I am not a likely person to come to the defense of our president, since I disagree with so many of his policies (indefinite detention, drone warfare, environmental degradation, etc.), but the latest attacks he has been subject to with regard to the Benghazi uprising have been truly outrageous.
Most recently, Charles Woods, the father of one of the American mercenaries killed in the same wave of violence that killed Ambassador Stevens, fanned the flames by complaining about President Obama’s condolences to him over the death of his son and that his handshake was like “shaking hands with dead fish.” Of Secretary of State Clinton’s condolences: “She did not seem sincere at all.”
This is clear and certifiable hooey. Even if Obama shakes hands like a dead fish, which I doubt given that he shakes the hands of a lot of people and this is the first “dead fish” claim I’ve come across, this is the kind of thing you don’t complain about. If Obama farted in your presence, is that what you would take away from your meeting with him, to then reveal in a televised interview with Glen Beck? “Well, I didn’t like the way he passed gas when he shook my hand. It was kind of disrespectful.”
No, it’s disrespectful to draw attention to presidential gas.
Moreover, the President is a busy man and is not obligated to shake the hands of every parent of every American private contractor/mercenary killed overseas. He accorded you this honor (as did Vice President Biden, as did Secretary of State Clinton) in part because of your son’s prior military service as a Navy SEAL. Accept the courtesy and move along smartly.
We don’t bury mercenaries in Arlington National Cemetery for a reason. The language in the Geneva Convention frowns on mercenaries and does not accord them full rights on the battlefield or grant them POW status if captured. When your son turned in his Navy trident to get a bigger paycheck working for a private security company, he was well aware of the risks. During the last years of the Iraq War, more private contractors were being killed than military service members. So the risks were and are known. The use of private security contractors on the battlefield has had far ranging consequences.
On June 5, 2005, an Army Ranger Colonel and former West Point Honor Captain shot himself over the corruption and human rights abuses that attend these shadow organizations that operate extrajudicially and are not subject to military laws. He was the highest ranking officer to die in the Iraq War. That colonel was my commander.
I think you diminish any memory left of your son by clucking and clamoring about how the government failed him. Your son lived and died on his terms. He trusted in his weapons and his training and he went down fighting numerically superior forces. The government is not accountable to you because your son didn’t work for the government. He worked for a private company that likely doesn’t return phone calls. And because you can’t vent with the CEO responsible for putting your son in Benghazi, you go on about how it’s the government to blame. “It’s Obama responsible. Obama did it.” No, sir, he’s not. And he didn’t. I’m here to tell you that’s bullshit.
Here is what you should be getting upset about.
What you should be getting upset about, as should all Americans, is the trend over the last decade to create private companies of mercenaries recruited from elite units from this country and others (SEALs, SF, Rangers, SAS, South Africans, Australians, etc, etc, etc) to do the dirty work of our government. This is work that goes widely undetected, unreported, and is not accountable for in the democratic process.
In 1990, when I enlisted in the Army as a 97E Chinese Interrogator, the ratio of soldiers to private contractors was about 50 to 1. With the Iraq War, when I served as a captain with the 98th Division, it had lowered to about 10 to 1. And it continues to lower as these private outfits grow like mushrooms in the dark, doing everything from washing our laundry to driving our trucks to getting shot defending our embattled embassies. (All the boots on the ground providing security in Iraq are now private contractors, reportedly 5,000 in number.)
To get back to the handshake. If the president seemed ill at ease with you, it is likely because the deaths in Benghazi draw attention to the uncomfortable issue of private contractor/mercenaries serving across the global battlefield. This is a topic no one in the administration or the Pentagon wants to address.
I’ve ranted long enough so let me close with this. If you want to criticize the president, do it so for something substantive, like undermining the democratic values of accountability by using unregulated hired guns not subject to UCMJ or international law or only law at all, or for waging robot warfare, or for absenting himself from his first debate.
Not for a weak handshake.