Saturday, September 15, 2007

Diary: Benoit grieved fellow wrestler

Diary: Benoit grieved fellow wrestler

By ERRIN HAINES, Associated Press Writer
Fri Sep 14, 3:08 PM ET

ATLANTA - Journal entries written by wrestler Chris Benoit show he was wracked with grief and preoccupied with death after his best friend died in 2005, according to a lawyer representing Benoit's father.

Benoit, who killed his wife and 7-year-old son and committed suicide in June, wrote the diary as a series of letters to the friend, fellow wrestler Eddie Guerrero, according to lawyer Cary Ichter, who represents the wrestler's father in estate litigation.

Benoit's father, Michael Benoit, referred to the diary earlier this month, saying it was "written by someone who was extremely disturbed at the time." The father has said murder-suicide was out of character for his son and supported medical tests that recently showed Chris Benoit suffered brain damage that could have caused depression and irrational behavior.

Authorities say anabolic steroids were found in the home and Chris Benoit had a high amount of synthetic testosterone in his body when he died, leading to some speculation that steroid-induced rage sparked the killings.

Ichter, who said he knew Benoit for years, described what he said were Benoit's writings but he did not make copies of the journal available for review.

Ichter noted that at one point Benoit wrote to his friend, "I will be with you soon," an apparent nod to his own mortality.

"It showed that he was very depressed," Ichter said of the entries.

Benoit also wrote warmly about his son, Daniel, and his wife, Nancy, who had given him the journal as a way to cope with Guerrero's death, the lawyer said.

Prosecutors have said Benoit, 40, strangled his wife with a cord, used a choke hold to strangle his son placed Bibles next to the bodies and hanged himself on exercise equipment the weekend of June 22.

Ichter said a neighbor of the Benoits found the journal in the trash after the police and family had left the Benoits' house, and the neighbor gave it to Michael Benoit. He is permanent administrator to Chris Benoit's estate, and Ichter said the journal could become evidence in the estate litigation.

Authorities have said it could be months before the court determines the heirs, since neither Chris nor Nancy Benoit had a will. Whether Nancy Benoit died before Daniel will determine whether control of millions of dollars goes to Chris Benoit's two children from a previous marriage or to relatives on Nancy Benoit's side.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Wall Street Journal: Our New National Divide: America's soldiers are committed to the war. But they're not going to lie about its progress



Wednesday, September 12, 2007 12:01 a.m.

Last month I was running the Central Park loop when a runner wearing a U.S. Marine Corps shirt approached. I alerted the two boys in the jog stroller and my eldest, who met this world with a father in Iraq, shouted, "Semper fi!"

The man saw the emblem on my visor and said, "You hear about Doug Zembiec?" If most Americans have six degrees of separation, Marines have no more than two. I nodded and stopped my watch. But all he managed to say was, "That one hurt." Then he plunged down the hill toward 72nd Street, cutting his own path against the flow.

I tried to make sense of it. Not the encounter but the sheer madness of the surroundings. Runners were chattering about school applications and subprime predictions. Yet most of them told pollsters that Iraq was the single largest anxiety in their lives. Like the majority of the nation, they were exhausted by a war in which they had no role. And they wanted out.

It was 65 degrees in August in Manhattan, about 65 degrees cooler than the temperature in Doug Zembiec's helmet as he approached a Baghdad target house in 90 pounds of equipment. He and his team wanted to be remembered for how they lived and how they helped others live. Inside was a group that cared only how it died.

A Marine company commander during the battle for Fallujah in 2004, Maj. Douglas A. Zembiec was famously profiled by the Los Angeles Times's Tony Perry as an "unapologetic warrior" who was ferocious while fighting al Qaeda in Iraq from house-to-house. "One of the most noble things you can do is kill the enemy," he said, expressing what many soldiers feel but lack the courage to trumpet for fear of being castigated outside the combat zone, as was Marine Gen. James Mattis when he expressed a similar sentiment.

Here in the United States, the vast moral chasm that so clearly separates the combatants in Iraq is too rarely discussed. Disillusion with the entire effort has obscured and in some cases mutated the truth that small numbers of evil men tilt entire populations. Many Americans, including prominent senators, cringe when they hear about warriors like Zembiec going door-to-door, notwithstanding the fact that most Iraqis in the neighborhood greet them as deus ex machina.

Nearly six years into the war on terror--which is being fought by less than 30% of the military and less than one-half of 1% of the nation--and the stark irony of America in modern war has emerged. Our professional warriors who take the most risk believe the nation must commit to a long-term fight that includes Iraq in some form. Overall support for the endeavor wanes with distance.

This divergence isn't new. Those who have battled the enemy up close have always been more heavily invested in the cause. What's different is that in past wars, the nation was tied to its soldiers and had a familial barometer. Today most Americans have never met a Gold Star family, let alone shaken the hand of a fallen soldier. The military community is increasingly insulated even as the burden of global war swells. Within it there are those who drift in and out of the fight according to orders. But there is also a group that is distinctive--those who join the military to hunt the enemy for a living, and for the rest of us. Doug Zembiec was such a man.

When he first returned from Iraq, Zembiec relinquished command to his friend Maj. Ray Mendoza. Though they came from different backgrounds, like all of our warrior elite they shared an overwhelming martial calling. Doug was an all-American wrestler at Navy. Ray was the top heavyweight wrestler at Ohio State and an Olympic alternate. Their Marines used to joke that if the pair ever fought it would be like the movie "Clash of the Titans."

A year later, on Nov. 14, 2005, Mendoza was leading his company in an attack near the Syrian border when he was struck down. He was the only man killed in his company. I received an email from a lieutenant in his battalion that read, "It was leadership from the front but it's crushing."

Zembiec, who had returned to Iraq for another tour of duty, wrote to Mendoza's two young children. The note was upbeat, blunt and unapologetic. "Your father reminds us there are men willing to fight for people that they don't even know," he wrote. "Even now, as I write this letter in Iraq, I will honor him on the field of battle by slaying as many of our enemies as possible, and fight until our mission is accomplished."

Men who carry rifles for a living do not seek reward outside the guild. The most cherished gift an infantryman receives is a nod from his peers. When Zembiec, "The Lion of Fallujah," fell this May 11 while commanding a raid on insurgent forces in Baghdad, the loss was symbolic of all those men whom the rest of us aspired to be in combat: fearless guardians of our fellow soldiers and our nation. It's not surprising then that more than 1,000 mourners--generals and enlisted men alike--attended Doug's memorial service in Annapolis, Md. And when Defense Secretary Robert Gates spoke of his courage at the Marine Corps Association annual dinner in Arlington, Va., he fought back tears.

It has become commonplace to assert that the nation's most precious resource is our children. God knows the debt the nation owes the three little ones Doug and Ray left behind, and the hundreds of other shattered families. But during wartime our greatest asset may be our guardians. We should take solace that while we are off to a terrible start in the long war, having allowed the Iraqi battlefield to embitter and weaken the country, our nation produced men like Mendoza and Zembiec. And right now somewhere some other American walks their tracks.

The public recognizes this blessing. In July's Gallup Poll on America's most trusted institutions, the military ranked highest with a 69% confidence rating. Congress ranked last (below HMOs), with a 14% confidence rating.

So it was surprising to see that, according to an August CNN poll, 68% of Americans said Gen. David Petraeus's congressional testimony on Iraq this week would not sway their personal view one way or the other. Worse, 53% of Americans do not trust him to report what's really going on in Iraq, according to a USA Today/Gallup Poll published Monday.

This wrenching inconsistency indicates a deeper problem than a fickle public or an inherent distrust in hierarchy. The poisonous partisan climate in Washington has seeped beyond the Beltway and is now harming the public's trust in the institution that will continue to sacrifice most in the coming years. Extremists from both political parties have used Iraq as a zero-sum emotional battle for votes instead of putting the battlefield in proper context.

The evidence of this is the blatant absence of common ground. First, the Republicans declared the enemy in Iraq defeated before we started fighting, later employing invective to attack rational critics of the order of battle. Then Democrats declared the war lost just as we employed a new strategy. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, has been especially careless, declaring defeat last spring, labeling the new strategy and the surge in troops a "failure" before it began, slandering an elite warrior in Marine Gen. Peter Pace, and continuously undercutting Gen. Petraeus--most recently dismissing his forthcoming testimony as "Bush's report."

Monday's advertisement, which depicted Gen. Petraeus as a traitor, has been dismissed by Sen. Reid as an inconsequential distraction. But according to the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan research group, the ad reflects the growing distrust of a Democratic Party that may be taking cues from its leadership. Last month 76% of Republicans expressed confidence in the military to give an "accurate picture of the war," while only 36% of Democrats did.

This explains the collective skepticism surrounding Gen. Petraeus's comments but does not excuse it. For while the country can thrive as a politically divided nation, its ability to defend itself diminishes alongside faith in the fidelity of the military. The unbalanced portrayal of the conduct of our soldiers has done damage enough. To impugn our warriors' motives as political is thoroughly corrosive and hurts all Americans.

Stepping back from the froth, this week will strengthen the country if our political leaders recognize two things. First they must resist the urge to engage in what traders call "backtrading" and prevent hindsight bias from clouding future decisions. Whether or not the decision to invade Iraq was correct, whether or not our presence created al Qaeda in Iraq or attracted them or emboldened other enemies, we now face the complex task of securing America while living up to some responsibility in Iraq.

Second, they must recognize that a bipartisan course of action must be chosen in the context of a much larger war on terror. If the politicians continue pulling the country apart, this game of chicken will end badly and imperil both Iraq and the U.S. If America were hit tomorrow there would be more finger-pointing than ranks closing. That must change.

Finally, we should remember that Doug Zembiec and Ray Mendoza saw the true face of terror in Fallujah, and it cemented their resolve. Like them, Gen. Petraeus is a guardian whose lifelong calling is service to his country. He knows the enemy. He knows our limitations. And he is telling the truth.

Mr. West, a trader at Goldman Sachs and a director of the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, served two tours in Iraq with the Marines.

Wall Street Journal: Trashing Petraeus:, and the new standards of Democratic debate


Tuesday, September 11, 2007 12:01 a.m.

Important as was yesterday's appearance before Congress by General David Petraeus, the events leading up to his testimony may have been more significant. Members of the Democratic leadership and their supporters have now normalized the practice of accusing their opponents of lying. If other members of the Democratic Party don't move quickly to repudiate this turn, the ability of the U.S. political system to function will be impaired in a way no one would wish for.

Well, with one exception., the Democratic activist group, bought space in the New York Times yesterday to accuse General Petraeus of "cooking the books for the White House." The ad transmutes the general's name into "General Betray Us."

"Betrayal," as every military officer knows, is a word that through the history of their profession bears the stain of acts that are both dishonorable and unforgivable. That is to say, didn't stumble upon this word; it was chosen with specific intent, to convey the most serious accusation possible against General Petraeus, that his word is false, that he is a liar and that he is willing to betray his country. The next and obvious word to which this equation with betrayal leads is treason. That it is merely insinuated makes it worse. calls itself a "progressive" political group, but it is in fact drawn from the hard left of American politics and a pedigree that sees politics as not so much an ongoing struggle but a final competition. Their Web-based group is new to the political scene, but its politics are not so new. More surprising and troubling are the formerly liberal institutions and politicians who now share this political ethos.

In an editorial on Sunday, the New York Times, after saying that President Bush "isn't looking for the truth, only for ways to confound the public," asserted that "General Petraeus has his own credibility problems." We read this as an elision from George Bush, the oft-accused liar on WMD and all the rest, to David Petraeus, also a liar merely for serving in the chain of command. With this editorial, the Times establishes that the party line is no longer just "Bush lied," but anyone who says anything good about Iraq or our effort there is also lying. As such, the Times enables and ratifies's rhetoric as common usage for Democrats.

Late last week, for instance, we heard it said of General Petraeus that, "He's made a number of statements over the years that have not proven to be factual." This was from Harry Reid, the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate.

The Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Lantos, said Thursday that General Petraeus would not be the author of his report; it would be written "by Administration political operatives." He opened yesterday's hearing, moments before General Petraeus was to speak, by saying, "We cannot take anything this Administration says on Iraq at face value."

So far, only two Democrats that we are aware of have repudiated this political turn. Joe Lieberman, already ostracized from the party for dissent, called the MoveOn ad an "act of slander that every member of the Congress--Democrat and Republican--has a solemn responsibility to condemn." And Joe Biden, after the MoveOn ad was read to him on "Meet the Press" Sunday, replied: "I don't buy into that. This is an honorable guy. He's telling the truth."

These are the exceptions. Another of the party's activist groups, Democracy for America, released a statement about the time General Petraeus began to speak: "It is offensive that our commander-in-chief has ordered a four-star general to mislead Congress."

As General Petraeus finished his statement yesterday, Senator Chris Dodd's Presidential campaign spammed an email about "the accuracy" of the report: "The fact that there are questions about General Petraeus's report is not surprising given that it was brought to you by this White House." Thus in Mr. Dodd's view, General Petraeus, returned from the Iraq battlefield, is a complicit ventriloquist's dummy.

Can this really be the new standard of political rhetoric across the Democratic Party? There was a time when the party's institutional elites, such as the Times, would have pulled it back from reducing politics to all or nothing. They would have blown the whistle on such accusations. Now they are leading the charge.

Under these new terms, public policy is no longer subject to debate, discussion and disagreement over competing views and interpretations. Instead, the opposition is reduced to the status of liar. Now the opposition is not merely wrong, but lacks legitimacy and political standing. The goal here is not to debate, but to destroy.

Today General Petraeus testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Its Democratic Members include Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Barack Obama, John Kerry, Barbara Boxer and Jim Webb. This would be the appropriate setting to apologize to General Petraeus for the ad. Or let it stand.