"...that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain..." -- Abraham Lincoln, the Gettysburg Address
While the U.S. military in recent years has had a difficult time winning wars, it has had an easier time surrendering to political correctness and social experimentation. Arguments against gays in the military were rejected, and now there is a push to allow women in front-line combat positions, though many believe most women do not have the upper body strength to carry heavy loads on their backs or perform in ways that achieve the mission and protect their comrades.
Last week a new challenge emerged that could present an even greater threat to military effectiveness and unit cohesion. At a Pentagon news conference, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, said that the capital of Anbar province in Iraq, Ramadi, is not central to the U.S. and Iraqi aims of defeating the forces of the Islamic State.
During the counterinsurgency campaign in Anbar province between April 2004 and September 2007, 1,335 Americans and nearly 9,000 Iraqis died in the battle for Fallujah and Ramadi. Perhaps Gen. Dempsey should have told them in advance that their sacrifice would not be worth it. Their lives might have been spared.
In 2004, the commander of the Marine garrison, Major General James Mattis, said, "If we don't hold the government center, if we don't hold the provincial capital, the rest of the province goes to h--l in a handbasket."
Upon hearing of Gen. Dempsey's comment about Ramadi not being worth saving from ISIS, Debbie Lee, who lost her son, Navy Seal Marc Lee in Ramadi in 2006, issued an "open letter" to the general. In part, Ms. Lee wrote, "You, sir, owe an apology to the families whose loved ones' blood was shed in Ramadi. Ramadi matters to us and is very symbolic to us. You need to apologize to our troops whose bodies were blown to pieces from IEDs and bullet holes leaving parts and pieces behind. Ramadi matters to them. You need to apologize to our troops who endured the extreme temperatures and battled the terrorists in some of the worst battlefields in Iraq. Ramadi matters to them. They carry vivid memories of the battles and the teammates whose future is gone..." Gen. Dempsey later wrote Lee a letter apologizing for adding to her grief.
What kind of military is it when civilian and some military leaders brag about supposed social progress, but can't seem to find the will to win wars? What kind of country sends its young men and women into combat without a clear vision for victory and then, when they are killed or maimed, says, "never mind"?
In exchanging five Taliban terrorists for the accused deserter, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, Obama administration officials justified their decision by invoking the American tradition of leaving no soldier behind.
With his remarks about Ramadi not mattering, Gen. Dempsey has reached a new low. He has left dead soldiers and their memory behind, abandoning them to their graves, effectively telling those who knew and loved them that their sacrifice was in vain.
His comments are disgraceful. He owes more than an apology. He should retire.
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Cal Thomas, America's most-syndicated columnist, is the author of 10 books.