Two years ago this month I left Kuwait and Iraq. I was being reassigned to a new base in the small, and little known country of Djibouti, Africa. I was asked to establish a long-term command religious program for this new base. I spent the next six months there.
The other evening I was spending some time with my friends who all share the same hobby. We sing barbershop. Between the “ringing of chords” (glorious!) one of the men asked me a question, sort of in a confidential manner, a feat not easily accomplished with thirty-five men all around you. He said, “Tell me, are we doing the right thing over there? Should we be there?”
These and questions like it are directed at me with some frequency. I’m not an expert on this war, or any war, for that matter. I have served in two of our nations wars: the War on Terrorism, and the Vietnam War. Because I have “been there, done that,” it is often assumed that I am something of an expert. At best, I am an observing participant, looking through a very small lens on the larger scene. This being said, I do have a perspective that I believe is accurate.
I keep in touch with people in our military who have recently been “in country.” Or they are there now. Or they are soon going back. Then there are those who are doing the same thing I do that I keep in touch with. The message is the same: We’re winning.
For those who think I’m just being a jingoist – think again. In fact, I expect more from the party whose views to which I’m more closely aligned. Therefore, I expect more from that party. When they fail to deliver as they should, I let them know. At times, I don’t like either party very much.
But when it comes to our military, they are the best in the world, bar none. This is not even arguable. I have seen how they perform. They are intensely patriotic, while at the same time extremely compassionate. My favorite picture is of a Marine, in the midst of a firefight, doing the fireman’s carry for a wounded Iraqi soldier (on the March to Baghdad), bringing this man to our military medical folks for treatment. That is the picture of our young men and women in uniform.
“Yeah, but what about Abu Ghraib?” some may ask. Okay, fair question. This disgusting incident was an anomaly. This is more indicative of poor leadership within that command than behavior endemic in our military. What many people do not know is that this incident took place in the fall of 2003. The military was aware of the problem and was taking the appropriate measures when the media caught wind of it in the spring of 2004. The way the media presented it, made it appear as though they had been the ones to break the story, implying that the military was covering this up. Not so. The investigation was ongoing, and those who were responsible were being disciplined through the military courts martial system. The military takes care of its own business without fanfare and finger-pointing. The guilty will be properly dealt with, of this you may be sure. We wear the uniform of our nation with pride. We don’t like having one of our own throw dirt on it.
“But are we winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people?” Yes. We are. They are tasting freedom for the first time in their lives. Freedom takes some getting used to if it has never been available to you before. Allow me to make a comparison.
Our own American Revolution began in 1776. Things were very bleak. Many of our forefathers were torn between loyalty to the British throne, and loyalty to their new land, America. We didn’t have a Constitution until 1787. Our first elected leader for president was George Washington – in 1789. It was not until December of 1791 that the Bill of Rights was ratified to the Constitution.
Now, let’s compare that to Iraq. Since these folks had the abusive yolk of a tyrannical dictator lifted off of their necks in April of 2003, they have held open and free elections, June 28, 2004, to establish an intermediary government; they have held open and free elections, January 30, 2005, to vote in leadership for the nation. They are in the process of formulating their own constitution. I’d be willing to bet it will not be the monolithic document presented to the European Union recently that was several hundred pages long (obviously put together by a committee). Our original Constitution is little more than a page long. Add the amendments, including the Bill of Rights, and it’s not much more than two pages in length.
Industry, commerce, schools, utilities, and oil production are up and running. Yes, there are car bombings, drive-by shootings, and other last-gasp terrorist gyrations. Most insurgents come from outside Iraq. Those Iraqis committing terrorist acts also had it good working for Saddam. Now they have to work and pull their own weight. They liked it better under the brutal dictator. Too bad. He’s gone, and they soon will be.
Twenty years from now, let’s take a look back and see if this wasn’t one of the greatest liberations that has taken place since God delivered the Israelites from Egypt.
I have much more to say on this. But for now, I’ll simply say: We’re winning.