Support troops by letting them do their jobs

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid and liberals say a lot of silly things, but perhaps none as ridiculous as the contention that they're supporting the troops by pulling them out of Iraq. This is like saying you support cops by not allowing them to respond to bank robberies, or firefighters by not letting them run into burning buildings.

No, if you really want to support the troops you give them the authority they need to do the job they've been trained to do. It means pressuring Congress to pressure the White House to pressure the Pentagon to ease the Rules of Engagement (ROE) our troops are being forced to fight under.

A new book titled "Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10" is the story of four U.S. Navy SEALs whose June 2005 mission in northern Afghanistan was to capture or kill a notorious Taliban leader. In the book Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, the lone survivor of that mission, recounts how the four members of his team were dropped behind enemy lines and accidentally discovered by some goat herders.

Unable to detain the goatherds without blowing the mission, the team held a vote on whether or not to risk letting them go. Team leader Michael Murphy framed the debate on what would happen if they did what clearly needed to be done: "When they find the bodies, the Taliban leaders will sing to the Afghan media. The media in the U.S.A. will latch on to it and write stuff about the brutish U.S. Armed Forces. Very shortly after that, we'll be charged with murder."

Luttrell reflected on Murphy's words. "Was I afraid of these (goat herders)?" he writes. "No. Was I afraid of their possible buddies in the Taliban? No. Was I afraid of the liberal media back in the U.S.A.? Yes. And I suddenly flashed on the prospect of many, many years in a U.S. civilian jail alongside murderers and rapists."

The team voted 2-1 to let the goatherds go. "It was the stupidest, most southern-fried, lamebrained decision I ever made in my life," Luttrell writes. "I must have been out of my mind. I had actually cast a vote which I knew could sign our death warrant. I'd turned into a f-ing liberal, a half-assed, no-logic nitwit, all heart, no brain, and the judgment of a jackrabbit."

As expected, the goatherds immediately ran to the Taliban, which immediately sent some 100 heavily-armed fighters to get the SEAL team. In the ensuing battle, Luttrell's team members were killed. Adding to the tragedy that day, a helicopter of 16 men sent to rescue the SEAL team was shot down, killing all onboard.

"From the standpoint of the U.S. soldier, Ranger, SEAL, Green Beret, or whatever, those ROE ... represent a danger to us." Luttrell writes. "They undermine our confidence on the battlefield in the fight against world terror. Worse yet, they make us concerned, disheartened, and sometimes hesitant. I can say from first-hand experience that those rules of engagement cost the lives of three of the finest U.S. Navy SEALs who have ever served."

If Reid and anti-war liberals really want to support troops like Marcus Luttrell, they'd stop trying to bring them home and instead give them the authority to complete their missions without fear of being prosecuted for doing their jobs.

• Chuck Muth, of Carson City, is president and CEO of Citizen Outreach and a political blogger. Read his views Fridays on the Appeal Opinion page or visit


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