Gabe Ledeen, a former Marine captain and two-tour veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, has a bone to pick with the Veterans of Foreign Wars. In ” Who Speaks for Veterans? “ he details two specific complaints which are symptomatic, he thinks, of a larger problem.
Ledeens first complaint has to do with the meek response from the VFW on the recent Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report that profiled returning veterans as potential recruits for right-wing extremist organizations and urged law enforcement personnel to recall the military service of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. This meek response is notable in that it stood in sharp contrast to the strong objection from the American Legion’s national commander, David K. Rehbein.
His second complaint is that the VFW’s Political Action Committee endorsed John P. Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat, in his re-election campaign for Congress against 28-year Army veteran Bill Russell, who had served in Operation Desert Storm, Kosovo and Iraq and heroically participated in rescue efforts at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. This endorsement came despite the congressman’s infamous repeated slander of Marines in Haditha, Iraq, at a critical point in the war. And then Ledeen unloads:
While at the time Mr. Murtha proclaimed that “there was no doubt” about the guilt of the Marines involved, seven of the eight accused Marines were exonerated and the prosecution against the final defendant remains indefinitely postponed. No matter, Mr. Murtha continued to rant against the war and used Haditha as evidence of our inability to win Iraqi hearts and minds.
These wounds were reopened by the recent decision by former Navy Secretary Donald C. Winter to give Mr. Murtha the Navy’s highest award for public service. This decision sparked an outcry among veterans and led to a current online petition garnering more than 55,000 signatures demanding an apology from Mr. Murtha or a retraction of the award.
Ledeen suggests that the endorsement of Murtha and the meek response to the Homeland Security brouhaha is a symptom of a deeper problem when veterans groups such as the VFW focus exclusively on benefits while ignoring legacy and honor.
Glen M. Gardner Jr., the national Commander of the VFW was not happy. He responded by charging that Ledeen had maliciously impugned the 110-year-old reputation of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, dismissing the Homeland Security Report as merely a poorly written report and defending their endorsement of Murtha with this:
Mr. Murtha is certainly known to make foot-in-mouth statements, but he also is a strong advocate for veterans, service members and their families, which is one reason why his constituents have elected him to Congress 19 times.
In a rejoinder , Ledeen says that Gardiners intemperate response, particularly his praise and endorsement of the famously corrupt Rep. John P. Murtha proves his point:.
My generation of veterans is not willing to trade in our honor for handouts and has no interest in becoming welfare recipients at the expense of our legacy.
There is no excuse for endorsing a congressman who used his position to convict Marines of murder in the court of public opinion before the investigation was completed, as Mr. Murtha did with the eight Marines in Haditha. Mr. Murtha has never apologized for this slander even after the Marines were exonerated and veterans refuse to forgive or forget his betrayal. No sum of money and no quantity of benefits is worth the sacrifice of our values and our pride.
Mr. Gardner’s continued defense of the infamous Homeland Security report is hollow and dangerous. This report creates a frame through which veterans and veteran-related incidents will be viewed by the media and subsequently by the public. It creates a false stereotype that will encourage generalizing the inevitable individual incidents to brand veterans as “extremists.”
The VFW failed to defend Vietnam veterans from this type of public slander. We will not allow ourselves to be the victims of the same betrayal. We fought and continue to fight, honorably and successfully, and our legacy must reflect that. Veterans’ service organizations exist to ensure that happens without compromise. Leaders like Mr. Gardner continue to fail us in this regard.
I guess you could say the issue is enjoined!
Semper Fi, Captain Ledeen.
We launched the First Things 2023 Year-End Campaign to keep articles like the one you just read free of charge to everyone.
Measured in dollars and cents, this doesn't make sense. But consider who is able to read First Things: pastors and priests, college students and professors, young professionals and families. Last year, we had more than three million unique readers on firstthings.com.
Informing and inspiring these people is why First Things doesn't only think in terms of dollars and cents. And it's why we urgently need your year-end support.
Will you give today?