Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Letter that Started Everything

So many of you have been so kind throughout all of this. When the AP release hit the net today I realized that most everyone who has been tracking the progress of this effort have never seen the original letter I wrote to our delegation in DC. The issue was important then and and even more so today. Since then, dozens on men have died staying in compliance with the current COIN strategy and its ROE; including my Son.

We have continued this fight because there are still too many Marines and Soldiers on the ground over there who will continue to die because of these Rules of Engagement. President Obama intends to release his decision, by the end of this week, on what the strategy should be as we go forward with the operation in Afghanistan and he is likely to accept much of what General McChrystal has recommended. The one caveat in the Stratfor/AP report of this announcement today was that he intends to lean even more heavily on the side of the civilian population. This means, most certainly, heavier American casualties.

The original letter:

Congressman Mike Michaud 7/09/2009 08:01
1724 Longworth HOBWashington, DC 20515-1902

Dear Sir;

I am writing to you today as an American citizen, 26 year veteran of the United States Marine Corps, committed Christian, Husband, Father of two and a businessman. I am also writing to you as the Father of a Marine who is, as all of his brothers in arms are, in harms way. That by itself is not a cause for concern for me because as a Warrior I understand two things:(1) it is the very nature of the calling to which we have been called that we will be thrust into dangerous, even life threatening situations to fight the enemies of our country and (2) that there could not possibly be a safer place to be than in the company of fellow Marines. In any case, that is the nature of the business and those who serve in this capacity have long since dealt with the realities of life in uniform.

There are, however, certain expectations, an unspoken trust within the ranks of those of us who serve and have served in this capacity. One of those is that we have a belief that as Americans, our leadership will not frivolously spend our blood on unworthy pursuit. To those of us who serve, let me be very clear to those of you who hold our lives in your hands; this means that the reason we may die can ultimately be defined as protecting homeland, family and fellow American lives (spelled US citizens). We also assume we will not be used as pawns in some personal vendetta or worse some career building scheme; that we will not be asked to spill our blood in a foreign land to defend the indefensible. We expect we will be able to do that for which we were trained; export violence with ferocity and drive our enemies to their knees with the ultimate goal of ending the conflict by forcing them to do our will. Such are the dreams and aspirations of the Warrior. Men like this seek to serve side by side with like-minded men prepared to meet their destiny on the field of battle; living a life of honor while testing personal courage in the forge of combat. Our nations Warriors have no other expectations, no visions of grandeur, no careers to bolster, no kingdoms to lord over, no sovereignty to subvert. These men just seek to serve their country.

Now that you have ever so basic an understanding of the intrinsic nature of the Warrior; I hope to encourage you to show them at least the dignity of thoughtful and painstaking decision-making when considering when and where to thrust them into the fires of hell. My demand is that you emphatically understand that this decision will have eternal consequences for the men involved and their families. I also expect this decision to be for the simple reason of defense of country and countrymen (again spelled United States Citizens).

If any part of you still understands that you were sent to Washington DC for the sole purpose of defending these shores and to defend the ‘life, liberty and pursuit of happiness’ of the citizens of this nation; and if you still believe you are first a servant of all, then you yet may possess the ability to understand the immorality of what I am about to share with you and the necessity to change this policy NOW.

President Obama has seen fit to replace the sitting ISAF commander with a General McChrystal (see Bio at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_A._McChrystal). Suffice it to say that Gen McChrystal’s understanding of the Warrior ethos is somewhat askew from the mainstream. Also let us cut to the chase and identify him more as a political mouthpiece than a field commander. Add to this the dubious addition of General James L. Jones (see bio at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_L._Jones), who unlike McChrystal has actual combat experience but still shares the same ultimate goals and one world vision as both McChrystal and Obama. What you have here is an unholy trinity injecting their shared philosophy of ‘spare the civilians at all cost’ – even though those civilians are not US citizens and are in fact complicit in their own misfortune. The new ROE presented by McChrystal and under which operation Khanjar was mounted is nothing less than disgraceful, immoral and fatal for our Marines, Sailors and Soldiers on the ground. The Marines and Soldiers that are ‘holding’ territories of dubious worth like Now Zad and Golestan without reinforcement, denial of fire-support and refusal to allow them to hunt and kill the very enemy we are there to confront are nothing more than sitting ducks. Denying them even the ability to fight, which is their only purpose for existing, to defend themselves in a foreign land that sees them first as agents of the devil is detestable to the secular world and immoral to the rest of us. And for those of us with ‘vested interests’ thrust into that foreign land; it angers us. The links I have provided will give you some indication of the insanity of the current situation and the suicidal position this administration has placed these Warriors in. I admonish this administration and all those currently in public office whom we have entrusted with our security, well-being and the very lives and well-being of the best of us, our Warriors to start acting like you actually care or even understand the consequences of ludicrous decisions like this one. I then hold you responsible to actively seek to change this immoral policy to one that allows our Warriors the opportunity to do what they were trained to do; destroy our enemies and protect our citizenry.





To those who would suggest that COIN (counter insurgency) is complicated I say hog-wash. This has become the mantra of the one-world ideologues. This has become complicated because leadership has lost its way. It is not the responsibility of the leaders (servants) of this country to re-build a country that has not been destroyed by us nor does the leadership of this country have any intrinsic right to spill the blood of this country’s finest for this cause. I’ll lay it out for you; bad guys entered this country, unannounced and unwelcome and killed Americans on American soil. Bad guys continue to harass and threaten to kill Americans here at home and abroad. Bad guys continue to train in foreign lands and continue to plan to carry out these plans against sovereign American citizens. They have no rights or guarantee of protection under the Constitution of the United States because they are not United States citizens. They are not protected by the Geneva Convention because they don’t fight under any Nation’s Flag. We however, have the right – and responsibility, with historical and Biblical precedent to export violence to crush these Bad guys, wherever they may live and in whatever lair they may hide – relentlessly! If the civilian populations in those areas lack the intestinal fortitude to expel them from their midst or they quietly support them or they actively support them; they are not innocent and may well suffer ill consequences for their cowardice and their complicities.

For those of us who have served in uniform and for those of us who have family forced to serve under these immoral conditions the time to quietly observe and pray has ended. There is a new activist emerging; not like the cannabis induced flailing of the sixties and seventies but one with the discipline, training and tenacity of a Warrior. Those of us who have a history in this Warrior culture and a vested interest on the battlefield will be a lot more vocal from this point on. Those in this culture who do not yet know about this immoral ROE change will soon all know as well as the families of those who are imperiled by it. Those who have actively supported this policy of immorality or are not engaged enough to know of it; they will be re-introduced to your constituencies for their failings. Public service is precisely what it portends to be; service. If there are those among your number who have failed to remember that I can promise you we will make that known within our spheres of influence.

This letter is making its way through the halls of every national news agency as well as the local ones in Maine, as you read this. I have contacted your office by phone, e-mail and now letter to give you a chance to get out in front of it. Consider this a wake-up call.

John J. Bernard
1stSgt USMC ret


  1. John,
    My condolences to you and your family. I saw your article on MSNBC and my heart goes out to you. I'm not a marine, but when I hear something like this, it makes my blood boil.
    How can these idiot generals think this is a good plan? Like you said, our guys are not peace keepers, they're soldiers, and soldiers are trained to kill. The blood of these men and women are on their hands by intentionally putting them in harms way.

    Let me know what I can do to help.
    Horst Sprader

  2. John,

    My heartfelt sympathies to you and your family on the loss of your son Joshua. Your Marine family is praying for you and stands behind you 100%. As a mom of a Marine I sincerely appreciate the information posted in your blog. I have already written President Obama and my Congressman Levin. Of course there has not been a response. I have a very large network of Marine Parents and have shared your letter with them and have asked them to join us in writing, calling and storming our representatives. We are not a silent majority.


    Kim Grover

  3. John;

    From one retired Army vet to a retired USMC vet, I grieve for your brave son whose dedication to the Corps & our country is very admirable. It is time to let our Marines & soldiers do their job which they are trained with all the support or get them out of that God forsaken place, we cannot play the Marquis De Sade rule, remember only the good guys end up last in other word, we cannot fight with one hand tied behind our backs. Our Commander in Chief needs to get the Chinese & Indians involved. After all this is their neighborhood, the violence will spread to them, we just cannot be the world only policeman, with China & India getting involved, we can crush these terrorists one and for all & relieve our overstressed military.

  4. John,
    First, my condolences to your family in the loss of your son. I am so very sorry.
    Second, as the mom of a Marine currently in Afghanistan I must say I definitely agree with you on this. I can not understand WHY we must use certain rules of "non-engagement" when our young men and women are at risk. What happened to the term collateral damage? Granted, I do not think we should go in and just wipe out a whole village to eliminate one person, but geez oh pete's, give us something we can work with that will work that will keep our military safer.
    I am following your blog from this day on and intend to send my letters to each and every person that makes decisions for our country in hopes that something can change. As Kim says, we are not a silent majority.
    Thank you for what you are doing. God Bless you and your family, our military and our Marines.

  5. John,
    My condolences to you and your family. We all need to spread the word. I believe the American people share your view. We either need to let our soldiers do their job to the best of this country's ability, or we need to pack up and go home. War isn't without risk as you know so deeply. We need to take the handcuffs off and exterminate the rats before we loose anymore good men.

  6. Amen 1stSgt Bernard...amen. My young Marine son has been called to support operation enduring freedom. The rhetoric of going in as ambassadors has me more than a little worried. The class on making friends and influencing people (without his weapon) is one that he has yet to take. Yet that is what he is tasked with doing?? We have sent our young men and women into harms way with their hands tied behind their backs, and their pockets full of jolly ranchers. My heart breaks to think of the task they face with the status quo. Where have all the leaders gone who care about the well being of their own country men?? American lives lost due to denied air support?? Afghan soldiers turning on our troops while they patrol together?? I think it's time for the force that was intially shown in response to 9/11 - we could have finished the job we went in to do in the first place.

    Thank you and your family Sir for your service to our country - and Thank You to your son for the ultimate sacrifice.

  7. 1st Shirt
    i know your son is resting in peace
    but we need to continue in your effort
    anyway anyhow i can help you have to just email
    its long overdue to let the Marines do what they were trained to do and thats not nation building
    john stevens Chief USN retired
    3x nam vet (swift boats)

  8. Sorry for your loss your son was a hero and hopefully the government will get its act together and go after the terrorists. Our prayers and thoughts are with you. http://www.mnlakeplace.com

  9. Sir,
    My thoughts and prayers at the loss of your hero son. I support your efforts 100% though given the current, incompetent, so-called commander in chief I am not optimistic about the fate of either our military or our nation. There is absolutely no legitimate justification for not supporting our troops with all available resources. As you well know sir political correctness wins no wars and only places our men and women on the front in greater peril. I admire you and your family for your sacrifices and you will be in my prayers.
    Jerry Boyd
    Chief of Police, Ret
    residing in Baker City, Oregon

  10. Dear John,

    With Afghan allies, the special forces drove the Taliban from their strongholds early in this conflict. Now, as our tactics change, we are allowing them to creep back into cities, take control of villages and gain the ability to bring the fight to our troops.

    It's sad to see us adopt the "hearts and minds" campaign of the past. Didn't work then.

    I'm sorry for your loss and am at the same time thankful for the youngsters serving/served. Without them terrorism would once again have a long reach. If not for a long history of service, your blog would not be possible.

    Dan Montgomery

  11. Sir, I read your story with interest because I had taped Richard Engel's "Tip of the Spear" documentary during his embed experience in the Korengal valley in Afghanistan. I was sickened by the difficulty of the task our soldiers must face. The terrain is needless to say grueling. They experience NUMEROUS attacks and fire fights and find themselves having to defend their positions all the time. Engel is a wonderful reporter and through incredible photographic technology was able to film the fights from many angels.

    More than once even I, who knows nothing about military strategy, wondered why in God's name is there no air support. I figured out that it is probably because of the avoidance of hitting of innocents which is part of the plan.

    I find this utterly ridiculous which I why I am against war period. Either you go in there to defend your troops BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY or you do not. War means the killing of innocents. It always has and it always will. There was no air support until it was too late. The marines' positions were divulged by the red dye marking where to rescue them as their positions were overrun by friendly fire.

    We need to think LONG and HARD as to how many of our soldiers' lives and how much of our nation's treasure we can expend. Either we do it right or I say we not do it at all. Eight years is ENOUGH and a war without end to me is unacceptable. There are other strategies I feel which could be considered.

    I call your attention to an interesting article that appeared in the Washington Post written by Andrew Bacevich a professor of international relations at Boston University. He was also a West Point Graduate and veteran of Vietnam. In addition Professor Bacevich lost his son in Iraq. So he knows from whence he speaks. The link is http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/25/AR2009092502011.html
    It is called "Let's Beat the Extremists Like We Beat the Soviets"

    I wonder what your opinion of his article is and if you feel there is any other way out except for eternal war. I thank you and your family for your sacrifice. I hope you know there are many who are so saddened by the loss of even one more life of our nation's youth! I wish you and your family well.

  12. Dear John:
    As a Marine Captain in Vietnam Flying O1-Birddogs, I know about "Rules of War" There are many names on the Wall because I was not allowed to run airstrikes in certain areas. Your son did not die in vain. He died for his fellow Marines. May God give you some solice in this knowledge. I will be writing all three of my Congressmen regard this issue of, "Rules of War. Semper Fi Top! Peter Erenfeld

  13. 1stSgt,
    First I would like to extend my deepest sympathy to you and your family. Your son did not die in vain nor will his memory be tarnished. I recently retired from the Air Force and despite some individuals conventional thinking, I was a ground pounder serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. I am a Physician Assistant. My last assignment was working with a special forces forward surgical team in Southern Afghanistan (Tarin Kowt) region. I was stationed there in 2007-2008. I saw the courage and valor our brave men and women displayed on a daily basis.

    I am appalled at the current state of affairs currently in Afghanistan. When I was there it was a constant battle between our unit and the ISAF command we fell under (the Dutch). They were more concerned with sitting down and having "tea" with the Taliban than going out and hunting them. I completely agree with your view of the current situation and feel that if we don't let our warriors do their job, then we fail the brave warriors there putting their lives on the line for all of us.

    I was and still am proud to have worn the uniform for the United States but am completely disgusted by our current leaders and their lack of respect for our military forces. We need a warrior in charge in Afghanistan, someone who will take the risks needed to complete our mission there, and most importantly, we need a leader back home who will back him up.

    My thoughts are with you, please let me know if there is anything I can do to help the cause.

    Joe Kraut, Capt, USAF Ret

  14. This will be short and sweet. Your son gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. for that you must be proud. We americans are forever in your and your son's debt. As an former soldier and retired police officer, I can give a little educated opinion. First, you are correct in saying that Warfare and Policing are two separate and distinct missions. Marines should not be policing!!!! Police should not be storming the beach!!!! In my humble opinion there can only be one goal of warfare--to win!!! In order to win a war you must do only one thing--defeat the enemy by any means necessary. In the conflict we are currently involved in, we are face with an enemey that has no respect for life. They don't respect our lives, their lives, or the lives of their population. The number one mistake that the western powers make in dealing with this enemy is applying our standards and values to the enemy and expecting them to react within those parameters. We don't react appropriately to their heinous and extreme methods. The ONLY permanent solution is to engage the enemy and kill them. If there is colateral damage, the damage and death resulting should be viewed as being caused by the enemey. NOT US!!!!! We are not shielding ourselves with civilians. We are not hiding in schools and day cares. We are not having women and children re-supplying our ammunition. We are acting in a morally correct way!!! It is immoral to prolong the suffering of the Afghan people and the Allied forces involved by limiting the chances of Winning the War only for the sake of portraying America as a kind and peaceful nation. Peace can be acheived in 2 ways. We can allow ourselves to be defeated or we can defeat the enemy. Any other solution prolongs conflict.

    WIN THE WAR!!!!! DO IT NOW!!!!!!

    Thats all I have to say about that!!!

  15. I just wanted to say that I commend your efforts to get the focus of the war changed back to what it should be. I have spoken to several military personnel who also agree with you and that we are now becoming our own worst enemy over in Afghanistan.

    I fully respect your opposition to the picture of your son being displayed by the AP as it was, but maybe that's what people need to see to get the realities of this war and the decisions being made to the forefront.

    I also fully agree with you that we need to fight with the same tenacity that the taliban does, it will be the only way to end this war. They show our soldiers no mercy when they attack and capture. I do have to say, this is a war, and sometimes rules of engagement should be set aside when it's our family and friends over there being attacked mercilessly! As you mentioned, they see our weakness in counter-attack and are using that to their fullest advantage. If there's ever a petition started to get this changed, please believe that I along with everyone I know will sign it and you have my full support and admiration for standing up and trying to make a change.

    God bless your family and all that you have been through.


  17. I am sure your son is still very proud to have a father like you. Even though he may not walk this planet anymore he is still here and helping guide you to finish the mission you have started.

  18. I am deeply sorry to read of the loss of your son. But I am also deeply grateful for your willingness to stand up and tell our leaders the truth. My family has supported our troops the last several years by sending care packages and supplies. We have worked through anysodier.com. I have come to know many of our young warriors and they are an outstanding group of people.

    I have sat at my computer and cried as one of them after another has told me of another death of a friend and fellow soldier. This has happaned with more frequency the past few months from the soldiers stationed in Afghanistan.

    I do not know how our legislators sleep at night. If they will not allow these warriors to fight and win this war, then we need to leave Afghanistan.

    Or perhaps we could just send the whole group of lawmakers over to Afghanistan to defend us???

  19. John, I am former combat soldier, I am with you. If we don't speak for the soldiers no one will. Except for the few in our citizenry and the few in our government who have family in the service, no one really cares or understands what it is like being shot at without being able to properly respond. Our soldiers are being asked to put themselve in danger because fools are directing our soldiers by making political decisions rather than decisions based on accomplishing a winning goal.

  20. The US position to not endanger civilians in the midst of WAR is ridiculous. I like what Netanyahu said at the UN on 09/24/09, the day after Iran's Ahmadenijad, within the same venue, denied the Holocaust, "By these twisted standards, the UN Human Rights Council would have dragged Roosevelt and Churchill to the dock as war criminals. What a perversion of truth! What a perversion of justice!"

    It is the same rhetoric that is aimed at Israel whenever Hamas, (which means "violence" in Hebrew, by the way,) fires rockets from a civilian's home at Israeli civilians. The Israeli's are condemned for firing missles back at that place because it is a civilian home.

    If a civilian will put his own life in danger by allowing the Taliban, Al Qaeda, Hamas, or even the KKK to use them and/or their homes and/or their property to be used by the terrorists, then, that civilian has just enlisted in the military and should be subject to the same reprisals that any other enemy combatant is entitled, to wit, they are to be killed or captured until "their" side surrenders, period.

    The US military policy is not to "win" in Afghanistan or anywhere else, for that matter, as evidenced by their complete lack of military strategy. See, the secular humanists who really run this country and the world, overall, do not believe in God and so they try to instill a moral view that, to them, makes sense. Without the Bible as your rule book, human beings have been known to commit atrocities which, in those people's views, were morally and ethically correct but which were, in fact, sick and demented.

    We need to change our policy on the Bible and God in this country before ANYTHING else in this country will change. PERIOD.

  21. Dear 1st Sgt Bernard,
    Please accept my most humble and sincere condolences on the loss of your fine son. He will not be forgotten!
    Thank you, Sir, for making your voice heard. I can only hope and pray it will make a change. I've long complained about the way our Marines and Soldiers are expected to fight a "kinder, gentler" war. Horse-pucky! If they don't want our troops to engage the enemy, why send them with weapons at all? It's the same reason we lost so many fine brave Heroes in Iraq.
    Please know I'm behind you 150%.
    Thank you, Sir for your service as a Marine; Thank you for raising a fine, courageous Hero. God bless you and your family.
    Semper fi,
    Mom to the Corps

  22. I'm old enough to remember the stories coming out of Viet Nam in the late 60s and early 70s - political games instead of killing and defeating the enemy; resulting in the deaths of American heroes and ultimately America's first war lost. It was not necessary then and it certainly IS NOT NECESSARY NOW! Either we're in or we're out. If we're in then Afghan civilians who don't want to be collateral damage need to know that when the taliban or their ilk moves into your neighborhood, IT IS TIME TO MOVE OUT!!!! CUZ THE MARINES ARE COMING AND THEY'RE NOT BRINGING BALLOONS AND PARTY FAVORS!!!!!!!!!!

  23. John,

    Our son is a Marine, and what you're saying to the leaders of this country is absolutely true. Keep on saying it, the role you find yourself in is no coincidence -- God chose you to do this. Stay in prayer, and know that there are brothers and sisters in Christ out there praying for you. My heart goes out to you and your family for your son. I look forward to meeting he, and you, some day when the cares of this world are behind us.

  24. Dear Sir,

    Kudos to you for speaking out! What you've described is another example of how the Globalist politicians in DC do NOT represent the citizenry of this great land. The situation in Afghanistan is beyond outrageous.

    Scott Haley

  25. First of all, I would like to extend my sincere condolences to you and your family. Your son was very brave, but you are just as brave for standing up to all of these politicians. My brother is a Chief with the Navy Seals(20 plus years), and is currently in training to get ready to deploy to Afghanistan.
    My sister-in-law said she will be bracing herself for the "arrival of the car" and the knock on the door. I thought the government would take care of our soldiers a little better, but after reading all of this, I feel like they are nothing more than lambs being led to the slaughter. My prayers are with all of them.

  26. 1st Sgt,
    As an Air Force veteran of the Cold War & Vietnam I share your exact sentiments. We live in the greatest nation on the face of this Earth and I am tired of hearing that those living in the near east hate us for who we are. The world has now set two sets of standards when it comes to war, one for the American soldier, sailor & airman and one for the rest of the world. It is time the playing is leveled. In Vietnam we did not recognize our enemy because all combatants and locals wore the same black pajamas. I must admit our life in the air was easier than those on the ground who had to wait to be shot at before they could return fire. Today even that has changed and we cannot give aerial support if there is a possibilty that we could be killing one of their goats. If we must fight in Afganistan then let us do it the old-fashioned way - let's win. We all know "War is Hell" and civilian casulties cannot be totally avoided, especially when the enemy uses them as human shields.
    In closing let me say to you and your family that our thoughts and prayers will always be with you and rest assured that your son is watching over all of us serving in God's Army.

    Rudi Fischer
    U.S. Air Force (Retired)

  27. Sorry, but the death of your son had nothing to do with us not being allowed to kick enough butt.

    If only we could kill more of them people, then...

    Your son died to advance a jew/israeli/liberal agenda. I am very sorry for your loss, and sorry that your son has had to sacrifice his life and all that he could have been to this globalist agenda.

  28. You know, to read some of these comments, you'd think that the asst mid-east guys we are fighting, taliban, iraquis, etc, are somehow kicking our behinds.
    Sorry guys, but we kill hundreds, sometimes thousands of them to our one.
    Anyone who fights back against an American invader is a criminal, right?

  29. I wish to express my heart felt sympathy for the loss of your son.
    I also believe we should let them fight TO WIN or bring them home. We Americans did just that in WWII, my father was a part of that, in the european theater.
    I was a part of the Viet Nam war and that war was another time our politicians stood in the way of victory.
    It makes me sick to see it happenning again.
    The rules of engagement should be hunt them down and kill them without mercy.

    Viet Nam vet
    Dec 1970, Dec 1971

  30. Dear Mr. Bernard,

    My deepest, most heartfelt condolences to you and your family. Your dear son has made the ultimate sacrifice and your family is left to bear the full weight of that unbearable cost. We, this nation, owes you a debt we can never repay but as you know, we do not grieve as those who have no hope. Your "Holy Man" is in the very presence of our Lord! I too am the father of a young Marine who sounds very similar to your Joshua. Our prayers are lifted up for on this day and know that we stand in support of your policy changes relative to the rules of engagement. I am writing to Senator John Cornyn today!

  31. Sir,

    My condolences to you and your family. Your story has renewed my insterest in going back to the Corp and finish what i started. These politicans should stop playing politics with these warriors lives.

  32. Dear Sir:

    YOUR son is an American hero who gave his life so we in America can enjoy continued freedom. Unlike Obama, Jones and McChrystal. They have no intention of winning in Afghanistan. They are letting our brave soldiers sit there like sittiing ducks while they tap their feet to decide how many troops should be sent. All the while putting our brave men and women in harms way. Their tap dancing, in my opinion is just waiting for the right time to cut and run handing Afghanistan to the Taliban on a silver platter. Your sons sacrifice will never be forgotten despite what the 3 uniformed, non combat President and 2 Generals do. God Bless you and your family and God Bless America.

  33. Troops dying because we want to try to impose democracy on a nation that doesn't want it. I am thoroughly disgusted. Take off the gloves and let them have it. We weren't afraid to firebomb Germany, or to use the nuke on Japan. We need our leaders to grow a pair or resign.
    MSgt USAF Retired

  34. Dear 1st Sgt.,
    I'm an active duty Marine and so is my younger brother, who spent about 7 months over there with the 24th MEU. They were the first of the small surge that's taken place over the last year. He and his Marines were limited in their actions also, so this is nothing new. It's just more of the same ignorant, liberal decisions made by politicians.
    These kinds of decisions are what caused us to clear Fallujah not once, but twice, which resulted in lives lost. That blood and a lot of other blood is on the hands of today's U.S. politicians. The majority of them, anyway. But during those battles in Fallujah, military commanders did what should be done in Afghanistan-- announce we're coming, and if you're in the way then you're considered a terrorist/insurgent or a harborer of them.
    And if Afghanis want to blame someone for the collateral damage, then they should look no farther than their corrupt government, and at themselves for allowing their government to operate the way they do. The first citizens of the U.S. grew tired of living under the rule of what they considered a corrupt government and they did something about it. Afghanis could do the same if they mustered up the fortitude. But most have chosen to grow drugs and accept the financial aid of extremist terrorists.
    Thanks for what you're doing. We need more citizens to make a stand and do something about the corruption taking place in our own homeland. I was encouraged by the march on Washington when politicians tried to rush through a healthcare bill. I'd like to see more of that. It turned some heads regardless of how the liberal media tried to ignore it. By law, citizens still run this country. Not politicians.
    I'm very sorry for your loss. We've lost a brother in our ranks, and each time that happens it effects each and every one of us. He, as you well know as a Marine, will not be forgotten.

    Semper Fidelis

  35. Dear Josh;

    There is nothing new about the disconnect between Warriors and Politicians either. This is an age old problem between those who seek power and money and those who are consigned to fight for them to deliver it. I can’t tell you what the end game is here or what the gain is for the politicians. My gut tells me it is just another indication that the devil is rooted in the inner workings of this country and has found 536 willing partners and the resident at the White House.

    As I tell everyone; that’s alright because it is becoming that much easier to tell the good guys from the bad. Each and every Marine that has served in harms way knows the cost and yet faces it anyway. He brings his sense of personal honor and service to the table, unblemished and it is up to the civilian leadership to not squander that gift. These guys presently in power have not-one-clue about those things. And again; that is alright because it separates righteous character from unrighteous.

    What is not acceptable is to sit idly by and allow them to continue without holding them liable. We will not sit by. Those men on that battlefield are my Brothers as are you and your brother. My Son, who bears your name, did not hold back and his life was wasted by self-interested politicians without a conscience. I can say that with certainty because they would have acted on this if they were functioning with a conscience. They are not.

    Hold your head up, walk with pride and let God take care of the rest. In the meantime we just keep on doing what we can to inform an otherwise uninformed public. As people become aware of what is going on; they are incensed – to the man.

    Semper Fidelis;

    John Bernard

  36. My response to "LLORT3 “if you don't like the way it is run you shouldn't be in the military. take your orders or don't sign up." (originally posted by LLORT3)

    I, JDR do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

    My son took this oath July 7,2005 to defend all enemies and to obey all orders. This he does without fail. TELL ME LLORTE3!!! Where in that oath did my son promise to protect the civilians on foreign land over that of his fellow Marines? This is not defending our nation against all enemies foreign and domestic it is “Community Organizing” and the only people receiving benefits here are the murdering terrorists and of course those in the ranks who are polishing their careers.

    Cathy Fontenot
    PMM of JDR serving in Afghanistan

  37. LLORT3;

    Make no mistake about it; all of our Warriors follow the orders they are given - moral or immoral. If you are suggesting to me that once out of uniform we shouldn't be vigilant to insure our men and women aren't being sacrificed for faulty strategy then you have been brain-washed. The training we receive at Parris Island and the other recruit depots across the country and spanning all branches is not 'brain-washing' and does expect our Warriors not only to think but with enhanced knowledge, as Warriors. Just because an order has come down from higher echelon does not gaurantee it is correct or legal. History is replete with examples of political decisions made that ultimately lead to disaster.

    You need to consider whether or not you are a Warrior or a robot without compassion for fellow Warriors...I suspect you have never served in uniform or for that matter anything except yourself. Stand back and witness what people with compassion and conviction can do when the best of our society - the Warrior, are abused by other self-serving individuals like, I suspect, you are.



  38. Thought provoking blog post. First, I recall the recent publication of images of your son. I am so sorry for your loss and for the despicable way you and your family were treated.

    As to your blog post. Your points are well taken. I disagree however with "To those who would suggest that COIN (counter insurgency) is complicated I say hog-wash." If it were not a challenge we would not be having a debate on the issue and our presence in Afghanistan would no longer be needed (after 8 years). The right solution evades me, as it is way above my pay grade, but I would say if we cannot properly defend ourselves (ROE) and make a difference, then we should get the hell out of there.


  39. My condolences on the loss of your warrior son.

    I don't think we should be in Afghanistan or Iraq for two reasons: first, because I don't think there is a good enough reason for it, and second, in the case of Afghanistan, because it is the historic graveyard of empires, and I think the effort required to subdue it is not worth the return.

    You wrote that your son's adversaries included women and children who were loading ammunition. This tells me that the people there -- not so much "Afghans" as members of the Pashtun tribe -- view us as invading conquerors. They see it as a religious war of Christianity vs. Islam. They don't see the U.S. as bringing them something they want. They view us as imposing something they hate.

    We could say the same about Japan in the 1930s and 1940s, but in fact the Japanese had made the decision in the mid-1800s to modernize their country and accept Western ways. They were far more Westernized than the Pashtuns are today, and as harrowing as the Pacific campaign was, I think it was much easier than a struggle to conquer and hold Afghanistan would be.

    If I am wrong, and it is possible to conquer and hold Afghanistan, what do we get from it? In Japan, we ultimately gained a strong industrial ally and presence in Asia. Afghanistan is not going to become an industrial power in anyone's lifetime. It is a "fourth world" place, destined to be tribal and rural for as long as the imagination can imagine.

    Maybe we think we can deprive al Qaeda of a base of operations, but I don't buy it. The world is a big place. If Afghanistan doesn't work for them, there are plenty of other places for them to set up shop, which would mean that the U.S. would need to keep invading and conquering.

    Can that happen? Well, we are a country of 300 million people in a world of more than 7 billion. We're richer, but other countries are gaining on us. We cannot conquer the entire globe by force of arms. We can change the rules of engagement to make individual battles "easier" for our troops, but it won't solve the bigger issue of what we are doing to begin with.

    None of this comes from any pacifism on my part, or any opposition to military culture. The 1960s are over with. They ended 40 years ago, and they didn't change the essential nature of this country. We still have men who crawl up mountains with knives in their teeth and die for their country, and we still have a population of people who deeply appreciate them.

    If we are going to send people to fight and die, we need to do it as a very last resort, with clear goals. When we went into Afghanistan, the "clear goal" seemed to be to capture and kill Osama Bin Laden. In Iraq, the "clear goal" seemed to be to depose Saddam Hussein. Now, we sit in both places as occupiers, increasingly hated by the people who are there.

    It's time to get out. Not because there's something wrong with us, or because there is something wrong with our military, but because the "mission" no longer has any real definition or meaning. It is not acceptable to keep having our people killed to somehow keep faith with those who already died. In civilian life, that's called "good money after bad," and I think that's exactly what we are doing overseas right now.

    It's not about the 1960s, or school prayers, or the Bible, or Obama's ludicrous peace prize, or Al Sharpton, or any of that. This is about the sort of clear-eyed, cold calculation that you must do if you are going to put yourself into the war-making business. You must ask yourself whether the benefit is worth the cost, and in doing so you must discard emotional appeals and patriotic sloganeering and confront the hard, cold truth.

    I think the hard, cold truth is that we've got to get out of there.

  40. Blast;

    Do not misunderstand that statement. Think of it as a literary construct to make a point. I don't believe a theater-wide counter insurgency strategy can work period and that is what General McChrystal is recommending. Starting with a premise that there are good guys and bad guys, in a conventional sense, in Afghanistan is naive at best. We can not determine with any level of confidence, which segments of that society are good/bad. They are all ideologically opposed to our living without Islam. Jihad is not an aberration nor is it 'inner struggle'. It is in fact holy war against the infidel.

    The fact is, there is only one legitimate reason to be there in force; something there, projects a clear and present danger to the United States and its people. Nation building is both arrogant and not in the job description of any of our elected officials. If we have decided and continue to believe that there exists a clear and present danger to this nation in Afghanistan, we need to attend to that narrowly defined enemy. When we first went in, we succeeded. We lost ground once we diverted our attention to Iraq. When we refocused on Afghanistan again, this year, we acted as though the situation had not deteriorated; we paid it lip service. The ROE suggested a post Fallujah II condition that did not exist in Afghanistan. Afghanistan was 'Indian country'. The ‘not complicated’ comment grows out of that. We need to get back to the chase and kill strategy we started with and regain what we lost. Once we have control (some semblance of control), we can - and should reach out to the villagers for intel and 'make nice' but they will not respect us until they know we are serious and we intend to win. Right now, we have told them we do not intend to control the battle space. We have given that to the Taliban.



  41. JB,

    Thank you for the reply, I am in total agreement with your last comment to me. I will be watching carefully how the new policy is developed. Thank you for your insight.


  42. True Blue;
    You misunderstand me if you think I believe the military or government should listen to me or change strategy because of the death of my son. The fact is I wrote our congressional delegation weeks before my son was killed about this very issue. If you are telling me I should crawl into a hole and not be part of the dialogue (a dialogue which you are obviously believe you have the right to be involved in) you have a fundamental misunderstanding of the workings of this republic. By the way; every interview; whether in print or on radio I have given, I have been asked to give. And finally; if you think four stars on the shoulder automatically assumes an intrinsic infallibility on the battlefield; you again, are mistaken.

    This dialogue is taking place between a wide ranging group of people from high ranking officers to lowly privates, civilians and yes, senior staff NCOs like myself. Are you suggesting I should keep silent because I have not been elected? Did you know that only 20 of the sitting members of congress have ever had a uniform on? Yes, I know there is no requirement for the office but you would have to agree there is a certain level of personal arrogance that tells a person it is OK to send someone else to die when you yourself have never been willing to place yourself in harm's way.

    By the way; there is nothing intrinsically immoral about war. It is a fact of human existence. Even the Bible recognizes a time for war and God admonished the Jews to war against numerous enemies. Now if you don't believe in God or the Bible I understand that point may be moot for you but for the rest of us it is clear that there is a legitimacy to war - at times.

    By the way; I read Flags of our Fathers; I have a signed copy handed to me by the author. I knew Rene Gagnon and his nephew was my Commanding Officer and is a close friend. My Uncle was in the Coast Guard and landed Marines on Iwo Jima in 'mike' boat # 21 which took a direct hit and sunk. My Uncle and his Coxswain made it out alive. All the Marines were killed. The defenders on that island numbered 22,000 of which we took approximately 1700 as EPW's. My Father was a Marine as was his 1st cousin, my sister, her husband, my other sister's husband, 3 nephews to date with a fourth heading to Parris Island in two months, and then my son. I joined in 1972 and retired in 2003 (with a lot of broken time) with both active and reserve service. So you see; understanding and living a Warrior ethos is not an obscure thing for me and mine; it is life. We have been there and now, one of us has paid the ultimate price for that service. But you still think I have no right to speak or should expect my elected officials to listen to me? If not me; who? If not on this issue; then what? You accept the fact that those who have never served can set policy on how to conduct a war, and whose sons and daughters they can send off to be killed, with indemnity but think I and my Brothers should stay quiet? Curious view of democracy.


  43. Tru Blue; con't..

    No the Generals making these decisions are not alone in their understanding of what needs to be done and you would be floored to know how many officers, O5 and below disagree with the desire to take this to theater wide COIN with its related ROE. The problem for them and the Marines that are being blown up daily is that they can't speak out until they are out of uniform. You would rather they continue to be brutalized by an ill-conceived strategy that does not take into consideration the culture that you yourself identified as brutal and unchanging, than speak out on their behalf?

    You're right; the civilian population has never been 'big' on war but are of the opinion that we are. You need to understand; none of us are. There is a difference, however, between being a fan of something, avoiding the inevitable at all cost and understanding that sometimes things - even things we detest must be done (those who give up essential liberty for temporary security deserve neither security nor liberty - Ben Franklin). By some estimates, less than 3 percent of the population supported the revolutionary war. Imagine what might have been if our fore fathers had not written those tremendous documents and paid for them - and our freedom with their blood. War is not an obscure idea in a book; it is a reality that meets every generation. We happen to be around for this one. No I won't stay quiet just because it is uncomfortable for some to hear about it and certainly not because some believe in the infallibility of the elected - and appointed. They have been wrong before. They are wrong on this one.



  44. True Blue;

    Can't say I disagree with your final comments about 'bi-partisan support of McChrystal' but you do realize that when two parties agree, at least one has to compromise a conviction (at least in politics). I don't know that their support was a ringing endorsement, especially considering the dismal display of military service in their ranks. And yes; I believe McChrystal may well be a true believer in COIN. It just so happens that History tells a different story about its efficacy than what he is trying to sell - especially considering the disparity in religious ideologies (theirs and ours).


  45. TrueBlue:

    I just read your exchange with John. It seems you have the hubris to lecture First Sergeant Bernard on combat, the military, and the battle history of the Marine Corps. You suggest that those who oppose the current Rules of Engagement and use of the COIN strategy relegate their positions to that of mere sheep – suggesting that corrupt leadership in this war on terror is acceptable.

    From your last entry, I glean that you have no military background, but have “friends” and such who have provided you with a remarkable education in the art and science of war.

    Now, pay attention: John Bernard is probably the most honest and articulate man you will ever have ever had the experience of interacting with. I have had the honor of serving side by side with him – including in combat – for the best part of 15 years. We retired together on the same day, from the same unit. He is a COMBAT Marine of the finest character – not some half-baked arm chair warrior with ill informed opinions.

    John has been writing about the Rules of Engagement for months before Josh was killed. His concern is the concern of every man and woman in uniform (or whoever wore a uniform) who doesn’t have to kiss the great political ass – that we fight this war to win.

    Between John and me, we have nearly 60 years of service in the Corps. Never ONCE were we ever told to “shut up, follow orders, and to along with the program” as you clearly suggest ought to be the case now. In fact, we were always encouraged – and we encouraged OUR subordinates – to speak up regarding tactics, techniques, procedures, and even administrative policies. That does not imply the questioning of orders under battlefield (or even garrison) conditions – it simply means that at least Marines understand that everyone has something to contribute - even you.

    You wrote to John that, “strategy, tactics, and personnel choices are appropriately based on the death of an individual, or even some individuals, as much as they are loved, valued, and appreciated. It is a hard pill to swallow, but war is a hard pill to swallow, and this is the nature of war.”

    What exactly do you know about war sir? What exactly do you know about Afghanistan, except the crap you are fed on the news? Can you find it on a bloody map? You wrote that you know people who have been to that region, have YOU been in that region? Have you been to Iraq? Somalia? Kosovo? Where were you during the intervention in Panama, Beirut, or the war in Vietnam? Were you home snug and warm? Good God I hope so! There have been good men out there roasting in deserts, freezing in snow banks, and sweating in jungles to keep life nice for those Americans who for one reason or another can’t or won’t join in getting shot at! One of the few things those good men ask is that you get your crap together before you start lecturing them.

    Maybe you think that First Sergeant Bernard is too passionate in his appeal for sanity. His passion comes not only from the tragic loss of his only son, but from the drain of integrity and lack of leadership being suffered by this great nation! America was founded on a great passion! Passion is sorely needed now to keep this great American experiment from sliding down the drain of history! Cold and timid souls will never know passion. They will forever remain safe sitting on their fat asses.

    Your arrogance is astounding.

    Semper Fidelis,

    SgtMaj J.M. Sauer (Ret)

  46. 1st. Sgt Bernard,

    I am sorry for the loss of your son. I read your story in the Rapid City, South Dakota Journal. I am running for U.S. Congress 2010 with the intention of correcting America's lack of a clear vision in Afghanistan. I served with 3rd Marines in Hawaii. Once again, my smpathy goes with your family.

    Thad Wasson

  47. Thad;

    Thanks for your condolences and I hope you are successful in your bid for office. We need more men in there that understand the consequences of war time decision making.

    Semper Fi;


  48. Dear Mr. Bernard,

    My son, Joe, is a platoon commander with Golf Co. He and his platoon have been holding down the fort at Dahaneh since the ambush that cost Joshua his life. He's slated to leave there soon, and naturally, we're anxious for him to arrive safely back at K-Bay.

    I wanted to not only offer my condolences for your loss, but also to let you know that shortly after the firefight, Joe and I were chatting online and I could tell how much your loss was his. He said that Joshua was one of the few Christian guys in the company and that he really liked him.

    I know that Joe had a small cadre of Christian Marines with whom he often spent time in Bible study and prayer, and Joshua must have been one of them.

    You and I apparently entered the service at the same time -- 1972. You to the Corps and I to the AF (the Boy Scouts, as Joe calls it). And, although I cannot say that I know the pain that you must feel, know that I have prepared myself for it and that only God knows if I will someday share the grief of a father who has lost an only son.

    Thanks again for your service to our country and for the sacrifice of your hero. I just thought that you'd like to know that Joe thought highly of him and will miss him as a fallen brother in arms. I find comfort in knowing that those two Marines will reunite again someday in eternity.

    Semper fi,

  49. Soldiers, in my view, are simple thinkers. The simple idea is this: there is right and there is wrong. WE are right and THEY are wrong. This notion about being attacked on your own soil is so remarkably self-serving. How many humans have died, on their own soil, as the result of American adventures, whether covert, declared or undeclared military actions?

    The answer is uncountable thousands. But simple thinking uniform worshipers will insist that in all cases, America has been right, damn it, so love it or leave it.

    Bring the American soldiers home because they have exactly NO chance of achieving the stated aims of the mission. And you will notice that those stated aims are being subtly massaged as time goes by. In Canada the mission was to defeat the Taliban. Now the mission is to export Canadian "values".

    Afghanistan cannot be equated with the military efforts of the Second World War. The United States was attacked by a nation in that war. Japan attacked the United States. Al-quaida is not a nation. They cannot be dealt with that way.

  50. Why do you hate America and love the terrrrrissss?

  51. Johnny Mauldin --- doesn't really deserve a response.He is just another philisophical liberal America hater that loves to berate and demean military folks. Most probably a frustrated closet wannabe .

  52. Good. The war has been inflaming extremists and moderates of good faith for quite some time.

  53. Er, I mean, why does he hate America and love the terrorists?

  54. 1stSgt. Bernard,
    Our condolences to you and your family. Your letter and first hand view of our country's current situation in Afghanistan is in every way correct. Our family recently lost my nephew,GySgt.Aaron Kenefick, during an ambush in Kunar province on Sept. 8th 2009. His troop had battled for nearly two hours with no air support (they were told that air support would be 5 minutes behind them) and were ordered not to return fire upon the "village" because of civilians. These "civilians"(including women and children) were running ammunition to the insurgents. My nephew, who was on the front line, was ordered not to return fire on the outskirts of the village, even after he radioed command that civilians were not in that area. He told command that if they tried to move from their position they would be shot down. But they were denied support and my nephew, along with 3 other Marines and a Navy medic, was killed that day. A fifth Marine was injured during this ambush and just recently died from his injuries. Our family
    is enraged that our soldiers, our beloved family members, are taking second priority to the terrorists who hate our very existence and the civilians who support them. Whether these civilians support them through fear or hatred for Americans is not an issue. If you choose to put yourself in harms way, you cannot expect us to protect you. The insurgents do not care about "their own". If our current administration cannot give our military 100% support, then we must bring all of them home. Our military men and women put their lives on the line for the greatest cause of all, American freedom! It is shameful to throw them into the trenches with one arm tied behind their backs. It is dishonorable to have allowed politics and personal agendas to interfere with our mission. We demand our commander in chief to give our soldiers the support they deserve and have a right to. SUPPORT OUR TROOPS!! War is an unfortunate necessity and it comes with great costs. But the idea of living in a world controlled by fear, radicalism, communism or terror is not an option. We will not allow our nephew's life, or any of our fallen heroes, to be in vain.

  55. The insurgents are not terrorists??? Are you out of your mind? They do not hate our country and every American because we are occupying their country with our military. They hate America because we stand for freedom and they do not want us to help those in their country who long for the same freedom and basic human rights.I too had someone, a military family member, who described first hand the conditions and threatening strong arm tactics used by terrorists on their own citizens. Yes, war goes deeper than just the fight to maintain a country's freedom. But, if you ask any American service person, they will tell you that they do what they do so that every American citizen can continue to enjoy our freedom and so that we will never be devastated by another 9/11. General McChrystal had a meeting with an Afghan tribal leader on 9-4-09, 4 days before my nephew was killed, and guess what he said to McChrystal? He told him not to apologize for recent civilian deaths, he told him that we (American soldiers) need to be more aggressive. Most "civilians" put themselves amongst the insurgent forces providing support for them. Does this make it right to carry out your assigned mission regardless of the casualties involved? Your damn right it does! ROE should always be supportive of OUR soldiers when THEIR lives are in extreme danger. The politicians may be fighting for the wrong reasons but don't dare think that our soldiers are not fighting for theirs and every Americans freedom! Our current administration has an opportunity to make the right choice, if they would get their self-serving heads out of their asses. I have said all I need to say. God Bless America!!