Special to WorldTribune.com
By Grace Vuoto
Radio talk-show host Michael Savage is furious, calling for “someone to go to prison” for the tragedy that occurred Aug. 6, 2011 in Afghanistan.
A Chinook helicopter carrying 30 American service members, including a contingent of elite SEALs was shot down in suspicious circumstances. The incident took place in the heart of the summer, when Congress was out of session and many reporters also took a break. Yet, Mr. Savage — who hosts one of the nation’s top talk shows — noticed immediately that something was afoul.
In an exclusive interview with WorldTribune.com, Savage said he was so upset by the incident, “I wrote a book about it.”[RELATED: What happened to SEAL Team Six? The most serious scandal of all ]
A Time for War, published by St. Martin’s Press in February, is a work of fiction, a political thriller that opens with a helicopter crash, recreating the Aug. 6, 2011 tragedy. He depicts what must have been going through the minds of those men as the aircraft was going down. Yet, despite his attempt to raise awareness of the incident, there has been little attention given by the media and political elites to this story.
“I am incensed,” said Savage. “There has been no press coverage of this and no congressional investigation.” Despite the publication of the book, “there was still no reaction,” he said. “And right now, Congress is more interested in sexual harassment in the military than they are in delving into what happened to our elite warriors.”
Savage said the incident “stinks to high heaven.” Among the questions he wants answered are: Why were so many of our elite warriors placed in one helicopter? And why was an old, Vietnam-era helicopter chosen for the mission? Why were there no support helicopters? Why were the troops not permitted to return fire? Who gave the order to put them all on one aircraft? Was it then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta? Who was the commander of the mission?
Savage was the first to give Karen and Billy Vaughn, parents of slain Navy SEAL Aaron Vaughn, a platform on his nationally syndicated show, The Savage Nation. In addition, he said, his book was “published by a major New York Publisher” and even that was insufficient to draw interest in the story.
“There has been zero reaction,” he said in dismay. “It’s not about me. I could care less [about media attention for himself]. I just want justice for those SEALs,” he said.
Families of three deceased soldiers, along with military experts, held a press conference on May 9 at the National Press Club, outlining the case. Retired Maj. Gen. Paul Valley referred to the fatal crash as laden with “a constant plethora of lies and deceit.” Many in the aircraft had assisted in the killing of Osama bin Laden only 93 days before the aircraft went down. The story was featured briefly, in a few national news outlets, as the families, with lawyers assisting them, have demanded a congressional investigation.
However, Savage, who is the author of 29 books, six being New York Times best sellers, and a veteran commentator of the political scene, said he is not optimistic that Congress will investigate this.
“Congress is anti-military,” Savage said, adding that this goes back to the era of President George W. Bush. Back then, “troops were falsely accused and had to be rescued by lawyers.” He has donated thousands of dollars and proceeds from book sales to assist soldiers who have been falsely accused of committing crimes in combat.
“And Republicans don’t have the guts to do it,” he said in response to my question about who could possibly lead a congressional inquiry on behalf of the deceased SEALs.
Yet, in his view, there is no denying this is a major scandal, not just of the Obama presidency, but in American history: “How do you loose more SEALS in one incident than in any other time in the nation’s history?” he asked. “It is simply shocking that this story has not caught fire. If you put this into a fictional story for a publisher, they wouldn’t publish it as it sounds impossible.”
At that moment, we both burst out laughing, perhaps to relieve our mutual angst in addressing a story of such emotional resonance — the nation’s heroes betrayed. Instantly, we were no longer interviewer and interviewee, but fellow conservatives banging our heads against the wall, commiserating on a preposterous set of circumstances, a world turned upside-down.
“It’s much bigger than we may think,” Savage mused as we discussed the fact that seven of the eight Afghans who were scheduled to go on that helicopter refused to get on the plane at the last minute and were replaced by others. I could almost hear the wheels of his brain turning, churning. That fact in particular struck a nerve. Savage said he would join me in a relentless drive to call upon members of Congress to take up the cause.
I then asked him to address the recent severance of his long-term relationship with Talk Radio Network, the former syndicator of his hit show. He said the change in time slot, from 6-9 pm (EST) to 9 pm-midnight (EST) “has been a tremendous adjustment for me” but that he had at last made the transition. More important, however, his new employer as of October 2012, Cumulus Media Networks ”is a fabulous company to work with,” he said. “There is no censorship. I feel much freer than in the last situation. I enjoy the show every night.”
Michael Savage pointed out that his ratings are soaring and that he is now on bigger stations than before.
For years, he was the third most-listened to radio show in the nation, with 8-10 million weekly listeners; he is now rebuilding his audience share in the new setting at galloping speed. He depicts his current callers as “very intelligent;” many are listening to his show as they are going home, returning from “high-powered positions.” This is a “much more educated audience,” he said.
I asked him why he continues to do such difficult work, which is so full of stress; so much pressure from haters, so much of the world to grasp and comment upon in little time. “Why am I killing myself?” he chimed in. “I ask myself that same question. But would you ask Rodin ‘why don’t you stop painting, why don’t you stop working on that beautiful piece of art you just did and sip a glass of wine instead?’ ”
The thought of no longer broadcasting a show “is unthinkable,” he said. “The only salvation is work. Work. Work. Work.” He explained that his mind is “turned on all the time” and he can’t shut it down. “Even my dreams are productive.”
I pressed the point further that certainly he could continue to keep his mind engaged by reading and writing but that radio requires a different and exhausting level of commitment. “It’s a contact sport,” he said, like a warrior who enjoys the combat to keep his skills sharp. “Something motivates me. It is anger for everything that is going on. I enjoy it at the end of the day. And I don’t want to see these bastards destroy the country.”
“You have a vocation, then,” I asked, “to fight for the truth?”
“Vocation,” he said in agreement and deep thought: “Vocation or vacation. Which will it be? I can’t vacate my mind.”
Our discussion came to its natural end. Michael Savage provided the answer to the real question I was asking at the heart of the interview: Why does he fight the fight every day? Why was he the first to fight the good fight for our troops? It is because, he, like them, is on a mission.
Dr. Grace Vuoto is Editor of Culture and Politics at WorldTribune.com and the founder of the Edmund Burke Institute for American Renewal.