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A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE: Soldiers on the wall of the veterans’ memorial

Posted: Tuesday, Feb 5th, 2013

From time to time I walk by the veterans’ memorial by Atascadero Lake Park and read over a few of the names. One of the names, David Perry, was a brief acquaintance of mine at Camp San Luis Obispo a decade ago.

Staff Sgt. Perry went to Afghanistan and never returned home, his life taken by enemy artillery fire. Perry is only one of the hundreds of names on the memorial wall, only one of thousands of names of those who left families behind with an empty hole in their hearts.

These men and not a few women deserve to be remembered and their sacrifice not be rendered in vain. When an American electorate focuses only upon their narrow, economic and personal circumstances, to the exclusion of everything else, we risk dishonoring their memory and the cause they gave up everything to defend.

Within the last two weeks, we’ve seen an American ambassador murdered in a coordinated military assault upon United States territory. Embassies and consulates are American territory, just as American as a New Jersey beach or a hamburger stand in Atascadero. What occurred was an act of war. In another century, such attacks were treated as such by the offended power, which made such attacks rare and our emissaries reasonably secure in foreign lands.

A former intelligence school classmate and Army peer, LTC Ralph Peters of Fox News, recently stated that intelligence analysts are currently prohibited from using terms such as “Islamic extremist” or “Jihadists,” more amorphous terms being prescribed by politically correct superiors. When you are prohibited from even accurately describing an enemy, defeat is not far off.

Arming orders for security forces are supposed to reflect the level of threat and immediate risk to personnel; in the case of Libya, no threat assessment appears to have been undertaken, intelligence wasn’t passed on to the ambassador or the Benghazi consulate, nor even security provided to match a well-known threat.

In Iraq, Ambassador Bremmer moved only under heavy security that included armed helicopters overhead, armored vehicles on the ground and a large, elite ground security force. Libya was and remains a high-threat, very dangerous locale justifying extraordinary measures to protect all personnel, but especially a high-value asset such as an ambassador.

For 10 days now, we have been subjected to disassembling finger pointing by the state department and the administration. I would like to know, when will anyone in this administration take responsibility for anything? When will anyone, above the rank of clerk, ever be held accountable?

In the military, somebody is always accountable and held to the highest standards of responsibility and personal conduct. Failures of omission, not just commission, end careers. It must be so. In the military, when you have a bad day, somebody dies. We don’t accept excuses.

My question to the voters is: will you hold people accountable or accept excuses? Before you decide how to answer, stroll by the veterans’ memorial by the lake and ponder a moment on the ultimate cost Americans pay when voters don’t accept their responsibility to hold leaders accountable.

Al Fonzi is a retired Army Lt. Colonel and career intelligence officer with more than 30 years of service. He is a self-described conservative and active in several political organizations. Fonzi first moved to Atascadero in 1972.

For the complete article see the 09-26-2012 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 09-26-2012 paper.

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