Military death benefits are a lesson in Islamic negotiation

Denying death benefits to the families of fallen American soldiers is an example of how not to negotiate and a lack of leadership. Photo: Coming home (

CHARLOTTEOctober 9, 2013 – Whether Americans realize it or not, the government shutdown debate is giving them a lesson in why negotiations with Islamists are virtually impossible.

An unanticipated consequence of the political wrangling in Washington came to the forefront Tuesday when the Department of Defense suspended death benefits to the families of five soldiers who died in the line of duty over the weekend in Afghanistan.

Pfc. Cody J. Patterson, Sgt. Patrick C. Hawkins, 1st Lt. Jennifer M. Moreno and Special Agent Joseph M. Peters, that were killed by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan on October 6, 2013

Pfc. Cody J. Patterson, Sgt. Patrick C. Hawkins, 1st Lt. Jennifer M. Moreno and Special Agent Joseph M. Peters, that were killed by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan on October 6, 2013


Whether or not the Obama administration was directly involved in the controversy matters little. The hard-line approach of inflicting maximum pain upon constituents took a dramatic turn from inconvenience to a “red line” of unconscionable disrespect that no military family should ever have to endure.

In that regard, the buck does, indeed, stop at the White House.

Forget about which side of the political spectrum Americans support. This issue is neither Republican nor Democrat. This issue is about compassion. This issue is about honoring the service our American fighting men and women perform every single day to keep the country safe and secure.

Since the terrorist attacks in Benghazi in 2012, the lack of compassion, honor and dignity the Obama administration has displayed toward the American military has been a source of overwhelming disrespect on a regular basis. Yet the president survives harsh criticism from mainstream journalists for his callous attitude. A personal disdain he attempts to hide with his haughty eloquence.

President Obama says he will not negotiate with Congress. He will negotiate with every other unsavory character or group on the planet, but he will not meet with fellow Americans on the opposing side of the aisle.

Mr. President, as Strother Martin put it in the popular 1967 film Cool Hand Luke, “What we have here is failure to communicate.”

But here’s a dirty little secret that becomes exposed when the president reverts to the Islamic roots of his youth that go unrecognized in the alphabet soup of talking heads, name calling and misinformation.

How often have we heard Muslims demand that non-Muslims respect Islam despite the fact that they have no respect for any other religion? That argument is no different from the way Obama is dealing with the military. As commander in chief the president demands respect he frequently denies to the men and women in uniform who are fighting and dying for the freedoms that have made this country great.

Even if we accept the idea that the death benefit fiasco slipped embarrassingly beneath Obama’s radar, the president should have responded with the appropriate leadership and acted quickly and decisively.

Certainly Washington is a complex place where protocols frequently get bogged down in the muck and mire of bureaucracy. On the other hand, if the president wants the first-dog to have a private flight to Martha’s Vineyard it magically gets done. The point being that there are ways to circumvent the policies and procedures of Washington. Certainly President Obama has done it himself on more than one occasion.

When James Baker, former Chief of Staff for President Ronald Reagan, was Secretary of State under George H.W. Bush, he spoke on Meet the Press about a negotiation he once had in the Middle East.

Baker explained that after several hours of discussion one morning, he and his Arab counterparts reached an important agreement before breaking for lunch. By the time details of the settlement were to be announced later that afternoon, Baker was surprised to discover that the terms had changed so dramatically that he was unable to recognize a single condition he had finalized that morning.

So how does that incident relate to the current situation in Washington? Because earlier, Speaker of the House John Boehner announced the passing of a bill to open military monuments which were closed or barricaded due to the government shutdown. As part of that bill, Boehner and his colleagues were under the impression that death benefits for fallen soldiers were included in the legislation.

Had that been the case, there would have been no controversy this week regarding the five soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

Therein lies the lesson. Baker, Boehner and the American people got snookered with a sunukar message by dealing in good faith with opponents who had no intention of fulfilling their agreements. Words are merely words when there is no honor or trust to back them up.

As Lt. Col. Oliver North said on FOX News Channel Tuesday night, “All it takes is a commander-in-chief with a conscience, because the chief executive of the United States can do it with the stroke of a pen on a presidential emergency action document.”

Politics is blood sport. So is war. Military blood is far more important to the survival of our country and the principles for which they stand than President Obama’s insensitivity and his blue blood narcissism.

Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe. Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (  

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Bob Taylor

Bob Taylor has been travel writer for more than three decades. Following a career as an award winning sports producer/anchor, Taylor’s media production business produced marketing presentations for Switzerland Tourism, Rail Europe, the Finnish Tourist Board, Japan Railways Group, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council and the Swiss Travel System among others. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club ( and his goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.


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