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Sunday, September 03, 2006

Cowardice vs. bravery

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain on Little Round

Glenn Greenwald has this up

Will the real cowards please stand up?

(updated below)

In his new column today, admired warrior Mark Steyn follows in the footsteps of David Warren by mocking (from a safe distance, as always) the willingness of Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig to participate in a conversion ceremony in order to save their own lives. Just as Warren did, Steyn devotes an entire column to arguing that the weak, girlish cowardice displayed by the two Fox journalists in Gaza is what is plaguing "the West," and -- as always -- it is only unrestrained, chest-beating war (fought by others) which can bring us the masculine, warrior power that we need to be saved from Islamic aggression.

Steyn builds his "argument" by glorifying several extremely courageous individuals -- fictional characters in a short story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle -- who were "Anglo-American-French tourists taken hostage by the Mahdists, the jihadi of the day." Steyn says they were "in the same predicament as Centanni and Wiig: The kidnappers are offering them a choice between Islam or death." But unlike the Fox journalist cowards in Gaza, Steyn lauds these fictional individuals as brave men and women of character:

"None of them, except perhaps Miss Adams and Mrs. Belmont, had any deep religious convictions. All of them were children of this world, and some of them disagreed with everything which that symbol [the cross] upon the earth represented."

Yet in the end, even as men with no religious convictions, they cannot bring themselves to submit to Islam, for they understand it to be not just a denial of Christ but in some sense a denial of themselves, too. So they stall and delay and bog down the imam in a lot of technical questions until eventually he wises up and they're condemned to death.

Steyn then contrasts the bravery of the Doyle characters with the conduct of Centanni and Wiig and -- just like Warren did -- claims that in their cowardly, life-saving behavior lies the real lesson of our Epic War of Civilizations with the Islamofacists:

One hundred ten years later, for the Fox journalists and the Western media who reported their release, what's the big deal? Wear robes, change your name to Khaled, go on camera and drop Allah's name hither and yon: If that's your ticket out, seize it. Everyone'll know it's just a sham.

But that's not how the al-Jazeera audience sees it. If you're a Muslim, the video is anything but meaningless. Not even the dumbest jihadist believes these infidels are suddenly true believers. Rather, it confirms the central truth Osama and the mullahs have been peddling -- that the West is weak, that there's nothing -- no core, no bedrock -- nothing it's not willing to trade.

Earlier in the column, Steyn complains of a newspaper story reporting on the assault of a 16-year-old girl by three men in Australia because the article failed to mention that the attackers were "of Middle Eastern/Mediterranean appearance." Steyn then ties that story to the Centanni/Wiig cowardice. Their wilingness to convert in order to save their own lives shows "that these men are easier to force into the car than that 16-year-old girl in Sydney was."

I'm sure Mr. Steyn has faced down many attackers in his life. Somehow, I don't think he really understands much about courage and risk.

Here's a Medal of Honor citation from 1945. Medic Desmond T. Doss won it for saving 77 lives during the Battle of Okinawa


Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Medical Detachment, 307th Infantry, 77th Infantry Division.

Place and date: Near Urasoe Mura, Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands, 29 April-21 May 1945.

Entered service at: Lynchburg, Va. Birth: Lynchburg, Va. G.O. No.: 97, 1 November 1945.

Citation: He was a company aid man when the 1st Battalion assaulted a jagged escarpment 400 feet high As our troops gained the summit, a heavy concentration of artillery, mortar and machinegun fire crashed into them, inflicting approximately 75 casualties and driving the others back. Pfc. Doss refused to seek cover and remained in the fire-swept area with the many stricken, carrying them 1 by 1 to the edge of the escarpment and there lowering them on a rope-supported litter down the face of a cliff to friendly hands.

On 2 May, he exposed himself to heavy rifle and mortar fire in rescuing a wounded man 200 yards forward of the lines on the same escarpment; and 2 days later he treated 4 men who had been cut down while assaulting a strongly defended cave, advancing through a shower of grenades to within 8 yards of enemy forces in a cave's mouth, where he dressed his comrades' wounds before making 4 separate trips under fire to evacuate them to safety.

On 5 May, he unhesitatingly braved enemy shelling and small arms fire to assist an artillery officer. He applied bandages, moved his patient to a spot that offered protection from small arms fire and, while artillery and mortar shells fell close by, painstakingly administered plasma. Later that day, when an American was severely wounded by fire from a cave, Pfc. Doss crawled to him where he had fallen 25 feet from the enemy position, rendered aid, and carried him 100 yards to safety while continually exposed to enemy fire.

On 21 May, in a night attack on high ground near Shuri, he remained in exposed territory while the rest of his company took cover, fearlessly risking the chance that he would be mistaken for an infiltrating Japanese and giving aid to the injured until he was himself seriously wounded in the legs by the explosion of a grenade. Rather than call another aid man from cover, he cared for his own injuries and waited 5 hours before litter bearers reached him and started carrying him to cover. The trio was caught in an enemy tank attack and Pfc. Doss, seeing a more critically wounded man nearby, crawled off the litter; and directed the bearers to give their first attention to the other man.

Awaiting the litter bearers' return, he was again struck, this time suffering a compound fracture of 1 arm. With magnificent fortitude he bound a rifle stock to his shattered arm as a splint and then crawled 300 yards over rough terrain to the aid station. Through his outstanding bravery and unflinching determination in the face of desperately dangerous conditions Pfc. Doss saved the lives of many soldiers. His name became a symbol throughout the 77th Infantry Division for outstanding gallantry far above and beyond the call of duty.

And he didn't fire a shot doing this. He was one of two medics in WWII to win the Medal of Honor.

But we don't have to go back to 1945

Mom's love cuts deep

Brave Fox News star is ready to return
after giving part of liver to save son


Two months after giving up 20% of her liver to save her critically ill son, Fox News correspondent Catherine Herridge goes back to work this week.

In June, with her son Peter at risk of dying - and an organ donor nowhere to be found - Herridge became the one to help.

"I feel a little weak," she told the Daily News. "I lost a fair amount of weight with the operation, 15 pounds. I didn't have a lot of complications. But the incision is very large. I would win a scar competition hands down; it's about a foot."

She underwent a seven-hour surgery while Peter underwent a 10-hour surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center - a small price to pay, though, for having her son alive today.

"He looks like a totally different kid," Herridge said of her soon-to-be 9-month-old boy. "He's got a second chin, he's got some teeth."

And then there are people doing their duty and not sitting in an office pontificating on the bravery of others.

Comrade in arms & tears in Iraq

As he sweated through days of 140-degree heat, Michael Kentner had the memory of his fellow Bronx firefighters lining up in the bitter cold and saluting as his Army Reserve unit departed for Iraq last winter.

"I had a lump in my throat," 38-year-old Kentner said over the phone from Iraq on Friday. "Everybody in my unit couldn't believe it."

Since then, his comrades from the FDNY have mailed him a steady stream of packages containing everything he might need and more.

"They tell me my living area looks like a warehouse," Kentner said. "If you need wet wipes in Iraq, I'm the guy to come to."

Kentner has been particularly touched by the heartfelt messages that always await him when he checks his e-mail daily. The sentiments are all the more stirring for coming from firefighters who are not accustomed to such direct expressions of emotion.

"From people who don't really let down their defenses much," Kentner noted. "We have the laughing and joking around as a defense. Very rarely do guys drop that."

He put up on his locker a picture his comrades sent of a plaque they had affixed to the front of his Bronx firehouse.

"Just when you think they did everything they possibly could, they do more," Kentner said.

The plaque reads:

"The members of Engine 75 and Ladder 33 support and honor Michael Kentner of the 773rd Transportation Company as he serves our country in Iraq."

A reminder of the dangers he and his fellow soldiers faced in Iraq came when Jose Velez of the 773rd was killed by a roadside bomb. Velez was a father of two from the Bronx.

"A very, very nice guy," Kentner said. "Devastating."

Kentner himself has a wife and three daughters at home. An e-mail from his wife last week brought a shocking reminder of the dangers his fellow firefighters face back in New York.

"Bad news from the firehouse ..." the e-mail began.

His wife reported that Fire Lt. Howard Carpluk and Probationary Firefighter Michael Reilly had been killed in a fire at a 99-cent store on Walton Ave. Kentner had often worked with Carpluk. Kentner had shipped out before Reilly came to the firehouse, but the probie was no less a comrade and was all the more so for having himself served in Iraq as a Marine before joining the FDNY. Kentner felt the already impossible distance between Iraq and his comrades in the Bronx grow by a whole other measure.

"I felt helpless," he recalled. "There's nothing I can do for them."
Steyn knows bravery from books, not life. It's easy to talk bravery, but to be brave? Not so easy in real life.

posted by Steve @ 1:57:00 PM

1:57:00 PM

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