Every year the New York Police and Fire Departments face off in a football game. The good-natured but intense contest has been a New York City tradition since 1973.
In 2004, members of both squads visited the Oval Office to present President George W. Bush with a token of appreciation for his response following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The meeting had special meaning since among the many casualties of 9/11 were 22 members of the New York City Fire Department Football Club. (See bravestfootball.com and nypdfootball.com.) Originally, President Bush was asked to attend the annual game to receive the players’ thanks, but he was unable to do so, so I arranged the visit to the White House for the players.
The meeting was scheduled to last about 10 minutes. At the president’s insistence, it lasted longer, in part so he could show the players another recent gift — something he was obviously proud to share with them. You see, that morning, the warriors who captured Saddam Hussein visited the president and gave him a glass-enclosed gun, the gun Hussein had on him when they dragged him from his rat hole.
The president picked up the box with the gun and showed it to the players. He then turned the box over and showed the signatures of the soldiers who were involved in the capture, saying what a great group they were. Clearly, he was proud that our American GIs had captured a brutal tyrant, who took the lives of many.
Our brave troops captured a terrorist, and our commander in chief honored their valor and service. Now, less than six years later, let’s look at what has changed.
Just a few days ago, the big news was an inane circus starring two people who crashed a White House state dinner. The stories, the photos, the calls for investigations, more funding, firings, in other words, the typical madness will all follow. Of course, few will thank publicly the men and women of the Secret Service, who keep so many so safe for so long.
While most of the major news outlets seemed totally taken with the gate crashers, few Americans were made aware of a mockery of justice that became public that same week, namely the prosecution of three brave Navy SEALs who face ruin for, among all things, capturing a terrorist who brutally killed, maimed, defiled, and hanged four American citizens in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004.
Those SEALs — Matthew McCabe, Jonathan Keefe, and Julio Huertas — are among the best-trained men in the world. Recently, these dedicated sailors captured Ahmed Hashim Abed, who masterminded and, according to reports, was responsible for the brutal Fallujah murders. Like the soldiers who captured Hussein, you would think they would be honored for their valor and service.
You would think a grateful nation would recognize their achievement with a proclamation or commendation — maybe even an invite to the oval office. Instead, they are facing a court-martial.
Their offense? According to published reports, one of the SEALs allegedly punched the suspected terrorist in the gut.
Our government now trips over itself to apologize, to ignore history, to coddle tyrants and terrorists, to provide propaganda platforms to wretched individuals, who are our enemies. The government wants to punish brave men and women in our military who deserve praise, not prosecution.
We move to court-martial three United States Navy SEALs, while we insult the memory of the victims of 9/11 with a show trial for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his mosaic of maniacs just blocks from the most vicious attack on American soil.
Time, events and sometimes, elections, serve to highlight the distinctions between significance and insignificance, praise and prosecution, political power and political correctness, and pandering and patriotism.
So here we are, transfixed on a couple stealing some punch and taking photos at the White House, while three families, the McCabes, Keefes, and Huertases must be asking themselves, “What did we do to deserve this?
Vito J. Fossella served in the U.S. House of Representatives representing Staten Island and Brooklyn.
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