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20 years

uring the mid-term election of 2006, the Christian right—(i.e., the remnant of what used to be called the "moral majority")—decided to punish the tax-and-spend Republican Party which had become obligated to the big money donors who filled their campaign coffers and, specifically, the Bush-43 Administration, by sitting out the election. Bush, who has progressively become more liberal since winning reelection in 2004 forged an amnesty program with a coalition of willing Republicans and with the far left that would ultimately result in grants of citizenship to some 20 million illegal aliens whom Bush, in 2004, promised to roundup and send back to Mexico.

The protest proved to be devastating only to those who sat out the election since their refusal to vote put the antiwar liberals from the Vietnam era back in control of both Houses of Congress for the first time in a quarter-century. Because GOP turnout in the Election of 2006 was so light, and because the Democrats, led by Congressman Charlie Rangel [D-NY], introduced a measure in 2003 to reinstate the draft—which the Bush Administration was blamed for—Democrats, particularly antiwar Democrats, turned out in record numbers. Several solid conservative Congressmen and Senators who kept the wolves away from our doors, lost their seats, and the Democrats regained control of both Houses. On Nov. 20, 2006 incoming House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rangel announced he would reintroduce legislation to reinstate the draft during the 110th Congress. (It is important to note that America's cannon fodder laws have all been enacted by Democrats.)

One of those doomed to lose his seat in Congress in 2006 was Michael Fitzpatrick [R-PA]. The race for the 8th Congressional District in Pennsylvania was one of those races that was measured in inches. Antiwar candidate and former US Army lawyer Patrick Murphy won Fitzpatrick's seat by a margin of 1,521 votes. Murphy's campaign represented the candidate—who was a 1st Lieutenant in Iraq—as a combat veteran who was opposed to the war. Murphy was a lawyer who never saw action.

When Fitzpatrick—who never served in the military—exposed Murphy as a fraud, Sen. John Kerry [D-MA] came to Pennsylvania and stumped for Murphy, denouncing Fitzpatrick as a wimp who never served. He heralded Murphy as a veteran who saw war and wanted to end it. More than anyone else, Kerry—not Murphy—defeated Fitzpatrick by arguing that the GOP makes a habit of smearing Democrats who are veterans.

Had the Christian right in Bucks County, Pennsylvania showed up at the polls Fitzpatrick would have been reelected. Only 57% of the voters turned out to vote on Nov. 7, 2006 in a county where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats 187 to 155 thousand.

In Congress, Murphy aligned himself with antiwar Congressman John "Jack" Murtha [D-PA], a 37-year Marine Corps veteran. Murtha retired from the Marine Corps Reserve in 1990 as a Colonel. He enlisted in the Marines as a private in 1952 during the Korean conflict. He became a drill instructor at Parris Island and went to OCS at Quantico, Virginia. He did not see action in Korea. As a Captain in the Reserves in 1967, he volunteered for duty in Vietnam and served as S-2 Intelligence Officer for 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. He was wounded twice and received the Bronze Star with Combat "V" and the Navy Distinguished Service Medal. Unlike John Kerry, Murtha earned his medals—and the right to complain about war. Murtha now heads the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee. Sadly for the military and the American people, an antiwar activist now controls appropriations for the defense of our nation.

Murtha was one of several members of Congress who was involved in the Abscam scandals in 1980 when the FBI set up a sting to trap dishonest Congressmen. Several FBI operatives posed as intermediaries for some undesirable Saudi nationals who theoretically wanted to bribe their way through the immigration process and become citizens of the United States. Murtha met with the "intermediaries." In the end, Murtha was named as an "unindicted conspirator," avoiding prosecution by agreeing to testify against Congressmen Frank Thompson [D-NJ] and John Murphy [D-NY]. Had they charged him, it is not likely the government would have gotten a conviction against Murtha. On one tape, Murtha declined a $50 thousand bribe saying, "I'm not interested at this point. [If] we do business for a while, maybe I'll be interested." Murtha argued he continued speaking with the "intermediaries" only because he believed he could get the Saudis to invest in his congressional district. There simply was not enough evidence to indict Murtha, so the US Attorney pressured him to roll over on his fellow congressmen.

The 2008 race for Pennsylvania's 8th Congressional District will be an interesting race because it will likely pit the well-financed former US Army 1st Lieutenant against recently retired 30-year Marine Corps veteran Lt. Col. Thomas Manion, 53, who is favored to win the GOP nomination. Manion announced his candidacy on Nov. 21, 2007 from the kitchen of his Doylestown Township home. "I'm not a politician," he said. "I've never thought about political office, but I am again called to serve, inspired by my son, supported by my family and readyh to make a difference in all the critical issues that face our nation and our local communities."

Murphy, 34, served as a lawyer for the 82nd Airborne Division. Murphy, who definitely is no Harman Rabb, did not see action. But he was quick to seize on the media-orchestrated discontent for the War in Iraq, and demanded the complete and immediate withdrawal of all troops from Iraq, which the liberals called a 'failed mission." Murphy, like most liberals failed to understand what upset the American people about Iraq. America expects the military to win the war. Sooner rather than later.

Under the Donald Rumsfeld philosophy of fighting insurgents with one-arm tied behind your back, the US led coalition could not subdue the local terrorists sufficiently for the citizens of Iraq to risk their lives to help their government and the US military defeat the insurgency. As a result, tribal warlords dominated regions of the country and kept the battle-scarred landscape from becoming a democratic nation. When incoming Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced an additional deployment—which he called a "troop surge"—to put enough troop on the ground to crush resistance, Murphy joined Murtha, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi [D-CA], and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D-NV] in denouncing the troop surge as simply creating more cannon fodder for Al Qadea.

Murphy had already banked $1.2 million by the end of the third quarter last year to expedite his reelection campaign. What will make this race closely watched is the fact that Lt. Col.Manion's son, Marine Corps 1st Lieutenant Travis L. Manion, 26, of Doylestown, PA, died during his second Iraqi tour on April 29, 2007. Lt. Manion was embedded with an Iraqi unit that he led and trained. The unit, the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Iraqi Brigade, was headed by Iraqi Army Col. Ali Jafar who spoke at Manion's memorial service, where he said: "May his family know we, too, lost family; and we share their loss—our loss." The Iraqi soldiers renamed that combat outpost after the fallen Marine.

In the afternoon on Sunday, April 1, 2007 Travis Manion spoke to his father for the last time. He talked over a satellite phone in the dusty Iraqi army barracks in downtown Fallujah. Manion and his fellow Marines in the 3-2-1 Military Transition Team (MiTT} had just watched a DvD of the movie "300."

Travis told his father that for the Spartans there was no greater honor than to die fighting for one's country and for its freedoms. With frustration warping his words, he told his dad that he couldn't fathom why some Americans didn't understand that's what he and his Marines were doing in Iraq. Putting up with several atmospheric phone malfunctions that cut Travis off, the lieutenant would call back. Travis shared his thoughts on the importance of honor, strength and courage—and his kinship with the "Spartans," who, in this case, were Iraqi soldiers. Manion, who was part of the "surge" Murphy opposed, told his father that "...nobody wants the war to end as much as I do," adding that stability in Iraq is essential for stability in the Middle East. Travis concluded the call by telling his father that US military leaders should be given the chance to make that happen. Four weeks later he was dead.

On April 29 the 3-2-1 MiTT was conducting a combined Iraqi-Marine patrol in one of the most dangerous sections of Fallujah. Once they arrived at their patrol destination, the Marines disembarked from their armored transports and conducted the patrol on foot. They did their sweep and were heading back to their vehicles when an enemy sniper shot their corpsman, critically wounding him. Manion and Major Adam Kubicki, the 3-2-1 MiTT commander, dragged the medic to safety. Two more Marine appeared. One was hit by the sniper. Kubicki and Manion returned fire to the area where the sniper fire was coming from and dragged the second wounded man to safety. The three uninjured Marines fired back as heavily armed enemy forces appeared and engaged them.

As the insurgents began to close in, Travis moved from his covered position and engaged the enemy, giving his Iraqi troops time to get to their vehicles so they could maneuver behind the enemy. The insurgents got to the rooftops in the building around them and fired down on the Marines. Exposed to enemy fire, Manion continued to fire both his rifle and a grenade launcher, keeping the insurgents from advancing on them. In the meantime, Manion's Iraqi troops hit an IED and were stopped. As he was reloading his grenade launcher, the sniper got lucky. Manion was hit on the right side, just above his Kevlar vest. The bullet severed a vein from his heart and exited the other side of his body. Kubicki and his enlisted Marine were able to pull Travis back under cover. But he died at 1525 Iraqi time (0725 EST) on April 29, 2007. A Marine Quick Action force arrived a few minutes later and rescued Kubicki and his unit. But Col. Tom Manion's young Spartan paid the price heroes sometimes pay. Manion now has a king-sized job to do for Travis. He has to make sure his son—and all of the sons and all of the daughters, and all of the mothers and fathers who died in Iraq—and in Afghanistan—did not die in vain.

Tom Manion made the decision to run for Murphy's congressional seat after listening to Murphy rant about getting the troops out of Iraq. Manion is displeased with Murphy's position on the issue. He doesn't believe that is the prevailing view of the American people. "I've learned that if you want to make something happen," Manion told a reporter from USA Today a week ago, "you've got to get out on the playing field." Soberly, as he thought about Travis, he said: "My son was about this country, so I'm sure he'd be very proud that I'm stepping forward on the field, as he was, to try to make a difference for our country."

Tom Manion knows he has an uphill fight on his hands. As noted, Murphy raised $1.2 million by the third quarter of 2007, and his suburban Philadelphia congressional district leans Democratic. George W. Bush only won 48% of the votes in the 8th Congressional District in 2004.

As Bucks County politicians ask for Manion's positions on the social issues that most voters vote on, the retired military officer, who is now the vice president of a small drug company, said he is for lower taxes, less government spending, access to affordable health care, and the environment. He added he is pro-life but supports embryonic stem cell research. He said, if elected, he would work towards bipartisanship in Washington (everyone dreams the impossible dream), and would like to see an end to the war—meaning an end to the insurgency with a functional democratic government in Iraq.

Asked how he thought Manion would fare against Murphy, Republican political strategist Charles Gerow said it depends on "...whether or not [Manion] matches up with what voters are looking for. Now I think it's more a referendum on what Murphy has done. It is an interesting juxtaposition....Money is going to be hard to come by," Gerow noted. "I believe he is a very strong candidate and I think it is a reasonable prospect that the Republicans could retake that seat."




Just Say No
Copyright 2009 Jon Christian Ryter.
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