Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Whither Iraq

"To fight out a war, you must believe something and want something with all your might. So must you do to carry anything else to an end worth reaching. More than that, you must be willing to commit yourself to a course, perhaps a long and hard one, without being able to foresee exactly where you will come out. All that is required of you is that you should go somewhither as hard as ever you can. The rest belongs to fate. One may fall-at the beginning of the charge or at the top of the earthworks; but in no other way can he reach the rewards of victory."

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Memorial Day Speech, May 20, 1884

President Obama quoted Holmes last week as he addressed the graduates at West Point.

President Obama also said this to those soon to be commissioned officers. "... this is what success looks like: an Iraq that provides no haven to terrorists; a democratic Iraq that is sovereign and stable and self-reliant."

This is the same man who on October 22, 2002 said in front of a few hundred anti-war demonstrators at Chicago Plaza, "I don't oppose all wars." Obama said, "What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war..."

Time will tell which Barack Obama was correct.

I am as confused about the war in Iraq as anyone.

Was it good strategy?

Was it worth it?

Was it a dumb war?

Experience is a tough teacher. First you get the answer, then you get the lesson. And we don't have the answer yet.

What I do have is some insight you might not have on the situation in Iraq.

I have friends who are there right now. Men on their second and third deployment.

Here is an excerpt from an email from one of them in the last few days.

"A couple of things that are somewhat exciting is about a week ago my Brigade Commander was flying from a base from the North part of the Area of Operation when his wing man had mechanical problems and had to make an emergency landing in the desert.

The helicopter that was having problems was a UH-60 Black Hawk. The helicopter that the Brigade Commander was flying in was a UH-47 Chinook. No passengers were flying in the Black Hawk when it had to make an emergency landing.

When they landed the pilots and crew chief loaded up on the Chinook and continued their flight pattern back. Our Charlie Battery is our farthest perimeter to the North and one of their platoons was quickly spun up as the quick reactionary force that went to go secure the helicopter on the ground.

Eventually a couple of mechanics flew out to the landing site and was able to fix the Black Hawk in which the pilots were able to fly it back.

What was pretty cool about the story was that while that platoon was out there securing the site a Sheik and some Iraqis went out to them with some food to give to the troops. That was a small gesture from them to us that they support us and we have that continued friendship."

That is one reality that you won't hear from any other news source.

What does it mean?

I don't know. But I think that Sheik is like the Sheik that sought me out last April.

Last April when I was in Iraq, a Sheik wanted to meet me. Due to logistics, it never happened.

He had lost his son and his brother in an attack on him. The Sheik had been the target. Why? Because he was a good man. One that longed for peace in Iraq. And one that saw the U.S. as a force of good willing to fight evil.

The Sheik wanted to meet someone else that had lost a son in the Iraq War. Some day, I hope to meet him and come to understand better what this is all about.

From another veteran of Iraq, this excerpt from an email this week. He was the Captain of Pete's troop and one of the first on the scene that day.

"I fly over the spot where Pete was killed at least once a week. Never loses its impact on me. And I see his name every time I walk in or out of division headquarters. There are huge placques in the entrance hall with the names of those that were taken, broken down by year. Pete is toward the bottom of the 2007 boards. I say good morning and good night to him everyday.

So far we've only put two names on the 2010 board. Progress is real, no matter what the press may want to say. This is still a dangerous place but I truly believe we are going to get this sorted out soon and end this with dignity and honor."

Until there is evidence to the contrary, I'm going to listen to the folks with boots on the ground in Iraq. Which includes the U.S. military and the Iraqis. And not the evening news.

Which gives me hope. And peace.

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