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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2003
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    Dallas/Ft Worth, TX
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    439
    Guest Column: The Only Exit Strategy



    September 11, 2004

    Dear America,

    "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only
    because rough men stand
    ready to do violence on their behalf." - George Orwell

    The Marine Corps is tired. I guess I should not say
    that, as I have no authority or responsibility to
    speak for the Marine Corps as a whole, and my opinions
    are mine alone. I will rephrase: this Marine is tired.




    I write this piece from the sands of Iraq, west of
    Baghdad, at three a.m., but I am
    not tired of the sand. I am neither tired of long
    days, nor of flying and fighting. I am not tired of
    the food, though it does not taste quite right. I am
    not tired of the heat; I am not tried of the mortars
    that occasionally fall on my base.



    I am not tired of Marines dying, though all Marines,
    past and present, mourn the loss of every brother and
    sister that is killed; death is a part of combat and
    every warrior knows that going into battle. One dead
    Marine is too many, but we give more than we take, and
    unlike our enemies, we fight with honor. I am not
    tired of the missions or the people; I have only been
    here a month, after all.



    I am, however, tired of the hypocrisy and
    shortsightedness that seems to have gripped so many of
    my countrymen and the news media. I am tired of
    political rhetoric that misses the point, and mostly I
    am tired of people "not getting it."

    Three years ago, I was sitting in a classroom at
    Quantico, Virginia, while attending the Marine Corps
    Basic Officer Course, learning about the finer points
    of land navigation. Our Commanding Officer interrupted
    the class to inform us that some planes had crashed in
    New York and Washington D.C., and that he would return
    when he knew more. Tears welled in the eyes of the
    lieutenant on my right while class continued, albeit
    with an audience that was not very focused; his sister
    lived in New York and worked at the World Trade
    Center.



    We broke for lunch, though instead of going to the
    chow hall proceeded to a small pizza and sub joint
    that had a television. Slices of pizza sat cold in
    front of us as we watched the same vivid images that
    you watched on September 11, 2001. I look back on that
    moment now and realize even then I grasped, at some
    level, that the events of that day would alter both my
    military career and my country forever.



    Though I did not know that three years later, to the
    day, I would be flying combat missions in Iraq as an
    AH-1W Super Cobra pilot, I did understand that a war
    had just begun, on television for the world to see,
    and that my classmates and I would fight
    that war. After lunch we were told to go to our rooms,
    clean our weapons and pack our gear for possible
    deployment to the Pentagon to augment perimeter
    security. The parting words of the order were to make
    sure we packed gloves, in case we had to handle
    bodies.

    The first Marine killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom was
    in my company at The
    Basic School, and was sitting in that land navigation
    class on September 11. He fought bravely, led from the
    front, and was killed seizing an oil refinery on the
    opening day of the war.



    His heroism made my emergency procedure memorization
    for the T-34 primary flight school trainer seem quite
    insignificant. This feeling of frustration was shared
    by all of the student pilots, but we continued to
    press on. As one instructor pointed out to us,
    "You will fight this war, not me. Make sure that you
    are prepared when you get there." He was right: my
    classmates from Pensacola are here beside me, flying
    every day in support of the Marines on the ground.
    That instructor has since retired, but I believe he
    has retired knowing that he made a contribution to the
    greatest country in the history of the world, the
    United States of America.

    Many of you will read that statement and balk at its
    apparently presumptuous and arrogant nature, and
    perhaps be tempted to stop reading right here. I would
    ask that you keep going, for I did not say that
    Americans are better than anyone else, for I do not
    believe that to be the case. I did not say that our
    country, its leaders, military or intelligence
    services are perfect or have never made mistakes,
    because throughout history they have, and will
    continue to do so, despite their best efforts.



    The nation is more than the sum of its citizens and
    leaders, more than its history, present, or future; a
    nation has contemporary values that change as its
    leaders change, but it also has timeless character,
    ideals forged with the blood and courage of patriots.
    To quote the Pledge of Allegiance, our nation was
    founded "under
    God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
    As Americans, we have more freedom than we can handle
    sometimes.

    If you are an atheist you might have a problem with
    that whole "under God" part; if you are against
    liberating the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Asia, all
    of Europe (twice), and the former Soviet bloc, then
    perhaps the "liberty and justice for all" section
    might leave you fuming. Our nation, throughout its
    history, has watered the seeds of democracy on many
    continents, with blood, even when the country was in
    disagreement about those decisions.



    Disagreement is a wonderful thing. To disagree with
    your neighbors and your government is at the very
    heart of freedom. Citizens have disagreed about every
    important and controversial decision made by their
    leaders throughout history. Truman had the courage to
    drop two nuclear weapons in order to end the largest
    war in history, and then, by his actions, prevented
    the Soviets from extinguishing the light of democracy
    in Eastern Europe, Berlin. Lincoln preserved our
    country through civil war; Reagan knew in his heart
    that freedom is a more powerful weapon than
    oppression.



    Leaders are paid to make difficult, sometimes
    controversial decisions. History will judge the
    success of their actions and the purity of their
    intent in a way that is impossible at the present
    moment. In your disagreement and debate about the
    current conflict, however, be very careful that you do
    not jeopardize your nation or those who serve. The
    best time to use your freedom of speech to debate
    difficult decisions is before they are made, not when
    the lives of your countrymen are on the line.

    Cherish your civil rights; I know that after having
    been in Iraq for only one month I have a new
    appreciation for mine. You have the right to say that
    you "support the troops" but oppose the war in Iraq
    and Afghanistan. You have the right to vote for
    Senator John Kerry because you believe that he has an
    exit strategy for Iraq, or because you just cannot
    stand President Bush. You have the right to vote for
    President George W. Bush if you believe that he has
    done a good job over the last four years.



    You might even decide that you do not want to vote at
    all and would rather avoid the issues as much as
    possible. That is certainly your option, and doing
    nothing is the only option for many people in this
    world.

    It is not my place, nor am I allowed by the Uniform
    Code of Military Justice, to tell you how to vote. But
    I can explain to you the truth about what is going on
    around you. We know, and have known from the
    beginning, that the ultimate success or failure of the
    war in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the future of
    those countries, rests solely on the shoulders of the
    Iraqi and Afghani people. If someone complains that we
    should not have gone to war with Saddam Hussein, that
    our intelligence was bad, that President Bush's
    motives were impure, then take the appropriate action.
    Exercise your right to vote for Senator Kerry, but
    please stop complaining about something that happened
    over a year ago.



    The decision to deploy our military in Iraq and
    Afghanistan is in the past, and while I believe that
    it is important to the democratic process for our
    nation to analyze the decisions of our leadership in
    order to avoid repeating mistakes, it is far more
    important to focus on the future. The question of
    which candidate will "get us out of
    Iraq sooner" should not be a consideration in your
    mind. You should not want us out of Iraq or
    Afghanistan sooner.



    There is only one coherent exit strategy that will
    make our time here worthwhile and validate the
    sacrifice of so many of our countrymen. There is only
    one strategy that has a chance of promoting peace and
    stabilizing the Middle East. It is the exit strategy
    of both candidates, though voiced with varying volumes
    and differing degrees of clarity. I will speak of Iraq
    because that is where I am, though I feel
    the underlying principle applies to both Iraq and
    Afghanistan.

    The American military must continue to help train and
    support the Iraqi Police, National Guard, and Armed
    Forces. We must continue to give them both
    responsibility and the authority with which to carry
    out those responsibilities, so that they eventually
    can kill or capture the former regime elements and
    foreign terrorists that are trying to create a
    radical, oppressive state.



    We must continue to repair the infrastructure that we
    damaged during the conflict, and improve the
    infrastructure that was insufficient when Saddam was
    in power. We should welcome and encourage partners in
    the coalition but recognize that many will choose the
    path of least resistance and opt out; many of our
    traditional allies have been doing this for years and
    it should not surprise us.



    We must respect the citizens of Iraq and help them to
    understand the meaning of basic human rights, for
    those are something the average Iraqi has never
    experienced. We must be respectful of our cultural and
    religious differences. We must help the Iraqis develop
    national pride, and most importantly, we must leave
    this country better than we found it, at the right
    time, with a chance of success
    so that its people will have an opportunity to forge
    their own destiny.



    We must do all of these things as quickly and
    efficiently as possible so that we are not seen as
    occupiers, but rather liberators and helpers. We must
    communicate this to the world as clearly and
    frequently as possible, both with words and actions.

    If we leave before these things are done, then Iraq
    will fall into anarchy and possibly plunge the Middle
    East into another war. The ability of the United
    States to conduct foreign policy will be severely, and
    perhaps permanently, degraded. Terrorism will
    increase, both in America and around the world, as
    America will have demonstrated that it is not
    interested in building and helping, only destroying.
    If we run or exit early, we prove to our enemies that
    terror is more powerful and potent than freedom.



    Many nations, like Spain, have already affirmed this
    in the minds of the terrorists. Our failure, and its
    consequences, will be squarely on our shoulders as a
    nation. It will be our fault.



    If we stay the course and Iraq or Afghanistan falls
    into civil war on its own, then our hands are clean.
    As a citizen of the United States and a U.S. Marine, I
    will be able
    to sleep at night with nothing on my conscience, for I
    know that I, and my country, have done as much as we
    could for these people. If we leave early, I will not
    be able to live with myself, and neither should you.
    The blood will be on our hands, the failure on our
    watch.

    The bottom line is this: Republican or Democrat,
    approve or disapprove of the decision to go to war,
    you need to support our efforts here. You cannot both
    support the troops and protest their mission.



    Every time the parent of a fallen Marine gets on CNN
    with a photo, accusing President Bush of murdering his
    son, the enemy wins a strategic victory. I cannot
    begin to comprehend the grief he feels at the death of
    his son, but he dishonors the memory of my brave
    brother who paid the ultimate price. That Marine
    volunteered to serve, just like the rest of us. No one
    here was drafted.



    I am proud of my service and that of my peers. I am
    ashamed of that parent's actions, and I pray to God
    that if I am killed my parents will stand with pride
    before the cameras and reaffirm their belief that my
    life and sacrifice mattered; they loved me dearly and
    they firmly support the military and its mission in
    Iraq and Afghanistan.



    With that statement, they communicate very clearly to
    our enemies around the world that America is united,
    that we cannot be intimidated by kidnappings,
    decapitations and torture, and that we care enough
    about the Afghani and Iraqi people to give them a
    chance at democracy and basic human rights.



    Do not support those that seek failure for us, or seek
    to trivialize the sacrifices made here. Do not make
    the deaths of your countrymen be in vain. Communicate
    to your
    media and elected officials that you are behind us and
    our mission. Send letters and encouragement to those
    who are deployed. When you meet a person that serves
    you, whether in the armed forces, police, or fire
    department, show them respect. Thank the spouses
    around you every day, raising children alone, whose
    loved ones are deployed.



    Remember not only those that have paid the ultimate
    price, but the veterans that bear the physical and
    emotional scars of defending your freedom. At the very
    least, follow your mother's advice: "If you can't say
    something nice, don't say anything at
    all." Do not give the enemy a foothold in our nation's
    public opinion. He rejoices at Fahrenheit 9/11 and
    applauds every time an American slams our efforts. The
    military can succeed here so long as American citizens
    support us wholeheartedly.

    Sleep well on this third anniversary of 9/11, America.
    Rough men are standing ready to do violence on your
    behalf. Many of your sons and daughters volunteered to
    stand watch for you. Not just rough men -the infantry,
    the Marine grunts, the Special Operations Forces - but
    lots of eighteen- and nineteen-year-old kids,
    teenagers, who are far away from home, serving as
    drivers, supply clerks, analysts and mechanics. They
    all have stories, families, and dreams. They miss you,
    love you, and are putting
    their lives on the line for you.



    Do not make their time here, their sacrifice, a waste.
    Support them, and their mission.



    Lt. Kevin Brown, a 2001 graduate of the U.S. Naval
    Academy serving in Iraq, sent this letter to his
    family on the third anniversary of 9/11. Send Feedback
    responses to dwfeedback@yahoo.com.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Ft Worth Tx ( North Richland Hills)
    Posts
    2,143
    Thanks for posting that Woods. It has made me think. We've been sending a monthly "care package" cookies, candy and dried fruit to a friend of our son who's in the army in northern Iraq. He's from here in Ft Worth, a good kid. The next package will have a stronger note of thanks in it and more importantly a message of support,
    How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Dallas/Ft Worth, TX
    Posts
    439

    support the troops.....

    You don't know how much it means to them to know that you back them 100%. If you disagree with the war now is not the time to voice it. We are committed and any dissent now will have the same effect it did during the Vietnam War. The troops did not lose that war the american people did.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Posts
    35
    ooh-raw!
    Semper Fi!

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