Monday, September 17, 2007

Speaking truth to power

I know the liberals love this line- "speaking truth to power". Sometimes this line backfires on them.

An Iraqi War soldier decided he would "speak truth to power" and he aimed that truth directly at his senators in the pages of the New York Daily News. Sometimes that truth hurts.

Dear Senators and Representatives:

You shared in starting this war, now you want to end it, without regard for our progress, or the consequence of defeat?

I served in Iraq two years ago, at your request. We have a saying in the noncommissioned officer corps, "I get my power from Congress." That's you.

As a first sergeant, I led 160 soldiers from a New York Army National Guard military intelligence battalion. When politicos and pundits talk about a surge, men and women like us serve as the vital fluids that form the waves.

We deployed about two-and-a-half years after the initial invasion, which toppled Saddam Hussein and destroyed and scattered his military. My job was to continue that mission. Prepare convoys. Keep my troops focused. Make sure they ate, drank water, got necessary rest. Keep them safe, get them home.

We ran over a hundred convoys. We withstood mortar attacks, a rocket sailed right over our billets, a nearby vehicle-borne improvised explosive device rained car parts and shrapnel down around us. A rocket hit the dining facility, and mortars hit its parking lot. One sailor attached to us, having a late night smoke, lost his legs when a mortar landed at his feet.

We aggressively identified terrorist cells and local area anti-coalition forces for targeting. Our ground surveillance radar guys ran missions with Army scouts in remote areas, survived IEDs and a complex ambush. We came back home knowing there was more job to be done, but we knew we'd done well.

We did our job. Why are you resigned to failure?

Back in 2003, you — including both of my senators, Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton — voted to authorize the President to take military action. You voted, and by virtue of your authority, that means the U.S. government went to war.

You approved the appointment of Gen. David Petraeus, who last week sat in front of your committees and explained the progress of the war and the difficulties of the way ahead. It was an honest and forthright assessment from a soldier who thinks the military can achieve our objectives and that the military can create the environment for real change in Iraq.

Critics seemed to tune him out even before he began. They seem to believe that this war has already been too long and too painful to continue. Sen. Clinton, you rejected Gen. Petraeus' testimony as a "positive view of a grim situation," stating that accepting his testimony at face value required a "willing suspension of disbelief."

I wonder if being a politician means knowing how to call your opponent an opportunist and a liar to his face, without ever stating it plain.

I voted for you in 2000. Could I take that vote back, the way you seem to want to take back your vote to authorize force?

My soldiers know about the long and painful costs of war. All of us left our civilian jobs for a year and a half, and left our families and loved ones behind. Some lost their families or their marriages, and some lost their grip on home or health.

Yet none of us in the military serve under any illusion. We know what we signed up for. That's why so many of us reenlist.

Wars take time. They require steady will and determination. They compel commitment.

If fighting Saddam Hussein, and later Al Qaeda, in Iraq was important when earlier in this mission, they should still be important today. Al Qaeda is badly wounded there and elsewhere, but they aren't dead yet. Iraq is making gains as a democratic nation, but they still need help. They still need time.

Dear Senators and Representatives, you criticize President Bush relentlessly — picking apart the speech he gave last week with withering words, looking for any and every chance to bring him down.

But at least he maintains steady attention to this war. At least he seems to grasp the stakes of losing and the danger of giving up. Not so Congress.

Leaders influence the morale of their people, for good or bad. I wish you wanted to lead your constituents toward victory rather than defeat.

Nuding served in 2005 in Operation Iraqi Freedom in the Military Intelligence Battalion, 42nd Infantry Division of the N.Y. Army National Guard.

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