"O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' 'Tommy, go away'; But it's 'Thank you, Mister Atkins', when the band begins to play ..."
Tommy, Rudyard Kipling (excerpts continue below.)
Britain's Prince Harry, formally Prince Henry of Wales, has been granted his wish to go to Iraq with his unit, the Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons which actually use armor not horses), and do a tour in the combat zone.
According to media reports he is going against the wishes of some in the Royal Family, presumably the Queen, but he is going anyway. Welcome to the club Prince Harry.
Mothers and grandmothers have a real thing about seeing young men off to war, much the same as young men have a real thing about going. But, as much consternation as this causes the Queen, I agree with the Prince's decision, and in the long run he will be a better man for it.
Before you go off on that last statement, I am not saying that war makes a better man. What I am saying is that by going to the war zone, where he undoubtedly will see a side of life that may have been invisible to him as a Royal, he will have an opportunity to learn some basic truths about the human condition. In later life he will have the opportunity to use those truths for the better good, both on the world scene and for his fellow veterans.
"You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all: We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational."
There was a lot of media speculation about Prince Harry and whether Al Qaeda would target him in an attempt to make a big media splash. They probably will, and he will have to be on his guard day and night to make sure the terrorists don't get to him.
But, the fact is, in a war zone, anyone on the other side is a target, and when the bullets start flying and the bombs start blasting the other side usually can't tell one enemy combatant from the other, just because it gets that hectic. So the best advice I can give to the prince is blend in. If he looks like everyone else around him, it will be harder for the terrorists to focus their fire just on him.
There also is the distinct possibility that he won't come under fire at all, given the success the British have had with pacifying their sector of Iraq. The reduction in force that was announced by Prime Minister Tony Blair last week was totally misreported in the Pro-Terrorist Media, as a 'retreat' or as 'cut and run' or as a repudiation of the west's strategy and tactics for Iraq.
But I made the effort to actually listen to Blair's speech, during which I learned that at the height of combat in 2003, Great Britain had about 40,000 troops in Iraq. That number has been steadily reduced over the last three years because the British area of responsibility has steadily become more stable, and the local Iraqis have steadily taken on more responsibility for their own country, with good results.
The British contingent was just under 8,000 troops before the announcement, and about 1500 of those are being redeployed. I find it interesting that right on the heels of the downsizing in Iraq, the British also announced that 1,000 more troops are being sent to Afghanistan to deal with resurgent Taliban forces. Doesn't sound like quitting, retreating, or cutting and running to me.
Some in the media even speculated the the Brits were downsizing their force to keep Prince Harry from going to Iraq. So much for that theory.
The British forces have performed magnificently in in Iraq, and I believe that America owes a huge Thank You to Tony Blair. He has stood beside us through thick and thin. The British and our numerous other allies in Iraq (isn't it funny that you only hear about them when they decide they can draw down their forces too) have been true friends, and for that we owe them our gratitude and our support when they need it.
Some say that Blair has sacrificed his political career for the US. If that is true, I will say with total confidence that sacrifice for the greater good, the real greater good, not a momentarily convenient political definition, is the kind of sacrifice that will stand up to the scrutiny of the ages. If legacy matters to Tony Blair, he has cemented his by his resolute and steadfast support for democracy and the betterment of all mankind.
To Prince Harry, I will offer one caution. Regardless of what you experience in Iraq, you will come home a different man, and it is likely that many acquaintances and family members who didn't share your experiences won't understand them. That is to be expected, but it will be up to you to always remember what you did, why you did it, and the men and women who stood beside you.
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!" But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;
For example, in recent days we have learned of a travesty at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where our wounded veterans come for care and rehabilitation. One of the long-term living facilities was found to be vermin and mold infested, and deficient in many other areas all of which add up to basic living conditions.
When I first heard of this I was totally dismayed, because it shows that once again, another generation of veterans is putting all on the line for a country that is shunting them off to the side and not even seeing to their basic comforts as they recuperate from their wounds. This may have been an isolated incident, not representative of all care facilities, but it happened in our nation's Capitol of all places! It shouldn't have happened at all.
This incident brings back memories of the woeful conditions in VA medical facilities during the Vietnam War and similar neglect of veterans that goes back as far as the origins of our country. Sometimes I wonder why we still have people with the courage and dedication to serve.
But here is where people like Prince Harry can make a difference. It is rare in these days to have a man in his position volunteer to serve at all, much less in a combat zone. But a man of his influence, who in time will be able to couple that influence with experience, can do much to ensure that his comrades in arms across the globe are not forgotten when the fighting is over.
I wish him a successful tour and a safe return to home and family. Prince Harry has already shown that he has the capacity to stand up for the less fortunate, and once back in England he will have an opportunity to become a champion to all he served with, and all who stand up for the cause of freedom.
I hope he takes advantage of that opportunity.
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please; An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!
Tuesday, February 27, 2007