General Martin Dempsey’s response to a letter from Gold Star mother Debbie Lee, whose Navy SEAL son Marc Lee gave his life in 2006 at Ramadi, is a profile in neither courage nor gentlemanliness.

Mrs. Lee wrote the general after he dismissed a possible ISIS takeover of Ramadi by saying that it would be no big deal because Ramadi is "not symbolic in any way."

In response to a letter from Ms. Lee, Dempsey wrote:

“I've read your letter, and I do apologize if I've added to your grief.”


I wish somebody with a heart and appreciation for the sacrifices of American military families had helped the general with his letter. Then he might have written Ms. Lee something like this:

I've read your letter, and I am heartbroken that I have added to your grief.

The “if apology,” very popular nowadays among members of our leadership caste, is correct for trivial things: I am sorry if I made you late to the movies. It is not the right form if the offense is making light of the significance of a place American soldiers fought and died to take. A general of all people should know that.

I’ve noticed that a lot of VIPs use the if apology to avoid taking full responsibility. In fact, the only time you see a straight apology from public officials nowadays is when they are making a public apology for the sins of others long dead. You don’t hear, “I apologize for the Crusades, if they offended you.” But if somebody has gobsmacked somebody, as General Dempsey did Ms. Lee, out comes the weasel word if.

Ms. Lee accepted General Dempsey’s unmanly apology but says she will be watching his future statements. Marc Lee died in Ramadi on Aug. 2, 2006. Marc Lee single-handedly provided cover while his fellow SEALs attended to a seriously wounded SEAL Team 3 member. Marc Lee was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star with Valor and the Purple Heart.

Debbie Lee is founder of a group called America’s Mighty Warriors