By Eric Blehm
For the past week, since the announcement about President-elect Trump's pick for Defense Secretary, I have been barraged by requests from the media to talk about what I know based on what I'd written about General Mattis in my book, The Only Thing Worth Dying For in 2010. I've received quite a bit of hate mail for what some believe is my intention to bring down and smear retired Marine General James 'Mad Dog' Mattis, simply because I accurately reported an event that happened years ago. I have dedicated my life and career to telling the stories of heroes, yet now I'm being mistakenly characterized as someone trying to bring down a beloved General.
In my 2010 New York Times bestselling book, The Only Thing Worth Dying For: How Eleven Green Berets Fought for a New Afghanistan, I write about how General Mattis refused to send his men and helicopters to MEDEVAC the wounded from a mass casualty situation. An A Team of Green Berets who were assigned to Hamid Karzai had been hit by friendly fire on December 5, 2001- an errant 2,000-pound Jdam bomb called in erroneously on their position. Although the bulk of the book recounts the team's mission with Karzai, after the bomb hit, its focus shifted to their survival. The Green Berets requested immediate assistance from Mattis, the leader of the closest unit with the ability to respond, but he was stubbornly unwilling to help as was reported to me by eyewitnesses.
General Mattis's actions, which were not formally investigated at the time, are now likely to get more scrutiny during the retired general's Senate confirmation process. I've been told I might be called to testify since my book is the only published account of that mission - and that terrible day when all but one member of then-Captain Jason Amerine's eleven-man team was either seriously wounded or killed.
Last week, a few days shy of the fifteen-year anniversary of December 5, Amerine, now a retired Lieutenant Colonel, wrote a post on his Facebook page saying in part that Mattis "was indecisive and betrayed his duty to us, leaving my men to die during the golden hour when he could have reached us... The delay of Mattis in launching MEDEVAC that day was never in question, not even by him. The only debate was whether it was justified and how many died, as a result."
What are the brutal facts behind one of the most heated debates in politics this week? Did General Mattis betray his duty and leave men to die? Or was he acting responsibly based on the facts he had at hand? Or is it a matter of different policies within the Conventional and Special Operations communities? How many died? Who could have been saved? Did he make a mistake that he learned from? And is he fit to serve as the Secretary of Defense? Was Mattis interviewed to hear his side of the story?
Both Amerine and Mattis are beloved leaders in their respective communities, and the quote by Amerine started up a viral storm of polarized opinions on social media and in the news that is still playing out. For my part, I have given numerous interviews about The Only Thing Worth Dying For in recent days, (and posted one of the articles on my Facebook page) that have elicited a huge range of heated responses. The comments on that page run from "hate mail" that accuses me of being a liberal on a smear campaign who writes fiction, to those angry with mainstream media for trying to take down an American hero... to those with reasonable questions about why Mattis did what he did... to those who were on the ground on December 5, 2001, who staunchly stand behind what I reported in my book. [more...]