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Biden is squandering a sacred trust as Iran proxies keep killing US servicemembers

OpinionBiden is squandering a sacred trust as Iran proxies keep killing US servicemembers

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There exists a sacred trust between the American sons and daughters who go into harm’s way at their country’s behest and the leaders who send them. 

There exists a sacred trust between the American sons and daughters who go into harm’s way at their country’s behest and the leaders who send them. An implicit but unstated compact adhered to by those who wear our nation’s uniform. 

These brave souls agree to give everything including the last full measure of devotion, as President Abraham Lincoln so elegantly termed their sacrifice, on behalf of the country they serve.  In return, our servicemembers expect their political leaders to refrain from needlessly squandering their lives. 

By refusing to hold Iran responsible for the attacks waged by their state-sponsored militias against deployed American servicemembers, President Joe Biden has violated this trust. To regain it, President Biden must respond with devastating, disproportionate, and unpredictable strikes against Iranian targets. 


On October 7, 2023, Iranian-funded Hamas terrorists launched an attack against Israel.  The Iranian proxy slaughtered babies, raped women, mutilated the dead, and kidnaped elderly grandmothers. 

In response, the nation of Israel went to war. 

In an effort to pull the United States into the conflict, Iranian proxies have attacked American servicemembers forward deployed to Iraq and Syria more than one hundred and forty times since the tragic events of 10/7.  These attacks have been waged with a variety of weapons including ballistic missiles, one-way drones, and rockets. 

At least 60 US servicemembers have been injured.

Chief Warrant Officer Four Garrett Illerbrunn is one of the wounded.        

CW4 Illerbrunn is a North Dakota native, an 18-year Army veteran, and an Army Apache helicopter pilot. He met his wife Lorna while they were both deployed to Afghanistan (she was an Army Blackhawk pilot at the time), and the couple share a son named Tucker. 

According to the gofundme page established for the Illerbrunn family, on Christmas Day, 2023, Garrett was injured in a drone attack on a base in northern Iraq.  A piece of shrapnel struck Garrett in the head, impacting the motor function area of his brain.  At present, Garrett is still recovering from his wounds, and his prognosis is uncertain. The gofundme effort has raised over $125,00 for Garrett and his family. 

Clearly, the American people care about this soldier’s well-being.

One wonders if his commander in chief shares this sentiment. 


Like Garrett, I was once an Army Apache helicopter pilot serving in a combat theatre on my nation’s behalf. While deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom VI, my Cavalry Squadron suffered a terrible tragedy.  An Apache gunship crashed during a training mission, destroying the aircraft and critically injuring one of the pilots. 

I visited the young officer in Bagram Air Base’s hospital that night, and the sight of his broken, unconscious form shook me to the core.  Until that moment, I’d felt invincible while flying my helicopter. 

His extensive injuries proved otherwise.

FILE – The flag of the United States flies over Bagram Air Base, in Afghanistan, Friday, June 25, 2021. 

The next morning, every Troop Commander climbed into their helicopter’s cockpit and flew the day’s missions. 

I was among them.

Was I scared? 


I was terrified. 

For the first time, I knew that I was mortal.  As I strapped into my Apache, I couldn’t clear the image of the bruised and battered pilot from my mind. 

But I still flew. 

Because I was brave? 


Because a leader never asks a subordinate to bear a risk that he isn’t himself willing to shoulder.

If only the current presidential administration modeled this philosophy.


The risk to President Biden, while political rather than physical, is present all the same.  Holding Iran directly responsible for the actions of its proxies would require a repudiation of his policy of engagement and appeasement toward the Islamic theocracy.  This in turn would expose the president to attacks from Republicans and potentially his own base. 

Attacks that might weaken his chances of winning a second presidential term.

Rather than holding Iran accountable for the attacks levied by the militias they fund, train, equip, and direct, President Biden has decided to sacrifice American servicemembers on the altar of political expediency.  While the administration has mounted a number of airstrikes against Iranian proxies, the Islamic theocracy has yet to pay a price for the American blood shed at its bidding. This is because the administration is operating under the fallacy that measured, tit-for-tat retaliatory strikes will prevent the current conflict from escalating into a full-blown regional war. 

Unfortunately, the opposite is true. 


By responding with proportional, limited strikes while restating their unwillingness to escalate further, the administration permits the Iranians to assess the cost of their provocations before they commit them.  Deterrence can only work when an adversary believes that the response to their aggression will be devastating, disproportionate, and unpredictable.  Put simply, the perceived cost of attacking American servicemembers must far outweigh the benefits. 

Each time a Biden administration spokesperson reiterates their desire to avoid a regional war, they inadvertently send a signal to the Iranians.  A signal that says that we are willing to trade American lives for the sake of regional stability.  Iran and their proxies will continue to kill deployed Americans until they are sent a different message. 

Mitigating the Iranian threat would not be easy, but it is doable.  President Biden is not the first commander in chief to face a meddlesome Iran. 

In the early months of 1988, tensions in the Persian Gulf were high. Iran had begun to mine the waterway and attack international cargo vessels.  Iranian and American naval forces had already fought in several skirmishes, but events came to a head on April 14th, 1988, when a US frigate struck an Iranian-laid mine, seriously injuring ten sailors and nearly sinking the vessel. 

In response, President Reagan ordered U.S. forces to engage a series of Iranian naval assets. Over the course of a single day, the American Navy sank two Iranian warships, damaged a third, and destroyed two Iranian ocean-based platforms and a number of attack speedboats.  Losses on the American side amounted to a single Cobra attack helicopter and its crew of two Marine aviators.

The message President Reagan sent was unequivocal: cease further attacks or pay the price.

Iran listened. 

Ronald Reagan with flag

Ronald Wilson Reagan, 40th President of the United States (1981.1989) and 33rd Governor of California (1967.1975).  (Photo by: Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

President Reagan’s decision to hold the Iranians directly responsible for their attacks came with political risk, but his decisive action prevented the conflict from escalating into a regional war.  Just as important, his resolve reaffirmed the sacred trust between the men and women serving as the martial expression of America’s will and their commander in chief. 

As I finished writing this piece, news broke of another Iranian-sponsored tragedy.  According to reporting from the New York Post, “three US servicemembers were killed and thirty-four others wounded by a drone attack Saturday night in Jordan.” 

A drone attack attributed to “radical Iranian-backed militant groups.”


These heroes are the first Americans to be killed in our ongoing conflict with Iranian proxies.

Unless President Biden courageously chooses to radically change course, they will not be the last. 


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