During the first 24 hours of the invasion, nearly 2,000 U.S. soldiers, sailors and airmen were declared "MIA" -- missing in action. Many of the paratroopers, Army Rangers, "straight-leg infantrymen" and small-boat crewmen who were listed as "unaccounted for" in the first 48 hours of the invasion were eventually identified posthumously by graves registration personnel. Those captured by the Germans were re-listed as POWs -- prisoners of war. Some were never found and remain among the 74,000 World War II "open case files" at the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command. Today, in the 10th year of the global war on terror, it's the political elite in Washington and the so-called mainstream media who are MIA.
Though more than 155,000 Americans in uniform are serving in harm's way in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf and on anti-piracy patrols in the Indian Ocean, the politicians, pundits and potentates of the press aren't inclined to dwell on our nation's heroes. Instead, they are preoccupied with the salacious sexual escapades of a creepy congressman, the prurient details of a mother-child murder trial in Florida and a president's plummeting poll numbers. Unfortunately, there are some things happening around the world that are likely to prove far more important than these highly covered events. Here's a sampler:
Defense Secretary Bob Gates, on his around-the-world goodbye tour, called home from Kabul -- and again from NATO headquarters in Brussels -- to warn against pulling too many U.S. troops out of Afghanistan this summer. That's not what President Barack Obama wanted to hear in the midst of playing musical deck chairs with his "national security team" on our ship of state.
Gates, who retires at the end of the month and will be replaced by current CIA Director Leon Panetta, has warned that anything more than a "modest withdrawal" would jeopardize "gains that have been won at such hard cost." Gen. David Petraeus, slated to be the next CIA director, is mum about future U.S. troop levels. And Ryan Crocker, designated as our next ambassador in Kabul, spent much of his Senate confirmation hearings this week answering questions about corruption in the Karzai government.
Meanwhile, those who must deal with the cascade of catastrophes in the wake of what Obama calls the "Arab Spring" appear to lack answers. This week, despite intense bombing raids by the combined military might of NATO, Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi rejected any thought of abdication and launched a furious assault on rebels in Misurata. In Tunisia and Egypt, Islamist radicals continue to kill and threaten those they call "secularists" and "infidels" -- meaning Christians. Yemen's ruler, Ali Abdullah Saleh, wounded in a rocket attack on his palace in Sanaa, fled to Saudi Arabia for "medical treatment." It's not. It's exile.
In Syria, the death toll continues to mount as members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps advise the regime of Bashar Assad on how to regain control -- through firepower. According to officials in Israel, Iran is turning up the flow of weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. But the ayatollahs' aims aren't limited to helping those who launch attacks on the Jewish state.
Iranian intelligence agents in Bahrain, headquarters of the U.S. 5th Fleet, are agitating among the majority Shiite population to overthrow Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, their Sunni monarch -- now being protected by a Saudi special forces unit. At the Pentagon, officers quietly have been dusting off contingency plans for "relocation" and to deal with the possible closing by the Iranians of the Strait of Hormuz, through which passes more than a third of the crude oil used around the world.
According to those who sample public opinion, Obama's plunging poll numbers are the consequence of appalling unemployment statistics, plummeting consumer confidence and higher outlays for food and energy. Though the cost of gasoline and diesel eased a few cents with the opening of TransCanada's Keystone pipeline, the price of crude oil jumped again this week when the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries -- chaired by Iran's oil minister, Mohammad Aliabadi -- rejected any increase in production. And of course, the U.S. still has no strategic energy policy.
Little of this news garnered much interest from America's political princes and media elites this week. Neither did an internal report prepared by the U.N.'s toothless International Atomic Energy Agency, which warned that Tehran may have accumulated sufficient materials and know-how to build a working nuclear weapon in the next three months. If that turns out to be true, there may well be a lot of people missing in action.