Our Grief in A War of Words
While President Barack Obama and Afghani President Hamid Karzai maintain their Chess gambit of words, it is clear that no “move” matches up to the Teddy Roosevelt watchword of walking softly and carrying a big stick.
President Obama talks softly and President Karzai wields the big stick, all in the name of ridding that Stone Age world of radical Muslim factions.
While the leaders prattle, casualties mount. So far, Maryland has lost 40 of its own to the killing field of Afghanistan. The latest is a former school teacher from Baltimore County, Maryland National Guardsman Maj. Robert J. Marchanti II.
Major Marchanti and comrade Air Force Lt. Col. John D. Loftis are the latest U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) casualties. Information confirmed they were assassinated February 25 by a Taliban terrorist while sitting at their desks in the Afghan Defense Ministry’s Security Center in Kabul.
The numbers show more than 1,900 Americans have died as a result of the Afghan combat and terrorist activity. The number is part of the total of nearly 3,000 deaths suffered by NATO forces in that country since 2001.
Closer to home, Frederick, Carroll and Montgomery counties still mourn the deaths of 12 of their own in Afghanistan. It is increasingly clear that this is 12 deaths too many, considering the American leadership vacuum. Generals follow orders and warriors still die.
The coverage of Afghanistan news continues to be askew. Deaths of Afghan civilians and soldiers, whether from military or terrorist action, are reported under glaring headlines; deaths of Americans often are relegated to the news roundup.
It has been a long war; we are following in the tank ruts left by the Soviet Army, which also found itself in a quagmire! We should have taken the hint, despite the imperatives to invade Afghanistan.
During the Vietnam War American deaths were reported by mainstream media in terms of numbers (now more than 59,000). This may have been a natural response to the Military Assistance Advisory Command, Vietnam (MACV) tactic of touting success on the battlefield by “body count.”
Anti-war activists were appeased and motivated by network evening news and front page newspaper coverage of dead enemy civilians, regardless of cause of death.
The personal face of the American casualty must be borne by the families and communities of these brave young men and women. The nation has become war weary.
On top of the rising American angst, frustration among American soldiers may have manifested itself Sunday when an American Army sergeant apparently had a mental breakdown. The killing spree in a small Afghan village outside Kandahar may soon be compared to an incident March 16, 1968. Villagers in the Vietnamese hamlet My Lai were senselessly massacred by troops under the command of Lt. William Calley.
Both incidents speak to the pressures faced by warriors to survive and win on the battlefield.
President Obama rightfully sent his regrets, apologizing for the killings, of mostly women and children. President Karzai responded by intimating that more than one shooter may have been involved, inferring that “American forces” entered the victims' houses.
“This is an assassination,” he proclaimed, “an intentional killing of innocent civilians and cannot be forgiven.”
President Karzai insisted the unidentified soldier be turned over to his government for prosecution, but the Army kept him in custody at a NATO facility in Afghanistan. The sergeant was assigned to support a joint forces special operations team.
There was no immediate response from The White House on the deaths of Marchanti and Loftis. President Karzai, however, ordered an investigation on how the Taliban were able to gain access and apparently free movement in the “secure” command center.
NATO commander Gen. John Allen (USMC) withdrew all Americans from Afghan ministries in response to the assassinations.
Major Marchanti’s and Colonel Loftis’ remains were returned to their families through the Dover (Del.) Air Force Base mortuary. Colonel Loftis was buried last week near Tampa, FL.; Major Marchanti’s services are scheduled Monday in Lutherville, MD.
Maj. Gen. James A. Adkins, commander of the Maryland Army National Guard, said, “The loss of one of our own is always very difficult. Little can be said to ease the pain, but we will always remember Rob’s (Marchanti’s) dedication to our nation as we honor his service and sacrifice.”
A teacher for 18 years, Major Marchanti was assigned to the 29th Infantry Division’s Security Partnering Team in Kabul. He joined the Army in 1984; the National Guard in 1986. His service with the 29th Division included deployment to Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2007. He is survived by his widow, four children and a grandson.
The war began in the quest to root out Osama bin Laden, who with his al-Qaida terrorists wreaked havoc on America Sept. 11, 2001. Bin Laden is dead; his troops have fled elsewhere in Southwest Asia and the Middle East.
The Taliban, hard core Muslims, brutalized the backward nation for more than a six years, but were driven out of power in 2001. Withdrawal of NATO troops is expected to open the door for a new Taliban takeover.
Will we remember the sacrifices of Major Marchanti, Colonel Loftis and their comrades in arms, or will they be lost in the political fog of the Afghan War?
Many foresee that history will not treat America, its military leadership, or President Obama kindly in the prosecution of this war. With allies like Hamid Karzai, victory becomes even more elusive.
We have seen this before!
(Editor’s Note: Services for Major William Marchanti, II, will include visitation Sunday March 18, from 4-9 p.m. at Trinity Assembly of God Church, 2122 West Joppa Road, Lutherville. According to the funeral home, family and friends are urged to be at the church before 10:30 A.M. Monday March 19, prior to the military honor guard presentation.)