WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new "courageous restraint" medal that would honor U.S. troops for holding fire is gaining favor inside the Beltway.
Tentatively entitled the Yellow Heart, the decoration would reward military personnel for declining to shoot when civilians might be caught in the crossfire.
U.S. Army General Lou D. Cross formally proposed the award, saying he got the idea from a British NATO officer, Major General Haight R. Eifels, who in turn said the concept was given to him by an al-Qaida detainee, Al-Haqq yur Hed-auff.
"It takes a special type of courage for a soldier to hold fire when his own life or the lives of his comrades are in jeopardy," Cross said. "That is especially true in Afghanistan and Iraq because enemy combatants refuse to wear uniforms, base their operations out of residential areas, and intentionally shield themselves from attack by placing women, children and old men between them and our brave military servicemen."
President Barack Obama is urging the military to adopt the medal before last year, his original deadline for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq.
"Not only should all branches of the military adopt the Yellow Heart by the end of last year," he said, "but the medal also should be awarded posthumously and retroactively in order to honor troops who should have and could have received the decoration."
Obama said former Commander-in-Chief William Jefferson Clinton would be the first to receive the award by declining to have Osama bin Laden killed in 2000, when a video-equipped drone had the al-Qaida leader in its sights.
"Bill's judgment saved the lives of an estimated 14 Muslim women and children who could have died had he authorized operators to kill bin Laden," Obama said. "Those innocent civilians will honor Mr. Clinton for the rest of their lives, creating goodwill for the United States, one of the largest Muslim countries."
Bea Reeves of the 911 Wives Association said her late husband, Wall Steet analyst Y. Feeg Reeves, might not have died on Sept. 11, 2001, if Clinton had ordered Osama killed.
"Clinton might have saved a few civilians," she said, "but in the end almost 3,000 people died who might still be here today if he had figuratively pulled the trigger."
Adam Baum, a full-time thinker for the conservative think tank, The Heritage Foundation, said the Yellow Heart award could prevent a soldier from making a necessary and brave choice, such as President Harry Truman's decision to end World War II by dropping on Japan the atom bomb.
"Truman killed thousands of civilians with one fell swoop," Baum said. "He thought it was better for those civilians to die in order to prevent the tragedy of continuing the war, which his advisers said could have resulted in the deaths of at least 1 million souls."
An early critic of the Yellow Heart is anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, who gained fame by protesting from a makeshift camp outside President George W. Bush's Texas ranch after her son Casey was killed during an attack on his artillery regiment in Iraq.
"If it's so important not to kill people, why don't we just bring our boys home?" she asked.
Despite a few voices of opposition, the Yellow Heart medal is gaining support, particularly among "progressives" who have been opposed to war.
"I've always felt it's better to ask first and shoot questions later," said C. Eva Sooney, director of the Muslim Protection Association.
Another supporter of the Yellow Heart is Les Dolittle, grandson of the late U.S. General Jimmy Dolittle, who won the Congressional Medal of Honor after leading the first bombing attack on Japan in World War II.
"Sometimes we do little too late," Dolittle said. "It's not too late to do little on time."
Retired Air Force Colonel Bull Loney said the medal could save a great deal of military effort.
"Why waste time trying to capture the enemy when we can't keep them?" he asked. "President Obama promised to close Guantano Bay right away, and even though he has not done that, he might. Meanwhile, we don't have any place where we can keep detainees, so the best course of action is to do nothing."
Ann T. Warr, chief accountant of the Congressional Budget Office, said the Yellow Heart could save millions of dollars in wasted ammunition.
"Studies indicate that the military uses 250,000 bullets for every insurgent killed," she said. "Rounds cost about 50 cents each, so it costs American taxpayers about $125,000 for each insurgent killed in ammunition alone.
"We calculate that by shooting 5,000 fewer insurgents in 2010, we will save about $625 million. That's enough to replace the Statue of Liberty with a 151-foot statue of our great leader."
U.S. Army infantrymen Lowell I. Cue and Chick Kunley said the Yellow Heart is an honor that many troops deserve to receive.
"Politicians back home already have emasculated our rules of engagement," Cue said. "We hardly ever fire at the enemy anyway, so being rewarded for following orders is something we fully support."
U.S. Marine medic Imah P. Esenick said she welcomes anything that would prevent civilian deaths.
"Since President Obama took over," she said, "civilian casualties have been going up. Cowards shoot when their lives are in danger. It's the truly brave who sacrifice themselves to protect bystanders in war."
Army Captain Will Dye said the Yellow Heart will raise survival rates among Taliban and al Qaida fighters while reducing survival rates among American military personnel.
"I'm sure the Taliban love the idea of the Yellow Heart," he said.
Army Lieutenant Don T. Schute said he has been running out of reasons to tell his men, "Don't shoot!"
"Now I can tell them they can get a Yellow Heart and a Purple Heart in the same engagement," he said.
Zappa Seafast, who was named after his mother's favorite rock musician, is an Army sniper who has yet to fire his first round at a combatant.
"I've spent months hiding in a blind that is so camouflaged that I can't even find it most days," he said. "I've spent hour after hour looking over hundreds of people, and I have yet to see my first Iraqi who doesn't look like a civilian.
"It's actually worked out very well for me because I'm the pacificist in my family, and I didn't want to come here in the first place. Now I can be rewarded for doing what's right, which is not taking part in the war."
The Gunn brothers, Tommy and Ray, enlisted in the Marines on Sept. 12, 2001, the day after they watched the Twin Towers tumble to the ground.
"The Rules of Engagement were bad enough under President Bush," Tommy said. "But they're worse now, and I think that's why casualties among our troops have doubled since Obama took office because his ROE have made it even harder for us to kill enemy fighters.
"This stupid Yellow Heart medal won't change anything. We already can't shoot at spies who are smart enough not to carry weapons. And even while we're in the middle of a battle, insurgents can simply put their rifles down and walk away, and we're not allowed to do anything. So lots of guys will be deserving of Yellow Hearts, but I doubt anybody would wear one with pride."
Meanwhile, back at the White House, assistant press secretary Dan D. Rough said the Obama Administration is waiting to see how well the Yellow Heart is received before unveiling its next revision to the Rules of Engagement.
"We're finalizing a rule known as the Proportionate Response Guide, which means a soldier's response to violence must not exceed the level of the original attack.
"In other words, you may throw rocks at enemy combatants who throw rocks at you, you can throw Molotov cocktails at combatants who have done the same thing. If they shoot at you and miss, you can shoot close to them. If they wound you, then you can wound them. And if they cause a mortal wound, you can do likewise.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff are giving us some resistance on this, but I'm sure they'll come around."
The Yellow Heart medal will showcase a cadmium lemon heart-shaped tin centerpiece on a bed of blood-red onyx trimmed with a pair of hackle feathers provided by a Rhode Island Red chicken.
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"President Barack Obama makes fawning speeches boasting that he supports the rights of women to be 'covered' rather than the rights of the ever-lengthening numbers of European and North American Muslim women beaten, brutalized and murdered for not wanting to be covered." ̵ Mark Steyn.
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