Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Thursday, February 03, 2005
 
Army Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith

Intel-Dump links to and extensively quotes a St. Petersburg Times article about the death of Sgt. Smith, and the recent decision to posthumously award him the extremely rare Medal of Honor.
Smith could have justifiably ordered his men to withdraw. Lt. Col. Smith believes Sgt. Smith rejected that option, thinking that abandoning the courtyard would jeopardize about 100 GIs outside - including medics at an aid station.
Sgt. Smith manned a 50-caliber machine gun atop an abandoned armored personnel carrier and fought off the Iraqis, going through several boxes of ammunition fed to him by 21-year-old Pvt. Michael Seaman. As the battle wound down, Smith was hit in the head. He died before he could be evacuated from the scene. He was 33. . .Sgt. Matthew Keller was one of the men who fought with Smith in the courtyard. "He put himself in front of his soldiers that day and we survived because of his actions," Keller said Tuesday from Fort Stewart in Georgia. "He was thinking my men are in trouble and I'm going to do what is necessary to help them. He didn't care about his own safety."
That's intense. The St. Petersburg Times had already created an impressive new media site devoted to Smith's life and final battle: a traditional prose narrative of the battle and Smith's life, based on interviews with Smith's soldiers, an animated slideshow schematic that makes the sequence of battle events much clearer, and several photo galleries and audio clips about the Seargent, his soldiers, and his family. To summarize the accounts: it seems he was a party boy who settled down and became a deeply serious family man after the first Gulf War; he trained and disciplined his soldiers mercilessly, relentless about getting them ready for war, which he had known and they had not. A quote from his last, unsent, letter to his parents:
There are two ways to come home, stepping off the plane and being carried off the plane. It doesn't matter how I come home because I am prepared to give all that I am to ensure that all my boys make it home.
Regardless of your opinions on the war, I think it behooves all citizens of the Republic to give a little time and attention to stories like these. Respectful time and attention. I don't think anyone who isn't actually fighting has the perogative the whoop it up and suck an adrenaline high out of these deeply impressive tales of toughness. And no one--not even the soldiers themselves, and certainly not the President--has the right to use this bravery to demand silence from dissenters. For the advocates of war, be relieved and grateful that you have such brave and dedicated men to do your bidding and even advocate alongside you. But if you want to prevent war, this kind of immersive media might help you get a better understanding of your toughest opponents while providing inspiration. It's quite an inspiration to keep war at bay, the wish that the next Sgt. Smith might also train his soldiers mercilessly--and needlessly.
 


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Saheli Datta started this when she was a journalism student at Columbia in New York. Now she lives in the Bay Area. *Old people call me R. New people, call me Saheli. Thanks! My homepage. Specifically, my links. Email me: Saheli [AT] Gmail [dot] Com

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american footprints(Nadezhda & Praktike)
ANNA's Diary
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Dave Barry
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Intel Dump: Phillip Carter et al
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Kevin G. Powell
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Scott Rosenberg(Salon.com)
Rox Populi
Felix(&Rhian)Salmon
samVaad
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Sepia Mutiny
Amardeep Singh
Snarkmarket (Robin Sloan & Matt Thompson)
South-East Asian Earthquake and Tsunami Blog
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Steprous (Bear)
Robert Stribley
Subjunctive.net:klog
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Venk@
Manish Vij
Vinod's Blog
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Matthew Yglesias:Old
Yglesias:Tpmcafe
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Ethan Zuckerman
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Blogs focusing on policy, politics, and national security:
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Brad DeLong
Daniel Drezner
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