September 12, 2004

Lt. Colonel Bellon writes us

Lt. Colonel Bellon writes us after several weeks of silence. It is relieving to know he is alive and well, and continues to encourage and lead the Marines under his charge and those who command him.

This letter admonishes those who seek to blame Russia for their recent horrific loss of young citizens. He also urges us to consider the breavity of this latest attrocity comitted by terrorists and to understand that it would be happening on U.S. soil, if they could make it happen.

As usual, emphasis mine. God be with you, Lt. Col. Bellon and with all those who serve to provide liberty for the oppressed.


As you have heard, we lost 7 Marines to a suicide car bomber the other day. We also lost 3 Iraqi Special Forces Soldiers. All were exceptionally brave men. The Marines are from a battalion that has fought as hard or harder than any other here in Iraq. These were the guys that were knee deep in the hardest fighting in Fallujah back in April and who have been going hard ever since. Even more tragic is that they were close to getting out of here.

As heart broken as the Marines of the battalion were, last night they really took it to the insurgents inside of Fallujah. Contrary to what might be in the media, the mission was not "retribution" for the suicide bombing. It was part of a regular operation that was slightly accelerated in light of what happened. We had been watching the city for quite a while and killed many, many terrorists last night. The battle lasted for hours and hours later, we were still getting secondary explosions off of objectives that we destroyed. You must have faith that the Marines are giving much better that we get.

Such action does not lessen the pain for the Marines who lost their buddies but it gives them a chance to fight and that is what they want. I saw the SgtMaj for the battalion that lost the seven Marines the morning after the explosion. He told me "there is still plenty of fight left in them (the Marines)." Sure enough, that night (last night), they delivered. Regardless of what the enemy throws at them, the Marines will always be laying in the tall grass looking to take the fight to them. There is a major effort to "keep the noise level down" and stay out of the news but it does not mean that the Marines are not out there every day performing. I cannot say it enough, they are amazing.

The Iraqi Special Forces soldiers were outraged by the attack and were also full of fight afterwards. They wanted to go into Fallujah that day and attack the muj. Their commander stood in front of them and told them to bide their time. It came soon enough. They participated in last night’s action and did well. In fact, we just took on 200 more recruits and continue to have high expectations for them. These guys are under constant threats. When they go home on leave, it is not uncommon for them to have to move their families around in order to avoid kidnappings or murders of not only themselves but their entire families, children and all. We just spoke to them today about having faith that we will win and to believe that things will get better. In fact, I am much less tolerant of Americans who are losing their stomach to see this through. These Iraqis have never known freedom and have no idea what life could be like if they see it through, yet they put their lives on the line based on nothing but faith.

Having seen the tragedy in Russia this week we cannot help but shake our heads here and wonder when the rest of the civilized world will wake up and realize that we are in the middle of a struggle for civilization. History will show that the outcome of this struggle will be no less critical to our collective future than WWII. Islamic Fundamentalism inspired terrorism is mutually exclusive to peaceful coexistence with anyone who does not buy into their twisted view of the world. For the masses of appeasers who are still blabbering on about "dialogue" and concessions, I would simply offer that what transpired in Russia is not an aberration. The enemy we face here is the same one that murdered the children in that school, is the same one that flew the airplanes in the towers, and is the same one that bombed the train in Spain.

Perhaps even more sobering is that as horrific as these events are, they pale in comparison to what they aspire to. Believe me, if they could get into a school in Wichita or Sacramento, they would gladly do it and convince themselves along the way that they are doing God's work as they ape for the cameras before killing as many innocent people as they can. The "recruiting videos" that we capture contain graphic scenes of beheadings, tortured confessions and insanely violent rhetoric. Even after what we have seen, it is hard to watch them. The enemy celebrates them.

History will be unkind to those leaders who do not have enough faith in their people to be honest enough with them to clearly state that the free world is now engaged in a war with extremist criminals who have literally been praying for this confrontation for decades. It is not "life as normal." It is beyond imagination how "experts" can get on the news shows and blame Russia for what happened in that school. Russia is no more to blame than the US is to blame for 9/11 or Spain is to blame for what happened this spring. As ugly as it is, it is a fight to the finish and we must fight it that way or we will pay the price.

My roommate and very good friend left last night. He was the operations officer for the Regimental Combat Team. That equates to the quarterback with the CO being the head coach or owner. We both arrived at the Regiment in January and became fast friends. Truth be told, he was as much a mentor/teacher as friend. Prior to returning to the Fleet, he coached football at the Naval Academy. It amazed me as an entire generation of young Naval Academy grads seemed to worship the guy. We could not go into a chow hall anywhere without having a Lt walk up to him and say "remember me." Several days ago, one of his former players was killed in an ambush. It was not the first of his former students to be killed out here but this one hit Sparky hard. He was very close to the Marine. The officer's father contacted Sparky and asked him to bring his son home. Even though his absence here leaves a huge hole, I know that his presence and strength will be some consolation to the family.



Posted by Rae at September 12, 2004 05:04 PM

Having lived and worked in Russia for nearly 9 years, I weep for the children and parents of Beslan. However, what happened in Beslan cannot be separated from the tragedy in Chechenya - nor from the 300 years history of Russian imperialism in the region, including the mass deportation by J. Stalin of the entire population of Chechnya in 1944/45.

Chechens and other peoples of the Caucusus are second and even third class citizens of the Russian Empire. Russians in Moscow derisively refer to them as "chernomazy" (literally blackfaces), a name that in Russian has the same power to offend as does the word "nigger" in English. I know perfectly reasonable Russians, people you would invite to dinner, who believe the entire Chechen nation should be exterminated because they are "criminal and less than human."

While 350 people (innocent civilians) died at Beslan at the hands of "Chechen" terrorists, let us not forget that since 1994, the Russian Government has slaughtered nearly 60,000 Chechen civilians and that there is very little end in site for a war that now serves to attract Muslim extremists and fundamentalists from outside Russia.

The Government of Vladimir Putin is now using the tragedy at Beslan to consolidate further its hold on power over Russia's fragile democratic institutions. In the name of fighting terrorism, he is now asking a compliant Parliament to end representative elections to the Parliament and end popular elections for regional governors. I cry for Beslan, I cry for Chechnya, I cry for Russia. Bog blagoslavit rossiiu!!!

Posted by: Kenneth Duckworth at September 16, 2004 04:29 AM

Kenneth, thank you for your thought-provoking and heartfelt comment.

I admit that I have absolutely no idea what it must be like for the Chechnyans. I also confess to my ignorance of the history of Russia and it's relationships to the once "satelite states" (i.e. countries it overtook and forced under it's rule).

I will say that to engage in terrorist acts, to rape women and children, shoot them in the back, blow them up; to do what was done to their own children, does this make it right?

Posted by: Rae at September 16, 2004 10:11 AM

No, of course not. The question is how do you stop the cycle of violence. I read the other day that Putin is very much a "prisoner of the Caucusus' (a reference to a 19th century short story by Tolstoy) because his Chechen policy does not allow him to acknowledge that he cannot win militarily in Chechenya. He is therefore stuck in the proverbial quagmire.

The Chechens fought the Russian army to a standstill in 1994, at which time the Yeltsin Government negotiated a political settlement that nominally gave Chechnya independence, putting off the settlement of its political status for 5 years. The Chechesn elected Aslan Maskhadov President. He is now a wanted man, but really was the most moderate of Chechen leaders. However, he was not able to control the situation and the country descended into chaos.

Putin dares not to let Chechnya go for fear that other "ethnic" regions of Russia - Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, etc. will want to secede as well. And then there is the question of oil and whether Caspian oil can be transported overland via pipeline to the Black Sea through Georgia and into Chechnya and then Russia.

I do not really understand how the whole affair started, but it was initially led by a former Soviet Air Force Officer and Afghan War hero - Dhokar Dudaev. He was killed by Russian special forces in 1996.

I am not really leading anywhere with this. If you are interested in this topic, you may want to watch the film "A Prisoner of the Mountains" starring Oleg Menshikov. It is in Russian with English subtitles and is based on the Tolstoy story mentioned above.

Posted by: Kenneth Duckworth at September 17, 2004 08:37 AM
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