Obama and the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 3 months ago

The Captain’s Journal is extremely disappointed in the former Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps.  But before addressing our disappointment, some background.  Normally as a Milblog we are dealing with issues in counterinsurgency, weapons and tactics, policy, strategy, and connections in the global war on terror.  Only infrequently do we weigh in on political matters.  In this case, it seems appropriate to break with tradition if only momentarily.

If we can leave behind the ugly picture of Jeremiah Wright screaming “God damn America” from the pulpit of his church or humping the pulpit (video here), Obama’s tactics for addressing his Pastor’s indiscretions are irrelevant, as are his claims that he wasn’t present when the words of hate were screamed.  The focus on examples misses the point, although there are probably copious quantities to go around.

Jeremiah Wright has said very clearly that he is a proponent of liberation theology.  This strand of thought began mid-twentieth century in Latin America as a synthesis of Marxism and Christian trappings and words.  It has since evolved beyond that into a bizarre mixture of this plus a glorification of pre-Christian cultures and religions,  concern for earth worship, struggle for the land, and ecology.

But at its heart it still holds premier the notions of redistribution of wealth and class warfare.  If Obama could somehow claim that he doesn’t hold to any of these things or that his pastor has somehow moderated the messages he delivered from this more radical bent, then it can be countered that Obama has shown that he knows what the social gospel is, declaring that Wright’s “character is being assassinated in the public sphere because he has preached a social gospel on behalf of oppressed women, children and men in America and around the globe.”

The social gospel is the earlier American version of Marxism mixed with the trappings of Christianity.  We turn to one of the foremost scholars on theology and American history, C. Gregg Singer in his A Theological Interpretation of American History for a few words on the social gospel.

Sin [is] no longer a “want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God” but the result of ignorance in which man failed to live up to the highest and the most noble that was within him … according to this conception the church was to help each individual work out for himself that salvation which nature had placed within his grasp and which he should direct toward socially desirable ends.  Salvation was henceforth regarded as largely social in content and purpose, and only incidentally individual in nature.  True enough, a major change of purpose and motivation was to take place in individual lives, but this was not an end in itself, but only a means toward an end – the perfecting of society here on earth.

Jeremiah Wright’s church espouses exactly this liberation theology / social gospel even now on its web site.  A survey of their mission statement reveals nothing of redemption, salvation, regeneration, faith and repentance, but rather of world change through the collective.

We are called out to be “a chosen people” that pays no attention to socio-economic or educational backgrounds. We are made up of the highly educated and the uneducated. Our congregation is a combination of the haves and the have-nots; the economically disadvantaged, the under-class, the unemployed and the employable.  The fortunate who are among us combine forces with the less fortunate to become agents of change for God who is not pleased with America’s economic mal-distribution!

The fact that, say, Job and Noah were very wealthy men is not relevant to Wright because it doesn’t easily fit within the framework of his system of income and wealth redistribution in the name of religion.  Obama clearly knows that his church stands for this socialism, as he said it himself.  When the truth is laid bare, Obama is shown to be little more than a proponent of class warfare.  Wright’s church isn’t about being a catalyst for redemption.  It’s all about “show me the money.”

Back to the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps.  He has formally endorsed Obama for President (far left in the photograph below).


Just eight months after taking off his uniform, the recently retired 15th sergeant major of the Marine Corps is jumping into the campaign fray, stumping for Sen. Barack Obama and echoing the Democratic candidate’s call for pulling troops out of Iraq.

“I stood up and I said I agree with him when he said we should pull out of Iraq. I think it’s time for the Iraqis to stand up and take charge of their own country,” retired Sgt. Maj. John Estrada said in a telephone interview Feb. 25.

“He’s not talking about snatching everybody out of there. He said he will do it over a 16-month period. He will deploy the troops to places where they’re needed, like Afghanistan. … He’s a guy who will use force reasonably,” Estrada said.

Estrada, 52, was the highest-ranking enlisted Marine for nearly four years before retiring in June 2007 after 34 years.

He formally endorsed the Illinois senator for president of the United States during a rally at a high school gymnasium in Beaufort, S.C., on Jan. 24. Estrada served twice at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and is well-known among the locals there.

He planned to campaign again for the senator in Texas on the weekend preceding the critical March 4 primary between Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.

“He has this — I want to call it a unifying force. I see him uniting our country more so than the others. Old, young, across all ethnicities,” Estrada said.

One wonders how Estrada sees this “unifying force” now.  It would have been honorable if he had stumped for the renewed and revised G.I. bill being worked on by Peter King, or for lighter body armor, or for a replacement for the M16A2 / M4 / SAW, or better yet spent his time visiting wounded warriors at their bedside.  If he found it necessary, then he could have engaged in the debate about force presence in Iraq and weighed in with all of the vigor of the highest ranking enlisted man in the Marine Corps.

Instead he chose to shill for a politician, and a Marxist one at that.  It is a sad time in American history when, despite admonitions to pray for the civil magistrate (WCF XXIII), pastors publicly denounce the same and call on God to damn them.  It is made all the more sad when a respected warrior aligns himself with a person who is aligned with such things.  Respected warrior no more.

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  1. On March 19, 2008 at 8:19 am, owr084 said:

    Well, murtha is getting kinda old and estrada seems like just the type of high profile ex-Marine to fill his place (but, please don’t elect him ;)

  2. On March 19, 2008 at 9:02 am, Grantk said:

    I have met Sergeant Major Estrada before while serving in Fallujah with the 2nd Marine Div. I’m disappointed to say that I feel his decision to support Sen. Obama may have more to due with race than his qualifications and abilities to serve as commander-in-chief of this country. Its no doubt that Sgt. Maj. Estrada has definately served his country respectfully, although knowing how the Marine Corps operates, It pains me to think he would vote for a man that may dramatically cut funding of the beloved Corps that gave so much to the Sgt. Maj. for 34 years. Not to mention the Marine Corps already has the smallest budget of any military branch.

  3. On March 19, 2008 at 11:14 am, usmcwife said:

    I am disappointed by not surprised. At one time, the military set the standard for integration and unity of race with one standard for all. That philosophy has been thrown out the window to the point where the military has become one of the biggest race hustling organizations out there. Does anyone find it surprising that the last three Sgt Maj’s of the USMC have ALL been black? Are we to believe that the “most qualified” to be the most senior NCO of the Corps the last three times “just happen” to be African-American? There are countless other examples (and promotions) where the military now cultivates and supports the ideology of race grievance — and where the most important qualification is the color of one’s skin.
    The EO process is used as a weapon to bludgeon others who try and maintain standards — with no accountability on the part of the “accuser”.

  4. On March 19, 2008 at 8:30 pm, MIMack said:

    Sergeant Major Estrada has given more to the country then the Marine Corps gave to him (just like all true warriors). He has earned the right to support who he wants with his blood. I don’t agree with him, but I pray to God for more like him.

  5. On March 19, 2008 at 9:50 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    Hi Mack. It’s good to finally hear from you after so long. You shouldn’t be such a stranger. Please drop by more often – okay?

    We agree on many things, you and I, including how underpaid our warriors are. I am not in a position to know whether he gave more to the Corps or vice versa. But I have to disagree with you on one point. This is a non-negotiable for me. Socialism is the taking of wealth of one party by the power of a badge and gun, and giving it to persons more politically powerful. It is legalized theft. Period. Further, Obama (and his pastor) confuse the roles of church and state (strange that I would say such a thing, being the strong proponent of religion in state that I am – what do I mean?).

    The role of the state is the administration of justice, not mercy and grace. The role of the church is the administration of mercy and grace, not justice. This says nothing about laws, for all laws are legislated morality, and will be based on some system of ethics. No, the left has it all backwards. They accuse the right of mixing church and state, when the real culprits are they.

    Obama’s pastor (and I have not heard Obama repudiate it) believes in the power of the collective to redistribute wealth. By being a proponent of liberation theology, by definition he believes these things. The state is the savior, the governor and arbiter of mercy and grace. In the end, it’s all about money, wealth, assets … stuff.

    NO MAN – not Estrada, not me, not any politician – has the right to take wealth by the power of a badge and gun and give it away to others. This is immoral. Taxes for roads, military, etc., sure. But subsidies and redistribution of wealth? No.

    Estrada’s military record doesn’t make him any different than me in terms of what is right and wrong. His being a Marine doesn’t place him above moral law. He has the right to discard the uniform and shill for a politician. But having a right doesn’t make it right.

  6. On March 20, 2008 at 6:04 pm, MIMack said:

    I think my problem is with the assumptions being made. Jeremiah Wright made the comments being broadcast on tv (and being repeated ad naseum on talk radio). And I think you on probably correct on where you see his beliefs. I also agree Obama has to have been influenced by Wright. But research just on Obama show him to be a liberal, but well within the paramenters of acceptable, as opposed to his Pastor. And I can’t take the next step and say Sergeant Major Estrada embraces Wright’s views. Reading Sergeant Major Estrada reasons for endorsing Obama all are related with the war. Sergeant Major Estrada has seen the behind the scenes truth of the war. And he has lost Marines to political gamesmanship. I have traveled down the same roads as he has, and I fully understand him. In two days it is the 2nd anniversary of the death one of my best friends, and a former soldier of mine, killed in an IED attack. If it had not been for “political convienence” he would not have been killed, at least at that point. And there are many other stories just like that. You know how I am dealing with this. Doing everything I can to eliminate those incidents, but still serving, doing my duty. Maybe Sergeant Major Estrada needs to do something to at least try to stop something he feels needs to be stopped, and he does not care where Obama came from, but rather where he is going. Again I disagree with him, but I see where he is coming from.
    Now I think the 2 times I have written into your blog have been the two times I disagreed with you. Usually we are on the same sheet of music. We both want to win this war, and we both want what is best for the US.

  7. On March 20, 2008 at 7:25 pm, dcw said:

    I have met Sgt. Major Estrada and he did not impress me in the least. In 2004 while floating in the Northern Arabian Gulf, he came to visit the USS Belleau Wood. I was a Gunny ( an officer) at the time and I expressed to him that I was disappointed that the leadership in the Corps was going downhill as many of our Marines were not upholding the grooming and high discipline standards the Marine Corps was supposed to have. We now have Marines who do not take pride in their attire and basically look like gang bangers while on liberty. They walk around with baggy pants, shirts down to their knees and drive around base with their stereos blasting loud enough to hear a mile or more away and no one seems to care. The Sergeant Major disagreed with me and said “how can we be doing so well in combat and undisciplined in garrison at the same time? That’s not possible.” Basically, if I was to translate that, it would say something like ” I have reached the highest position possble as an enlisted man and I really do not care, no do I have to care.” He was just a political figurehead. He got what he wanted out of the Marine Corps and is now taking a stand with someone who does not support the military. If Sgt. Maj. Estrada was so concerned about the war ending, why did he not end his career sooner?? Probably because it did not suit him.

    BTW. Sgt. Maj Estrada was in Avionics prior to becoming a 1st Sgt/Sgt Maj. I doubt if he ever saw combat (even in Iraq).

  8. On March 20, 2008 at 11:06 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    I appreciate everyone’s input. Mack, this might be only the second comment, but we’ve exchanged plenty of mail. My respect to you, and you’re right. We both have interests in this war. You have been there and lost brothers, I have deployed a son there. But I maintain my original position. While a debate about the virtue of force size in Iraq is a viable topic, it is not one for this post. We’ll wait until later for that. But note that I said that if Estrada wished to engage in such a debate, he was free to, and would take with him the authority of the senior enlisted man in the Corps in that debate.

    He didn’t have to shill for a politician to do that. If his only concern was his men, he didn’t have to align himself politically. In fact, he would have had more affect had he at least given the appearance of neutrality. It would be like a person deciding he wanted to be a “whistle blower,” and then conveniently selling his story to the highest bidder after he had finished his own career.

    Doesn’t work for me.

  9. On March 20, 2008 at 11:37 pm, dcw said:

    Forgive me for my typing error in my previous post. I meant to say “I was a Gunny (am now an officer).” I left out a couple words.

  10. On September 1, 2011 at 7:49 pm, C ROBERTS said:

    I was personally trained by CSM ESTRADA at MCRD San Diego, served 8 years in the Marine Corps. I can tell you from experience that his decison was not based on race, it was based on facts. Iraq had nothing to do with the war on terror. Therefore my fellow men and women in uniform, who commit their very lives, to defend the Constitution of The United States of America, should have never been put in harms way in Iraq period! Oh, and By the way CSM Estrada is Hispanic, so I guess there goes your race card! @dcw the unit I was in, a little know unit called 1st ANGLICO, and we called in plenty of gifts from above by those “Avionics” guys! No disrespect sir!

  11. On September 1, 2011 at 10:46 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    You’re entitled to your views (although not to post comments on my web site – that’s a privilege). But the problem here is that you undercut the power of your own argument by invoking the justification or lack thereof for OIF. My own views are very complex, and would take a month to convey (you simply have to go back through all of my posts on Iraq). I delineate my support for the operation into phases (OIF1 / OIF2 / OIF3). Again, it’s complex.

    But that’s a world apart from using the authority of a military command to shill for a particular policy decision.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Department of Defense,Marine Corps and was published March 17th, 2008 by Herschel Smith.

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