given a large a menu as we might have in the states, there are a few options. In the relatively few moments that I have to listen to the radio, I usually roll with the Brit’s Radio One or an Iraqi station so that I can check out the local tunes.
– Without citing any statistics (and I am sure that they are out there to be cited) I can confidently state that most members of the military are conservative – and that Rush Limbaugh is seen as being in line with their political views and supportive of their efforts. I base my opinion on over 20 years of time with Soldiers, Sailors, Airman and Marines (and even some superb Coasties).
Add to that this: troops know Rush and are clear where he is coming from. He has been at this for about 20 years, and in all of that time he has repeatedly shown his respect for the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States’ Armed Services (personally, I started listening to him back in 1989 or 1990 when I was in a Lieutenant in the 1st Ranger Battalion in Savannah, GA).
To state that we were forced to listen to Rush attack our patriotism seems a bit disingenuous. We were not forced, and our patriotism was not attacked. Period.
Lastly, the Congressional Record reports Senator Reid as saying, "it is unconscionable that Mr. Limbaugh would criticize them for exercising the fundamental American right to fee speech."
As I see it, the only one criticizing anyone for exercising their free speech is Mr. Reid.
A final note: as I stated above, I have spent some time on Capitol Hill. Enough to know the value of floor time, especially when the Department of Defense Authorization and Appropriations bill had yet to be passed. Senator Reid’s seven minute speech is a monumental indicator of the importance that the Democratic Party places on taking Rush out of the game. I do not expect this to be the last attack.