Friday, April 16, 2021
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Why we should stick it out in Iraq

Let’s face it: Americans are sick of the war. They are bored with it. When our tanks were dramatically zooming across the desert everyone was in favor of war. But the dramatic stuff is over, the harsh reality of war has set in and now the people have changed their minds.

The war, though still important, is placed in the back pages of our newspapers. Only feature pieces get on the cover now because features are written as stories and are supposed to entertain.

Americans are like the Roman crowd in the movie “Gladiator.” Maximus kills all of his opponents quickly without any dramatic flare and the bloodthirsty crowd is struck dumb by the harsh reality before them. “Are you not entertained?”

Americans may be bored with the war, but it is not over and they need to face this fact.

While I did not agree with the reasons given for starting the war, I did believe it needed to be fought. Saddam Hussein was a brutal murderer and dictator and we would have ousted him in the first Gulf War if the United Nations had allowed us.

But in removing Saddam now we have been given an opportunity, an opportunity to build a new kind of Middle-eastern nation that blends Islam with freedom, equality and prosperity.

Unfortunately, the planners of the war did not prepare a plan for after the military phase was over. But the Americans in Iraq are starting to find solutions now. They are working hard to accomplish the very difficult job of rebuilding a broken nation with a history of internal conflict. While the media and the public may not focus on the thousands of little successes happening every day, the soldiers do see them.

In almost every soldier interview I’ve read, the soldiers are optimistic about their mission. They see how the people respond to them and they see the small steps being taken.

They understand what the American public does not: that a success of this sort takes time. We live in a culture of instant gratification but war is not instantly gratifying.

Our soldiers have been trained to be patient. How many of us could stand outside all night at attention? How many of us could sit for hours with our eye to a scope, watching and waiting?

And so they see what we do not, that progress is present in Iraq, that with enough time and support we can achieve a real victory in the Middle East. A free Islamic nation can serve as a model for other nations, but not if we pull out now.

The world has seen this type of plan succeed before.

During the Cold War the Soviets wouldn’t let their people go abroad for fear they would see the wealth of capitalist America. Soviet people were stunned when simply visiting our grocery stores because they couldn’t believe the variety of foods available to the average American. The model of prosperous West Germany led to German re-unification. And South Korea is trying this approach by trading with North Korea.

But the American people don’t see this opportunity for success because they are too busy comparing Iraq to Vietnam. The comparison started long before Iraq really was a problem.

The only real similarity between Iraq and Vietnam is that the public is outspokenly against the war. But people try to maintain that they are good citizens by saying, “I oppose the war in Iraq, but I support our troops.”

What the fuck is that supposed to mean? The war in Iraq is being fought by the troops. If you really supported the troops, you would support what they are fighting for and trying to do. What they really mean is “I don’t support our troops or the war, but I don’t want our troops to be killed.”

So why don’t we all stop pretending to support our troops and actually support them? Why don’t we take their word, since they are the ones who are in Iraq?

If the soldiers were as angry about the war as the public is, they would not still be fighting. They would be deserting or rebelling, as dissatisfied soldiers throughout history have done.

Jim Sheeler, in his story “Final Salute,” writes about a Marine who “explained how he believes it could take more than a decade until the sacrifices made by the military pay off. The American public, he said, would have to learn to be patient.”

About 3,870 soldiers have died in Iraq trying to accomplish something. Are we going to kill the rest by declaring them failures?

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