By Grady Hawkins
Donn Esmonde's column in Sunday's (yesterday's) Buffalo News reached a new low, even for our main stream media. The subject was Friday's funeral for western New York native Jonathan Cote. As everyone knows, Cote was taken prisoners in Iraq, held for 17 months before being murdered by his captors.
Esmonde's comments were an embarrassement to us all. He demonstrated an ignorance and lack of depth that are truly staggering.
"Cote was an American classic, a military-minded James Dean," gushed Donn. But he was only warming up as he continued "With sculpted cheekbones and Colgate smile, he was a 21st century Jack Armstrong."
I wonder how many folks out there know who Jack Armstrong was?
But Esmonde pushes on with even more drivel: "Dress him in jeans and T-shirt and you had a Hollister ad...send him on a mission and-as it turns out-a hero."
This one is my favorite: "His lust for adventure... made Cote a force of nature."
This is nothing more than jingoistic pandering. Esmonde has morphed into a modern-day P.T. Barnum, a huckster selling a tragedy.
Jonathan Cote's death is indeed a tragedy. And it forces us to ask alot of questions, and avoid the answers.
Cote was a hired soldier. Perhaps he went back to Iraq for the adventure, I don't know. But would he if the money hadn't been on the table?
Jonathan Cote and his fellow soldiers-of-fortune fly very low under the radar. They work outside the chain of command and are accountable to no one. The ordinary American soldier has little use for them. After all, its not in their contracts that they have to fight anyone.
They get very little help from anyone in the field. They are on their on, and very vulnerable.
And the attitude of the average Iraqi toward who they see as nothing more than a mercenary might be hard to judge. Blackwater has a horrible reputation.
An American soldier captured by insugents might have a chance. After all, he is in uniform and fighting because he has no choice. Not much of a chance, but at least a slim one.
A hired soldier will have no chance at all. Jomathan Cote knew that. He paid the ultimate price.
I cannot imagine the grief and pain being suffered by his family.
I don't know if his death will even mean anything. I don't know if he died in vain.
Donn Esmonde tried to create a military mythology. He failed. Worst of all, he failed Jonathan Cote and his family.