Sunday, August 14

FOX NEWS' "COMPANY OF HEROES"

Fox News' Company of Heroes -- a gripping two-hour documentary on the Battle for Fallujah waged in November, 2004 -- occupied a chunk of my evening last night. This is the kind of television journalism seldom presented by the mainstream media and is a credit to Fox News. My only complaint were the much too frequent interruptions for commercials and news breaks that made the overall presentation disjointed.

The documentary focuses on the U.S. Marine Corps' India Company (3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment) and its week-long engagement in brutal urban fighting on the streets and in the homes of Fallujah. Embedded Fox News Correspondent Greg Palcot follows this unit and his camera team gives us a compelling window into the bravery of 150 marines, as they grind their way street-by-street, house-by-house through two miles of terrorist-insurgent laced hell. The graphic combat footage is intermingled with poignant personal glimpses of a handful of the Marines and their families back in the States.

Characterized by Marine commanders as a "battle of good against evil," the Battle for Fallujah was won and the Iraqi elections subsequently held, but at a cost of 71 soldiers and marines killed. Among the casualties were four men of India Company, three of whom -- Lieutenant J.P. Blecksmith, Lance Corporal Antoine Smith, and Lance Corporal Shane Kielion -- were featured in the documentary and their survivors interviewed back home. My eyes moistened during these emotional vignettes that brought the pain of heroes lost and loved ones devastated right into our homes and consciousness. Shane Kielion, as an example, died in combat on November 15, 2004, at age 23, the same day his son was born and not long after he had phoned home, telling his wife he was doing just fine. Her tears are our tears. Her pain is the pain of a nation.

But what became plain for me in viewing this documentary is that our armed forces in Iraq are liberators. A total of 26 mosques in Fallujah were munitions warehouses and combat staging areas, as were a number of hospitals. There were 8 torture houses discovered by the marines. In them there was evidence of base brutality and gruesome executions, and innocent Iraqi women and children were not spared the terrorists' evil.

Those who would have us cut and run from this war and usher in a new era of Saddam-like torture, genocide, and disavowal of basic freedom need to rethink their positions. I found the patriotic expressions of Lt. J.P. Blacksmith's parents far more compelling than the vitriol of the crowd encircling Cindy Sheehan or today's myopic column of the NYT's Frank Rich.



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