Hawaii Ties To ‘Lone Survivor’

Charles Djou

This month, the movie Lone Survivor premiered. This film, based on the book of the same name by Marcus Luttrell, depicts the heroic bravery of Hawaii-based Navy SEALs in Operation Red Wings in Afghanistan. I was proud to have played a small role in acknowledging the courage portrayed in this movie when Honolulu renamed the former Fort Ruger Park in Kahala “Operation Red Wings Park.” Through the leadership of the Hawaii Navy SEAL Foundation, we recognized the brave sacrifices made by the service members shown in this film.

While the movie gives all of us a cinematic reminder of the courage and selfless sacrifice made by our troops, the reality of what is happening in Afghanistan today is far less heroic. A few days before the opening of Lone Survivor, President Obama’s former defense secretary, Robert Gates, stated the decision by the president to surge an additional 30,000 troops into Afghanistan was based on political expediency.

Gates asserted that the president sent tens of thousands of troops into combat in Afghanistan, but never really believed in the mission on which he sent those service members.

Quickly on the heels of this revelation, Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced he would start releasing dozens, possibly hundreds, of Taliban fighters, many of whom killed American soldiers. There is little doubt by most observers that many of these Taliban fighters being released by Karzai will return to the battlefield for radical Islam and al-Qaida.

These events are personal to me. I was one of those 30,000 soldiers sent into harm’s way with Obama’s surge of forces. In Afghanistan, my job was to handle detainee operations for the U.S. Army in the Zhari District of Kandahar Province. During my tour of duty, I assisted my infantry brigade in locking up many of the Taliban fighters now being released.

As any service member will tell you, it is difficult enough to be taken away from your family and deployed for a tour of duty thousands of miles away from home. It is so much more troubling to now learn that the sacrifice that I and so many thousands of American families were asked to make was because of political “optics.”

One of the many reasons why Washington is so broken is that too many of the people we send to D.C. these days treat government as a game. Too much of politics today is about scoring “points” for your partisan political side rather than actually solving problems. This is what leads to asking American service members and their families, like ones depicted in Lone Survivor, to make heroic sacrifices for no reason other than gratuitous political score-keeping.

This politics-as-a-game approach to government also has real-world consequences. When our nation’s enemies and allies observe how dys-functional Washington is, they don’t take our country’s directives and policies seriously. This creates terrible consequences, like the Afghan president’s decision to release hardened Taliban fighters whom I and so many of my fellow soldiers fought, bled and died to detain.

What is missing is real leadership in our government. Hawaii and America deserve so much more than the government as a partisan sport that we now have.

In the near future, I ask that you take time to watch the movie or read the book Lone Survivor. Follow it with a visit to the peaceful Operation Red Wings Park in Kahala with your family and reflect on the amazing sacrifice so many of our fellow Americans are willing to make on behalf of us and our nation. Then, this November, on Election Day, resolve to yourself to vote and, more importantly, don’t just vote based on your favorite TV commercial or how your union tells you to vote or how your family historically has voted, but vote for a government that our great nation deserves.