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A legacy of destruction 

In all the years I've observed the "left," not once have they accepted responsibility for the disasters they created, be it a socio-economic wreck leaving a country a wasteland or apologizing for tyrants. East Germany's Berlin Wall and Cuba with its prisons overflowing with political prisoners comes to mind along with American cities plagued by crime, despair, and institutionalized poverty under leftist leadership. Virtually every American city experiencing failed education systems, racial divides, and structural poverty has been governed by "leftist" politicians, the Democratic Party and policies, for the last 60 years. The Democratic Party owns this legacy just as they own founding of the Ku Klux Klan and promotion of racial stereotyping via Hollywood for 60 years.

Another legacy of the left is the modern disparagement of America, especially its founders but also those who served in uniform and the conflicts in which they served.

In last week's Rhetoric and Reason, Professor Michael Latner takes exception to my harsh criticism of 35th Assembly District Democratic candidate Dawn Ortiz-Legg and her association with Code Pink, a left-wing extremist anti-war group. Slandering of U.S. military personnel and the cause for which they served was commonplace by Code Pink in SLO County. Contrary to the professor's assertions that Ortiz-Legg bears no responsibility for the actions of Code Pink, she bears even more responsibility than most; she was a leader and co-founder of the local chapter. She had responsibility to set the tone and to discipline her followers, who did, in fact, call military veterans of the Iraq/Afghanistan counter-terrorism campaigns "no better than Nazis" and referred to them as war criminals deserving of prosecution. I know this because I was personally on the receiving end of some of those comments after I returned from Iraq in 2004; more importantly, so was my son, who served as a combat corpsman with the First Marine Division in Ramadi, Iraq. Other military families suffered similar indignities.

The professor objects to Ortiz-Legg being associated with these comments, not having personally attacked me or other veterans, so she claims. However, if a conservative candidate had associations with a hate group like the KKK, however distant the association, does anyone really believe that professor Latner and the media would absolve them of responsibility or failure to denounce their bigotry? I've repeatedly called upon Ortiz-Legg to denounce Code Pink and apologize to the veterans they slandered; she's attempted to divert attention by pointing to the sins of others or alluding to her current and convenient support of veterans as she runs for office, but of her association with Code Pink, her silence is deafening.

The damage that organizations like Code Pink do to returning veterans and their ability to re-integrate into society is considerable. You would have to attend a Veterans Day or Memorial Day ceremony to fully understand the depth of pain that some veterans are dealing with upon their return. I've seen combat veterans from Vietnam break down in tears at Veterans Day ceremonies as they recall past battles and lost comrades.

Israel and the U.S. Army have done numerous studies about morale, combat effectiveness, and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and what are some of the determining factors regarding successful reintegration of veterans into civilian life. Stress takes its toll with alcoholism, divorce (75 percent among active-duty troops), and self-isolation prominent among military veterans of combat operations.

Iraq veterans bear a heavy psychological burden, having routinely witnessed atrocities committed by al-Qaeda against civilians from which ISIS learned its trade. Violence against children has a particularly hard impact on American troops, and the enemy Americans fought to destroy took particular delight in the torture and murder of children, most prominently in Ramadi and Tal-Afar. The mayor of Tal-Afar wrote a poignant tribute to the troopers of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment for their liberation of the citizens of that city from al-Qaeda, describing in detail atrocities committed by al-Qaeda against civilians. The troops that fought in Iraq or Afghanistan fought (and continue to fight) an implacable, vicious foe that is more of a death cult than a military force. You can't understand the depth of their depravity until you've seen it up close and personal.

What Americans see today in news reports about ISIS atrocities was observed daily by American troops in Iraq and by my son in Ramadi. His company, part of the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, had half their men killed or wounded in Ramadi in 2004, suffering the highest casualties of any unit in Iraq until the Battle of Fallujah. He's never completely recovered from his wounds.

Code Pink resurrected the dishonorable treatment of Vietnam veterans, which most people today recognize as despicable. It caused deep wounds to the psyche of returning veterans who, having experienced close combat, require validation that their experiences really mattered, the sacrifice was worth it, and they're accepted into society. How painful can this be to the psyche of a veteran? I recommend to you the work of E.B. Sledge, author of the book, With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, which was also integrated into the Steven Spielberg mini-series, The Pacific.

By taking a page from that ugly chapter of American history (Vietnam) and attempting to repeat it against returning Iraq War veterans, Code Pink denied them that validation. Ortiz-Legg brought Code Pink to the Central Coast; her refusal to denounce it or apologize to slandered veterans affirms Dawn Ortiz-Legg is an unrepentant leftist.

Al Fonzi is the chairman of the Republican Party of SLO County and an army lieutenant colonel of military intelligence who had a 35-year military career, serving in both the Vietnam and Iraq wars. Send comments through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com.

-- Al Fonzi - Atascadero

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