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Inside Politics
Mark Shields is a nationally known columnist and commentator.

Where is the outrage?


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WASHINGTON (Creators Syndicate) -- I cannot recall being this angry.

On Tuesday, April 25, Michael Moss' superb story about E Company of the First Marine Division was on the front page of The New York Times.

It is a story about the extraordinary courage of E company's young Marines, both enlisted and officers, and about the cowardly callousness of this nation's civilian and military leadership.

During its six-month stay in Ramadi last year, E Company had more than one-third of its 185 troops either wounded or killed -- the highest casualty rate of any unit in Iraq.

The Marines of E Company were assigned the task by their superiors of rooting out one of Iraq's most determined insurgencies. They endured 26 firefights, 90 mortar attacks and more than 90 homemade bombs.

The Marines were sent on this deadly mission into the jaws of Hell in unarmored Humvees. U.S. defense spending for this year is already $ 501 billion -- which is more than the total spent by the next 25 countries of the world -- and American heroes in Iraq are forced to scrounge for scrap metal to make more safe the unarmored vehicles that carry them into combat.

Even though Moss' story about E Company was on the front page of what is called the nation's most influential newspaper, as of this writing, there has not been one word spoken by any of the 535 members of Congress in public debate expressing outrage, demanding answers from the secretary of defense, or the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or the man in the White House.

If any of the syndicated talk-show hosts who endorsed the invasion of Iraq has even mentioned the tragic subject, I have missed it.

Ten times in the last year alone, the Pentagon has changed its orders for Humvees. Here we are in the third year of the war, spending a half a trillion dollars on national defense, and American soldiers and Marines face enemy machine guns, bombs and, yes, death in unarmed vehicles. Doesn't that make you angry?

To compound the betrayal of the men of E Company who have risked their careers by publicly speaking about the cobbled-together armor that did not save their comrades, Capt. Kelly D. Royer, the company commander, is paying the price for his candor about his men's safety.

His fitness report of May 31, 2004, concluded, "He has single-handedly reshaped a company in sore need of a leader; succeeded in forming a cohesive fighting force that is battle-tested and worthy."

But after confronting the brass about the shortages threatening his men, Royer's superiors found him to be "dictatorial," with "no morale or motivation in his Marines."

To put it bluntly, Royer is almost surely being railroaded out of the Marine Corps he has served so bravely. Why is there no outrage?

Where is the anger of all those stateside patriots with their "Support Our Troops" decals on their SUVs and Old Glory pins on their tailored lapels?

Are they too busy fighting for the preservation of their share of the wartime tax-cuts?

Does any of them really give a damn whose brother, whose father, whose husband, whose son because of negligent lack of protection will be next to die?

Lance Cpl. Rafael Reynosa from Santa Ana, California, whose wife was expecting twins and PFC Cody S. Calavan, 19, from Lake Stevens, Wisconsin, both of E Company, were killed last May 29 in an unarmored Humvee on a highway in Ramadi by explosives.

Their families were not famous. They were not Rangers or Pioneers, did not make "soft money" contributions or "summer" in Kennebunkport or Nantucket.

They were American heroes, and their lives mattered to those they loved -- and their lives ought to matter to the leaders and people of the nation for which they gave them.

Our outrage -- or the continued lack thereof -- will tell us all we need to know about who we really are and what we truly value.


Click here for more from Creators Syndicate.

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