Congressman Patrick McHenry is having a bad week. First, the bellicose, 32-year-old chickenhawk from North Carolina got in trouble for calling a Green Zone sentry a "two-bit security guard" while in Iraq--a statement for which he was later forced to apologize. As if that weren't bad enough, he's now in serious trouble for trying to act like a tough guy at the expense of U.S. troops in Baghdad.
On Friday April 4, the North Carolina Congressman assisted insurgents in Iraq and endangered American lives by bragging cluelessly about being rocketed in the Green Zone in a homemade video he posted on his own Congressional website. In the video, he related to anyone with an internet connection just how effective those rocket attacks had been. This is a huge no-no for anyone who's ever spent more than five minutes in a combat zone--and it's worthy of both censure and another apology.
Pentagon tells lawmaker not to air Green Zone video again
WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon told a North Carolina lawmaker Tuesday that he couldn't re-air a video he'd shot in Baghdad after accusations surfaced that he breached operational security in detailing enemy rocket attacks.
Those accusations were ones we made on VetVoice early Monday morning after we reviewed the video on Sunday:
In an effort to bolster his own national security credentials in the midst of "Sniper-gate," Congressman Patrick McHenry (R-NC) gave away intelligence information last week that could have aided Shi'ite militias and/or other terrorist organizations in targeting the Green Zone. Only two days after McHenry promoted a video of himself in the Green Zone describing in detail the effectiveness of the rocket attacks on Easter Sunday, the area was hit with a barrage that killed two U.S. soldiers and wounded 17 others. It was the deadliest attack on the Green Zone so far this year.
The Charlotte Observer/McClatchy covered this on Wednesday morning:
On Monday, a veterans group called VoteVets.org accused McHenry of giving away intelligence information that could have aided terrorist organizations in targeting the Green Zone.
"The bottom line is that whoever launched that strike could take the information McHenry provided and use it to kill Americans in the Green Zone," wrote Brandon Friedman, vice chairman of VoteVets.org, a veterans advocacy group that has called for troop withdrawal and promoted veterans for political office. "This is why professionals operating in a combat zone are trained not to reveal any battle damage after an attack."
After Friedman's posting, McHenry's office pulled the video and sent it to the Pentagon for review.
At least that's his version. Here's the way I described it:
Once the video started appearing on sites like VetVoice, The Huffington Post, and AlterNet, McHenry's office immediately removed the video from both YouTube and his website, leaving the sites above with dead links. It's unclear as to whether McHenry had the video pulled out of a sense of new-found responsibility to America's Armed Forces, or whether he just thinks he can sweep the fact under the rug that he got caught trying to burnish his own foreign policy credentials at the expense of troops serving in combat.
By Tuesday morning, an apology from Patrick McHenry to the troops and their families would have gone a long way in defusing the situation. Unfortunately, none was forthcoming. On Tuesday afternoon, McHenry's office gave word that they'd released a statement on the video to the Weekly Standard, but as far as I know, that never appeared online. Instead, the next word from McHenry's office was revealed in the Charlotte Observer:
"The Congressman shot the video in the company of State Department and military personnel, and was not briefed on withholding its publication," his spokesman Wes Climer said in a written statement.
To me, that sounds like McHenry is blaming the Pentagon for not telling him to not post the video on his website. That's funny, because the Pentagon was quick to deny it in the same piece:
A Pentagon spokesman said he didn't know what McHenry was told in Iraq, "but we routinely brief our operational rules to our visitors in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Military officials went further:
"We do not as a matter of policy discuss attacks in a way that would provide the enemy any better understanding of the effectiveness of their attacks," said Lt. Col. Todd Vician.
A spokesman for the Multi-National Forces in Iraq said that he didn't know what the rules were for congressmen, but the military is not allowed to talk about battle damage.
Those statements above from the military are mild, but it's for a reason. In reality, they mask an inner frustration with politicians like Patrick McHenry. As I said on VetVoice this morning:
At this point, members of the military are tired of covering for these chickenhawk wannabe-heroes who go around looking for glory the easy way. We're tired of them starting wars they can't finish and we're disgusted with their enthusiasm to use a military which they don't understand in the slightest.
To be quite honest, it's only because McHenry is a Congressman that the Pentagon and MNF-Iraq spokesmen were so lenient with him.
It's also the height of irony that, while McHenry is trying to dodge responsibility for promoting sensitive information for his own personal political gain, he's also the same guy who called for an investigation into a government "release of sensitive information" last year.
If Patrick McHenry wants to tell war stories so badly, he should resign his Congressional seat and go enlist. He's only 32. That way, he could get some training--so that next time he's in a combat zone trying to be a tough guy, he won't be such a bumbling, self-promotional fool about it.
At this point, Patrick McHenry should be censured by his peers in Congress and he should apologize to the troops and their families.
Follow Brandon Friedman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BFriedmanDC