Last Friday the Iran-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah (KH) launched another rocket attack on a base in Iraq where Americans are deployed. One U.S. contractor was killed, four U.S. servicemen were wounded, as well as several partners from the Iraqi Security Forces. Eleven such attacks by KH have been launched over the last two months, which has a direct link to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Quds Force. It should also be noted that KH and its commander are responsible, with collaboration with the Quds Forces of Iran, for the deaths of over 600 U.S. servicemembers during the Iraq War.
Over the last two months high-ranking U.S. officials have repeatedly warned Iran, and its military proxies, against any further attacks on U.S. personnel. This included a warning in December from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that a “decisive U.S. response” would follow if any American troops were harmed. Members of the U.S. Armed Forces are in Iraq to continue the fight against remnants of ISIS and to train the Iraqi military. The attacks have continued. And according to Dr. Mark Esper, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, “It is clear that these attacks are being directed by the Iranian regime, specifically the IRGC leadership.” Finally, the United States had enough. The U.S. launched air attacks on five different Kataib Hezbollah bases in western Iraq and Syria. Ever cautious over killing innocent civilians, these KH bases were chosen because they were located away from civilian population centers. Twenty-five members of the terrorist group were killed and some 50 or so wounded.
This led to events of the last few days, where Iranian-backed militia members marched into the Green Zone in Baghdad and attacked the U.S. Embassy. While the perimeter was breached and a reception building was torched, no Embassy personnel were harmed, and none were evacuated.
The reaction of some in the mainstream media should have been unbelievable; however, the commentary was unfortunately typical. Here are but two examples: One ABC headline proclaimed that the demonstrators who stormed the embassy were mourners over the deaths of the KH terrorists. They were not grieving friends or family members. They were members of the Iranian militias in Iraq. The New York Times piled on by laying the blame on President Trump: “By withdrawing from the nuclear deal and painting Iran as the premier evildoer in the Middle East, Mr. Trump and his lieutenants have left little room for dialogue. Far more likely is another provocation by Iran and more intractable entanglement for the United States.” In other words, it is somehow the fault of the United States that Iran and its proxies are trying to kill us?
Never mind that an American citizen was killed. Never mind that hundreds of U.S. soldiers have been killed by Iran and KH. Never mind that the men and women who wear the uniforms of the U.S. military and risk their lives are the 1% in our society who do what the other 99% of Americans do not want to do—or cannot do. Some in the media fail to acknowledge that the JCPOA (Iran nuclear deal) was a horrible deal that only delayed—did not prevent—Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. They seem to forget that it was the Obama Administration who gave some 150 billion dollars in cash to Iran—money that Iran immediately parceled out to its proxy terror groups around the world, including the one in Iraq. And the New York Times fails to mention that, in fact, Iran IS the “premier evildoer in the Middle East,” and has vowed death to America and death to Israel.
The pinnacle of unfair and slanted criticism over events of the last few days was many in the media calling this “Trump’s Benghazi.” The differences between these two events could not be starker. Here are but a few of the more obvious differences.
In Benghazi, four brave Americans lost their lives. In Iraq, no Americans died.
In Benghazi, additional security requested by Ambassador Stevens was denied by the State Department—and none were immediately sent to rescue the Americans in Benghazi. A self-organized Quick Reaction Force (QRF) at the embassy in Tripoli were ordered to stand down. In Iraq, 100 additional Marines were sent to support the security personnel already there, arriving in a matter of hours. Another 750 troops, part of an Immediate Response Force (IRF) from the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, are in route to protect Americans and our allies.
The Obama Administration dithered as his re-election was approaching and a new terrorist attack did not fit into the political narrative that operations in Libya were a success. There were deceptions and lies told about a reaction to a video produced by an American causing the attack on the consulate in Libya. President Trump, like him or not, did not hesitate to defend Americans and American interests—all political calculations aside.
After Benghazi, I had the high honor and perhaps the absolute saddest duty of my military career to be the Master of Ceremonies for the final homecoming of four dead Americans: Ambassador Chris Stevens, Information Officer Sean Smith, and two CIA operatives, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, both former Navy SEALs. I met with their families and shared their palpable grief. Their sorrow still haunts me. Thankfully, the Americans who work at the embassy in Baghdad will see their loved ones again.
There is a difference between having forces capable of protecting national security, performing force protection for our embassies—and the willingness to actually use it. U.S. leadership and the military have shown remarkable patience and discretion in responding to provocations by Iran. This, even after oil tankers were sabotaged by Iran, Saudi oil fields attacked, and two American drones in international airspace shot down.
As President Trump stated before the United Nations, “If the righteous many do not confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph. When decent people and nations become bystanders to history, the forces of destruction only gather power and strength.” The retaliatory strikes against Iran by attacking its militia members in Iraq were necessary, or the rocket attacks by them would continue until more Americans die.
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