Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, April 2011
3/7 Cavalry, Tragedy and Travesty
By Captain Eric H May, Ghost Troop CO
By Captain Eric H May, Ghost Troop CO
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, April 18, 2011
April 13, 2011 -- On Saturday, the eighth anniversary of the
fall of Baghdad, I posted
Baghdad's Neutron Bomb
and America's Nuclear Obama, with references to back up
the explosive title. Military comrades and media colleagues have since asked
for a fuller explanation of what moved me from reactionary to revolutionary
-- or, as we Texans would put it, from redneck to rebel. A paraphrase of
Napoleon is helpful: From redneck to rebel is but a step. We proved
that when we took Fort Sumpter 150 years ago today.
My May family forebears settled in colonial Jamestown, later fighting for
America against England, then the Confederacy against the Union. Patriots
all, they would not be shocked by my infowar against our era's maniacal King
George, and the abominable Kenyan King who has followed him. On the
contrary, I believe they would be ashamed had I not done my duty.
Eight years ago, I declared my independence from the tyrants of our times in
an essay that has been published at intervals by the internet, but never
widely until today:
April 13, 2003 -- To Frank Michel, Associate Editor, Houston Chronicle:
Since I talked with you the day after the April 5 Iraqi counterattack at Baghdad Airport, you have been the only media person to take me seriously. Thanks for encouraging me to write. I have tried to spark other media interest in the fate of the 3/7 Cavalry, but have been ignored by television and radio. I have been dismissed as crazy more than once.
For the last week I have been taking up a collection for the unit’s Army Emergency Relief fund. On the donations bucket is the sign:
'Please donate to the relief fund of the 3/7 Cavalry, which took losses over the weekend.'
I have collected for 22 hours, and have exactly 20 dollars in donations. Although the public has no reason to doubt that the unit spearheading the advance to Baghdad has taken casualties, they have not been told to grieve yet, so they render no gifts to the dependents of the dead.
Nothing would make me happier than to be wrong in my inferences. I hope the facts will disprove me. Should my fears about the 3/7 Cavalry be realized, though, I ask that you publish my essay.
I wept as I watched CNN. It was pre-dawn, April 5 in Iraq, the end of the night on which Saddam Hussein had promised an attack. With a background in military intelligence and public affairs, I could see and hear the confusion, fear and tragedy in the faces and voices, and I could read between the lines used to keep the disaster hushed. It was apparent to me that the 3/7 Cavalry, the avant-garde for our assault across the desert, had been blown off the Baghdad airport.
The attack made military sense for the Iraqis. The airport was crucial for the control of Baghdad. It would surprised me had they not booby-trapped it, targeted it for a counterattack, or both. Saddam had banked on winning the war by repeating the debacle of Mogadishu, where a handful of well-publicized casualties had swung American public opinion against military involvement in Somalia. At the Baghdad airport he had executed the best ambush since Little Big Horn, where Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull had destroyed the Seventh Cavalry Regiment. By morning writers would pen the name George “Custer” Bush and national resolve for the war would plummet.
Such dilemmas are the price we pay for the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution, the first of which is freedom of the press. But we didn’t pay the price. Plugged into the media matrix, we didn’t blink and we didn’t ask questions. We ceased to function as Americans.
Saturday and Sunday following the disaster were part J. Edgar Hoover and part P.T. Barnum. The tail wagged the dog. The rescued Private Jessica Lynch, a tragic battle casualty, was morphed into another “Baby Jessica” to hold national attention. The 3/7 Cavalry breakout from the attack was labeled a “foray” into Baghdad. The U.S. body count, a pesky statistic from the Vietnam era, was hidden in the fog of war.
Monday morning offered a new scenario to dazzle the public: Four one-ton bombs had “probably” killed Saddam in one of his lairs. We had already bought that lie on March 19, the first night of the war, and it worked again. We focused on Saddam and we focused on victory. We stayed on message…, and we stayed in the dark. Mideast media carried stories of a massacre of U.S. forces at the airport, but we were told not to trust them.
I didn’t sleep at all the night the 3/7 Cavalry fell into a trap, and I haven’t slept much since. If my conviction about the unit’s bad luck is right, many fears, strange to me as an American who has spent a lifetime in service to his country, keep me awake:
These are my fears, based on my belief that since the night we lost the 3/7 Cavalry:
I look at my commission as a U.S. Army officer and see that I swore to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. The commander in chief took an oath in which he swore to do the same. He betrayed it.
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Captain May, who served on the general staff of Houston’s 75th Division, is a graduate of Classical Studies from the University of Houston Honors College.
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