Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Politician or Patriot?

I was absolutely fascinated by two separate articles in the past few days.

The first article I read caught my eye because of the headline. “Outrage: The Funeral Crasher.” Seeing the words “funeral crasher” definitely had my interest. As a civilian pastor and as a Navy Chaplain, officiating at funerals is a responsibility of the highest order, and it is an honor to assist families in what ranks as one of the most difficult moments in life.

Apparently, according to several news stories I read, Lt Governor Catherine Baker Knoll of Pennsylvania, took it upon herself to attend the funeral of a Marine Staff Sergeant, killed in Iraq just two weeks ago. Lt Gov Knoll was not invited to the funeral service. The family was unaware she was even coming. Arriving late, Mrs. Knoll sat next to a family member of the thirty-two year old Marine. Turning to the woman, she mentioned that our government does not support this war, gave the shocked family member her card, and departed.

After much hue and cry from Pennsylvanians, particularly military members past and present from around the nation, Governor Ed Rendell issued a letter of apology to the family over the weekend. Then came a letter from Lt Gov Knoll to the family of the fallen Marine expressing how saddened she was that her actions were misunderstood. Misunderstood? Excuse me, ma’am, but you had no business expressing your personal political views on the current War on Terrorism at a funeral of a warrior killed in battle, or on any other issue, for that matter. Wrong time. Wrong place. Wrong words.

As for the comment that our government doesn’t support this war, let’s see if I have this straight. You might have been thinking the government of Pennsylvania. But then there is no indication of a lack of support for the war being mouthed by your boss, the governor. And surely, you can’t be referring to the United States government. President Bush is committed to this War on Terrorism, and Congress, for all its rancor, is backing him. Now, if you’re talking about the French government under President Jacques Chirac, or the German government under Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, then you are absolutely correct. Those governments do not support our efforts in this war. Though ironically, Chirac’s anti-US position softened considerably last week when the newly elected president of Iraq, Ghazi al-Yawer, came to Paris for a visit with the French leader. How I would have enjoyed listening to their closed-door conversations!

The second article I read that was of great interest came from a British newspaper, The London Telegraph. The British press has not exactly been supportive of this war. The reporter did a special report on the response of the Iraqi people to the persistent bombings that have killed some twenty-five thousand of their countrymen. His headline says it all: “Defiantly, they ignore the bombs and queue to join the Iraqi army.”

Ever since I was in Iraq immediately following the take-over of Baghdad, I have periodically written about the Iraqi people simply wanting an opportunity to establish themselves as a free nation. They now have that opportunity with our military there to take out the insurgents, help rebuild the expanding infrastructure of the nation, and provide training for their police, military, and security personnel.

One young army recruit, Ali Hamza, had this to say: "It might be chaotic but I'm not afraid because I am willing to join the army and that has many dangers anyway. Also, in the new army people are respected."

Wafaa Aumran does not believe the responsibility should be entirely shouldered by the men. She wanted to join the army because it was the responsibility of Iraq's women to work alongside men "in order to save our country". She said, "I don't expect there to be any difference between me and the men especially when we go out on missions. I have taken all the security precautions I can - you cannot stay in a position that you are afraid to ever move."

The article concludes with this. Major Abdul Qadir, 40, the intelligence officer for the 1st Bn 1st Brigade of the Iraq National Guard, said soldiers living outside the barracks had received letters and leaflets from terror groups warning them that they would be assassinated. The officer, who wore American combat fatigues after traveling to work in civilian clothes, said: "If we are not going to serve our country then who is going to serve it for the future? The US will leave and then we will be left on our own."

What a contrast between the anti-war position taken by certain politicians in our country, like Lt Gov Knoll, and the level-headed approach to rebuilding their country as exemplified by these members of the Iraqi Army.

We are Americans. We dare not let these folks down.

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