Let’s play, ‘Imagine If A Democrat Had Said This’
As a rule, insulting U.S. troops trying to keep you safe in Iraq doesn’t seem like an especially good idea. And yet, there was Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), one of Congress’ most right-wing members, reflecting on his recent visit to Baghdad, and calling one soldier he met a “two-bit security guard.”
“We spent the night in the Green Zone, in the poolhouse of one of Saddam’s palaces. A little weird, I got to be honest with you. But I felt safe. And so in the morning, I got up early — not that I make this a great habit — but I went to the gym because I just couldn’t sleep and everything else. Well, sure enough, the guard wouldn’t let me in. Said I didn’t have the correct credentials.
“It’s 5:00 in the morning. I haven’t had sleep. I was not very happy with this two-bit security guard. And so you know, I said, ‘I want to see your supervisor.’ Thirty minutes later, the supervisor wasn’t happy with me, they escort me back to my room. It happens. I guess I didn’t need to work out anyway.”
Yes, poor Patrick McHenry. An American stationed in Baghdad followed orders on Green-Zone security only to get mocked by a conservative lawmaker who never wore a uniform. Classy.
Lots of lefties have joined in but let's just highlight ThinkProgress (Invent Stuff) and Oliver Willis, both of whom share Mr. Benen's confidence that the "two-bit security guard" is a US soldier. Oh, feel the love - let's include Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake, Steve Benen at AirAmerica, Joe Gandelman of The Moderate (but reliably lefty) Voice, and the AmericaBlog.
My question - what in the telling of this story (other than their own partisan desire, of course) makes them think the guard in question is either American or a soldier? McHenry was a jerk, but was he a jerk to a soldier?
[MINI-UPDATE: If Michael Goldfarb of The Weekly Standard is with me, who will stand against me?
Think Progress Screws Up Again
...Think Progress provides the video, but at no point does McHenry indicate that the "security guard" is an American soldier. In fact, if Amanda had bothered to call McHenry's office, she would have learned that the security guard was one of the foreign contractors so reviled by the left--an individual who in any other circumstance Amanda would likely label a "mercenary." I did call McHenry's office and the congressman's press secretary offered this statement from his boss:
It was a poor choice of words to describe the foreign contractor, but anyone who was there knows that I delivered a speech praising the heroism and sacrifice of those who are serving our country in harm's way.
The choice of words does not paint McHenry in the most flattering light...calling a security guard a "two-bit security guard" isn't exactly a classy move. But once again, Think Progress has failed to maintain even the minimum standards of the profession.
Oh, it's a foreign contractor? Screw them, right?
We resume our blog post in progress...]
I am doubtful that we are talking about a full security checkpoint at the limits of the Green Zone, although even there it is possible to encounter foreign troops, Iraqi security, and (IIRC) private contractors (See TIME, 2007). But if the encounter occurred inside the Green Zone, as is likely, why couldn't the "two bit security guard" simply be an Iraqi rent-a-cop or private doorman?
I'll accept that McHenry is not scoring huge "Reach Out To Our Allies" points with his "two-bit" characterization, and I think anyone doing security work in Baghdad is providing yeoman's service, but some of them are, I suspect, low rent security guards. In which case, the attack theme that McHenry insulted our troops falls a bit short and it might behoove the Reality Based Community to reach out to Reality. Of course, if you want to bust a Congressman for being a self-inflated overbearing jerk, you'll have plenty of choices, and McHenry moved himself near the front of the line here (or dare we say, head of the non-class?).
Iraqi rent-a-cops get blown up and shot at, and if they do a slack job a bomber can walk right past them, so McHenry should not be belittling them.
Atrios does a lot better with his line of attack:
I wonder how many two-bit security guards have been killed in Patrick McHenry's favorite war?
And do let's note that McHenry's political opponent carefully calls the guard a "sentry protecting U.S. personnel in Iraq" without specifying a nationality. A clue?!?
So, is there other evidence the stalwarts of the left have failed to present? Or are they under the illusion that all the security in and around the Green Zone is provided exclusively by uniformed US troops? Daft.
If the Reality-Based Community could be good enough to provide any evidence that we are talking about a US soldier, I will be delighted to join in what I expect will be a notable chorus.
But dare we hope that evidence will precede the sentencing? I know it doesn't always work that way on the left, but if someone could make this small accommodation to our right-wing quirkiness, that would be lovely.
Well, I promised an answer - last October Bobby Calvan, a McClatchy reporter, was a bit overbearing with a uniformed US soldier serving in conjunction with some Ugandan troops at a Green Zone checkpoint, and yes, the right-o-sphere took notice. Of course, in that case the incident clearly did involve a US soldier.
MORE: Don Surber is outraged:
Republican Congressman Patrick McHenry calls soldier in Iraq a “two-bit security guard.”
I wonder if Don's answer would change if he knew for sure the guard was not an American, or not a soldier. I know mine does and I don't think I am out of the mainstream, but I am not sure I can explain the thought process and look good doing it. I am pretty sure that Congressman who supported this war ought to respect everyone helping our side, including Iraqis hired to guard the gym (if that is what is actually happening here). On the other hand, a US soldier sent to Baghdad and ordered to guard a gym seems to me to be entitled to more deference from a US Congressman than an Iraqi doing the same job.
THE CAPTAIN AGAIN: Captain Ed blasts McHenry
for insulting a soldier. Boy, I sure can pick my battles - later I
will learn that McHenry puts puppies in blenders or something.
ALTERNATIVELY: I am going to get a head start and bitterly condemn McHenry for verbally and physically assaulting this disabled US vet whose father died serving in Vietnam and whose beloved mum is battling a mortgage foreclosure while struggling to prevent her insurance company from dropping her due to a pre-existing condition. The shame!
SECURITY: From TIME:
The Green Zone is guarded by a crazy quilt of security personnel--Georgian soldiers, Peruvian security guards, Iraqi army, Iraqi police and U.S. soldiers. Moving around the area requires learning a peculiar patois. Upon arriving at a routine checkpoint, you are typically greeted with a succession of questions and demands, issued in Georgian ("gamarjoba," or hello), Spanish ("amigo"), English ("badge"), Arabic ("silah," or weapon) and Iraqi slang ("mamnoon," or thank you)...
Responsibility for coordinating this Tower of Babel still lies with the coalition forces. But in the coming year, more territory within the Green Zone, as in the rest of Iraq, is slated to be turned over to Iraqi government control.
I still bet there are also private guards, including private Iraqi guards.
The Green Zone, which has officially been renamed the International Zone, or IZ, has been an odd entity since it was set up after the fall of Baghdad in 2003. It encompasses four square miles of what was formerly Saddam Hussein's choicest real estate on the banks of the Tigris River. As the insecurity increased in the rest of Baghdad, called the Red Zone in military lingo, the concentric rings of security inside the Green Zone kept getting tighter. There are checkpoints manned by Nepalese Gurkhas, by Georgians from the former Soviet Union, by Peruvians and, sometimes, by Iraqis themselves. The Thursday blast was in one of the outer cordons of the Green Zone, which is mostly screened by Iraqi personnel. The security for the Parliament building, which is directly in front of the Al-Rashid Hotel, is also run by Iraqi staff.
So what is my point - that McHenry is a jerk, but maybe less of a jerk than people think? Compelling stuff... Oh, well - I still like to include a bit of evidence with my daily dose of Reality.
FROM A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE: Since these are private contractors...
They aren’t in Iraq because of orders, or because they are there trying to help the people make Iraq a better place. They are there to wage war for profit. Screw them.
OR WE COULD TRY DEFENDING MCHENRY: Ok, this is a bit of a push, but it has been suggested that McHenry is mocking himself; as his story about the "two-bit security guard" unfolds we learn that McHenry was denied entrance to the gym and escorted back to his room. Shortly thereafter, the gym was hit in a rocket attack. McHenry then segues to a bit about the bravery of the people serving in Iraq and the YouTube clip stops. So, the hypothesis - McHenry went on to explain that this "two bit security guard" did his job and saved McHenry's life, from which Mchenry took an important lesson about the courage and commitment of the people protecting us in Baghdad. Since McHenry's opponents edited the tape, we can't tell (and incredibly, we don't trust them... can you believe it?). But having sat through the full tape, it seems possible.