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Commentary: AOC is dangerously uninformed about what US forces did in Afghanistan

Op-ed

Never again

Photo by Lars Niki/Getty Images for The Athena Film Festival

“Men… Dec. 7, 1941, was the 'Day of Infamy' for our fathers and grandfathers. The world will come to know that Sept. 11, 2001, is OUR 'Day of Infamy.' The homeland has been attacked on OUR watch. Now it's OUR turn to to respond like so many have before us."

Those words were spoken by my commander on board a U.S. Navy ship just off the coast of Australia on the night of Sept. 11, 2001. I was a young Marine on my first deployment. None of us could have expected that this deployment would be anything different or special, but the world forever changed that fateful night. The captain put the pedal to the metal in an all-out seaborne sprint to the coast of Pakistan. I was a United States Marine, and I was now going to war.

No memory is more vivid in my mind than this one. I think about it often. This was our Pearl Harbor, and I was right in the middle of it. We all wanted revenge for the fallen. We all wanted justice. We all wanted to ensure that this would never happen again. If you've ever served in a combat unit, you're fully accustomed to the complaining and boredom of typical Marine/soldier life.

You're probably chuckling right now to yourself. We had a saying in the Corps, “If a Marine's not complaining, he isn't happy." But no one was complaining during those early days leading up to the invasion of Afghanistan. No one was bored. Everyone was locked in laser focus. We had been attacked, the Taliban was protecting our attackers, and nothing could be more justified than to bring these people to justice.

Last night, I read remarks from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) that truly made my blood boil.

In a Twitter fight — of course — with Rep. Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), Ocasio-Cortez stated, “I remember a time when it was 'unacceptable' to question the Iraq War. All of Congress was wrong, including both GOP & Dem Party, and led my generation into a disastrous + wrong war that virtually all would come to regret."

She later corrected her remark, stating that she actually meant to say the war in Afghanistan, adding, “honestly we shouldn't have been in either."

I truly hope this article reaches Rep. Ocasio-Cortez. I hope she reaches out to me to hear what we all felt, went through, and discovered in the days following 9/11. I'll give her the benefit of the doubt and hope that she might change her skewed world outlook if she had just a little information on what she's talking about.

This kind of ill-informed rhetoric is dangerous. It's a rewriting of history, spoken through a social media megaphone to a young audience that has no memory of what actually happened. Six years before George Orwell's "1984," he wrote in an essay titled, “Looking Back on the Spanish War":

Nazi theory indeed specifically denies that such a thing as "the truth" exists. ... The implied objective of this line of thought is a nightmare world in which the Leader, or some ruling clique, controls not only the future but the past. If the Leader says of such and such an event, "It never happened" — well, it never happened. If he says that two and two are five — well, two and two are five. This prospect frightens me much more than bombs.

Indeed. And what's going on today from actual elected officials is frightening.

Gallup found in a recent poll that Americans ages 18 to 29 have a stronger view of socialism over capitalism. Every other age bracket, from 30 years old to 65-plus, doesn't share this sentiment. Why? Because they saw the horrors of socialism first hand. They saw millions die and nations collapse, and it was all at the altar of the socialist experiment. Our youth have no tangible connection to this history, and people like Ocasio-Cortez are taking advantage of it. And her remarks on the war in Afghanistan have hit a little too close to home for me.

To question the validity of the initial Afghanistan invasion goes completely against the facts, and — in dangerously Orwellian fashion — is a blatant attempt at re-writing history. I truly hope the congresswoman reads this. She, and everyone too young to remember the past couple of decades (she was 12 at the time), need to know our history.

Everything I'm about to reveal has been declassified by now, but in the weeks following 9/11, all this information was coming at us like a 747. My unit was about to embark on the furthest seaborne assault in history. Special Forces units were already on the ground in the North, but we were dropping deep in Southern Afghanistan.

The intelligence reports were shocking. Everyone back home knew, by now, that al-Qaeda was responsible and that the Taliban was harboring them, but what they didn't know was how sophisticated the operation was. Iranian weapons were being found in both Taliban and Al-Qaeda hands. The Iranians were also using their country to provide a safe travel corridor for al-Qaeda operatives to move inside and out of Afghanistan.

Osama bin Laden had gone deeper underground, but he was still training his operatives for additional foreign operations on the West. His vast financial resources were supplemented by Afghanistan's leading terrorist cash crop — opium. Our task force's first target was an opium manufacturing and transit hub in the South. After destroying that hub, we then used that facility as our base of operations. Cutting off that stream of money to jihadis being trained and sent to the West was paramount. A ground assault was the absolute only way to do it.

As al-Qaeda moved to the mountains their capabilities lessened, but our casualties elevated. Every day I'd listen to the reports. It was heartbreaking, but we knew that our lives were being put at risk so that never again would bin Laden and al-Qaeda accomplish another 9/11.

If not for the Afghanistan invasion, the opium financing would have continued, the terror camps would have resumed from the mountains, and al-Qaeda fighters would still be using Iran as a safe haven to move terror cells into the West.

Was everything perfect? Nothing in war and conflict ever is. Was every goal accomplished? Not in the slightest. You can intelligently make a case for discontinuing the current operations in Afghanistan, but what you can never do is delegitimize what we did in those early months after 9/11. You can't deny what we accomplished, and — more importantly — what we prevented in the future.

There's always room for debate and questions on foreign policy. It's essential. But the troubling theme here is that people like Ocasio-Cortez aren't engaging in any kind of real and honest debate. They're attempting to rewrite history, and that's something we must fight with every ounce of energy. Perhaps that war, for those of us who lived it, is our new "day of infamy."

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