As the troop levels in Iraq increase to the number required to fully carry out the current offensive referred to as The Surge, the Run-and-Hide rhetoric from the Democrats and turncoat Republicans in Congress also has risen to a level that can best be described as shrill.
Both houses of Congress have passed bills calling for our defeat in Iraq, which President Bush will rightfully veto, and once again the issue of Weapons of Mass Destruction is the focus of the pro-terrorist arguments. The WMD issue is and has been a diversion, useful for limited political purposes at home, but in the long run harmful to the US, our allies, and our troops who are fighting this war.
So once again, it is time to revisit those halcyon days after 9-11, but before we invaded Iraq, to take a look at what was really going on. First, everyone and their brother, going back to 1990 and the Gulf War, believed that Saddam Hussein had and would use WMDs. He had gassed the Kurds, killing thousands, and was actively working to build a nuclear bomb, leading politicians from the middle of the Clinton Administration onward to call for his expulsion, overthrown or death whichever came first.
But then came 9-11, and our successful invasion of Afghanistan. US troops joined with the Northern Alliance of Afghan fighters which had been actively, but not successfully opposing the Taliban. Together they made short work of the Islamic extremists who had turned Afghanistan into a living hell and had provided a haven for the leaders of the terrorist movement that attacked us on 9-11.
During that fighting, a little known but historically significant event occurred that would have far-reaching ramifications on American politics and unified support for the War on Terror. A Taliban leader, Abu Al-Zarqawi, who was close to the leadership of Al-Qaeda, and would become much closer, was seriously wounded in the fighting.
His wounds required extensive hospitalization in a modern facility for short-term stabilization, long-term treatment, and then would require extensive physical rehabilitation in a secure environment.
Al-Zarqawi was evacuated and transported not to Pakistan, not to Somalia, not to Syria, not to Iran, but rather to Iraq, to Baghdad in fact. (The fact that this occurred should give us a better idea of the extent and resources of the world terrorist movement.) There he was given sanctuary, security, treatment and rehabilitation all under the watchful eyes of Saddam Hussein, whose son Uday ran the hospital where Al-Zarqawi was being treated.
Ultimately he was back on his feet, so to speak, and was released. But Al-Zarqawi did not return to Afghanistan, or follow Osama Bin Laden, the leader of Al-Qaeda, into the sanctuary of the mountains on the border with Pakistan. Instead, he stayed right where he was in Iraq.
Why? Because the Taliban had been effectively demolished in Afghanistan, there was no army to speak of, a major political reform movement followed the defeat of the Islamic extremists, and he no longer had a political or military power base.
But in Iraq, Saddam Hussein gave him sanctuary and training camps to mold a new generation of suicidal extremists along with the security and financial support to carry out his mission. It was obvious to anyone who was monitoring world-wide terrorist activity that Iraq would be the launching pad for the next wave of terrorist attacks on the US.
George Bush was given this information and decided that it would be best to take out Iraq, including its leader Saddam Hussein and any terror groups he was supporting, before we were attacked again.
Bush had enough support in America to carry out his plan. We had been enforcing no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq since the Gulf War, international sanctions had been in place, but strangely enough, not working for the better part of a decade, and Americans were in no mood for diplomacy anyway. Bush had promised to track down and "smoke out" the terrorists who had attacked us, wherever they were hiding, and if that was Iraq, so be it.
But somewhere along the way someone convinced Bush that we needed an international coalition supporting us to effectively carry out an invasion of Iraq without harming our international standing. Here is where the WMDs came in.
Bush and his administration created a list of reasons why we needed to invade Iraq for presentation to the international community. Saddam's pursuit of WMDs was on that list, although pretty far down from the top. But since WMDs in Iraq would be more of a danger to his neighbors, and even our so-called allies in Europe, than they were to us since Saddam didn't have the delivery capabilities to reach the US, they became the focus of the drive for international support.
Unfortunately, the center for international support was in New York City in the Untied Nations building. But in that building, dozens of alleged diplomats who should have been solidly on our side, were secretly taking huge bribes, hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes, from Saddam Hussein through the UN administered Oil For Food program, to let him circumvent the economic sanctions, which is why they weren't working.
As later investigations would show, these diplomats included representatives from France, Germany, Russia and China, all of whom were on the UN Security Council that would have the last say in whether that august body would support Bush. Surprise of surprises, they voted to "get tough" with Saddam, and to enforce even more sanctions, but no way would they support an invasion.
So we went ahead, with huge support from the United Kingdom, Poland and dozens of other countries across the globe that fully understood the ramifications of letting Saddam go unchecked - and weren't a bunch of bribe-taking thieves and charlatans.
But in the eyes of the American Left, also known as the Democratic Party, it wasn't the right coalition, therefore it wasn't valid, and the criticisms began - small at first, but growing over time. These same critics, by the way, were saying that a successful invasion of Iraq and overthrow of Saddam would take three years and cost tens of thousands of American lives.
We all know how wrong that prediction turned out to be. Our troops devastated everything in front of them from the southern border of Iraq to Baghdad, and were poised to destroy Saddam's northern army, which turned south from Kurdistan and headed toward Baghdad to do battle with our forces, but mysteriously melted away into nothing on the way south.
And right there, amidst a stunning victory, the criticisms began. We didn't use enough troops, we didn't anticipate such a quick victory, we didn't plan for the aftermath, we didn't secure the borders, we didn't have enough MPs, we didn't stop the looters, we didn't secure weapons caches, we didn't do this, we didn't do that. The fact that we had overthrown, and eventually captured Saddam and his murderous, rapist sons, and in the process had totally disrupted Al-Qaeda's plans for further attacks on us, was disregarded as inconsequential.
Then, horror of horrors, it was revealed that the much anticipated (or dreaded) WMDs were nowhere to be found. Suddenly, WMDs became the only reason why we invaded Iraq, and suddenly George Bush and his administration had become world-class liars.
Frankly, I think that response had far more to do with our shutting off the bribery pipeline than anything remotely involving real criticisms of progress in the War on Terror.
I believe, based on hard experience that can't be learned in any formal school setting, except for the University of Hard Knocks, that when you encounter a potential adversary, the extent of the weapons he may use is NOT the first thing you need to know. When you are facing a potential adversary, the first thing you need to know is whether he is in fact an adversary - in other words you need to know intent.
If you leave an office building late at night, your car is on the far side of the parking lot, in the dark, and you suddenly see a hulking figure between you and your vehicle, you don't ask yourself whether that person is armed, and with what. You ask yourself what that person intends.
For all you know, it may be a security guard, assigned to walk you to your car safely. But if he is not, if he is in fact a mugger, your first responsibility is to ascertain intent, not weaponry.
Prior to the invasion of Iraq, Saddam Hussein and Abu Al-Zarqawi's intent was evident all across that country. So we went in and took them out before they could carry out their plans.
Yet, from the point it became evident that we couldn't immediately find WMDS, regardless of the fact that a new political system was born in Iraq, regardless of the fact that we are helping rebuild an army that serves its citizens rather than murdering them, regardless of the efforts to bring an end to age old hostilities that have constantly kept the Iraqis from even dreaming of, much less achieving, their full potential nationally and internationally, and regardless of the fact that we have killed tens of thousands of terrorists elsewhere, rather than here, our efforts in Iraq have been portrayed by America's Democrats and the mainstream media as an unworkable mistake.
Nonsense. I don't know if I am more surprised by the outlandishness of the claims by the Run and Hide proponents, or that so many Americans seem to be unaware of just how difficult and dicey any military campaign can be. There are no slam dunks.
We won WWII, but not without costly and lethal mistakes. Take some time to review the battle history of the North Africa campaigns, the battle at Anzio, the Battle of the Bulge, the Battle for Leyte Gulf, just to name a few. Major mistakes were made on all of those fronts and cost lives in numbers that Congressional Democrats and the media would salivate over today.
But each time we recovered, and drove on to victory. If a Republican sitting in the White House had been presiding over a war rife with the kind of mistakes that occurred on FDR's watch, the calls for impeachment would be deafening.
I don't agree with everything that the Bush Administration has done, and I shouldn't be expected to, nor should anyone else. But it is important despite occasional disagreements to keep the war in perspective, and not take our eyes off the ultimate goal which still is to keep our borders secure and defeat world-wide terrorism.
Our troops have helped create a new Iraq whose citizens have a chance for freedom and democracy. This new Iraq can be a real ally to the US, a stabilizing force in the Middle East, and a deterrent to further terrorist attacks against us.
Not everything that was done in Iraq was done perfectly, yet we still are showing tremendous progress on all fronts. To arrive at these conclusions we must view the war from historic and military perspectives, and above all we should listen to the troops.
One reason I dedicated this column to the HMM-161 Greyhawks, who are again serving proudly and effectively in Iraq, is because I served in 161 when I was in the Marines. In fact I spent most of my active duty time in that unit.
I heard from two current members of my former unit within the last week, both deployed to Iraq, both career Marines. When you communicate with the people who are actually tasked with doing the fighting for the 99 percent of America that is not in the service, and the 93 percent of America that has never been in the service, one word comes across consistently.
There are things these Marines, and by extension all our service members, know because they are in the middle of the fighting. They know we are winning, they know the other side is taking a horrendous beating compared to our casualties, they know Iraq is progressing to democracy and sustainable freedom, and they know the biggest threat to achieving an overall victory is not the terrorists, but the US Congress.
I heard a Democratic Congresswoman say on Fox News last Saturday that 60 percent of the Americans believe we should withdraw from Iraq immediately. Bull! I'd love to see the poll that she is quoting, and I don't mean the results, I mean the methodology. I'd love to see how the questions were worded, who was polled, and what choices they were given for answers.
Even polls that are done honestly are going to be skewed since the media reports only on car bombings, suicide bombers and American casualties, thus skewing our knowledge and thus our opinions. It takes time and effort to find out what is really going on in Iraq and the answers aren't in the mainstream media or polls.
What Americans really want in Iraq is evidence of progress and victories. Based on what I hear from the people actively engaged in the fighting there is plenty of progress and there are plenty of victories but the media has no interest in reporting them.
So I will pass this on to all who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, especially my Marine brothers and sisters, particularly to those in helicopters, and especially the Avionics personnel of the HMM-161 Greyhawks. Regardless of what you may have been told, your predecessors who fought in Vietnam didn't just win every battle, we crushed the communists, and twice they were ready to surrender until they were bailed out by communist sympathizers in the US Congress and the media.
Ultimately South Vietnam fell not because we ever lost anything, or did anything wrong on the military front. South Vietnam fell because our government was infiltrated - and some who are responsible for the debacle in Southeast Asia 30 years ago are still in Congress today - and they pulled the plug on an ally who demonstrated in 1972 that they could stand pretty much on their own if we still supported them.
The same thing is happening today, but there is one huge difference. The Vietnam vets got no support from the general populace and far too many Americans willingly believed every lie they were fed by the media.
But we are still here, and we know the truth. As the Gathering of Eagles in Washington, D.C., on March 17 showed, we can and will stand up for our country, ourselves, and most especially our troops. We don't need the mainstream media because we have the Internet. We can communicate with each other, we can communicate with you, and we are doing it.
We will not let the same thing happen to you that happened to us. We will not desert you as previous generations of Americans did to us. We fully understand the enormity of your task, but we also understand and support your ability to carry it out.
For those of you in 161's Avionics section I would also pass on one last point. When I served in 161 in Vietnam, and flew gunner in addition to my regular duties, we lost three members of the Avionics section KIA, and five more wounded, out of the 20 killed in our deployment.
Not one day has gone by that I don't think of my friends from back then, those who survived, and those who did not. It was difficult to say the least, the conditions were atrocious, and many of us refined 'bitching' to a high art form as a way of relieving the tension.
In the years since, your predecessors have gone on to many other endeavors - teachers, small business owners, entrepreneurs, writers, farmers, fishermen, builders, administrators and managers to name just a few. Most married and became parents, raised families, contributed to their communities. In short, we achieved the American dream and made contributions on many fronts.
But for all of us, regardless of what happened in the US Congress, and despite our complaining while in the combat zone, (I admit I was one of the biggest offenders) our time together in the Marines, especially as members of the HMM-161 Avionics section, was an unparalleled experience.
So take a moment when you can, and absorb every facet of your current deployment. Commit to memory the faces, the names, the sounds, the smells, the sensations of where you are, and what you are doing. If you are a writer, take notes. Keep copies of your orders. Get home addresses for your friends in 161 and other units.
The day will come when this will end, and you will understand what I am saying now. You will be the victors, you will be the ones who put terrorism down. You will want to reunite. You will want to remember, not forget.
Above all, stay 'motivated' and dedicated to the task. You are winning over there. Those of us who did serve, and did fight, know and understand this.
America pulled the rug out from under us and our allies three decades ago. We will NOT let that happen to you. Remember that 25 million veterans and our families, regardless of political affiliation, are on your side and are fully supportive of you.
As difficult as it may seem, try not to pay attention to the nonsense you hear from Congress or in the media, and don't let it get you down.
Concentrate on winning the war over there. We have your backs over here.
Monday, April 30, 2007