Snipers aim for a soldier's heart; congressional leaders aim for the heart of why he serves: Honor, Country, Duty to both. But to congressional leaders, there's no honor in Iraq. There can't be: it's immoral. Illegal. And it's not even their country's war: it's Bush's.
Telling parents their child died for George Bush is telling Christa McAuliffe's folks she died for Ronald Reagan.
JFK committed the US to space, but it wasn't his race -- it was America's. Astronauts knew the risks, the myriad of things that could go wrong, yet signed on, boosted by their countrymen as much as by rockets. There's no such lift for soldiers today; they're stranded, ignored unless exploited, gains unseen, achievements unheard. The Tomb of the Unknowns isn't only in Arlington.
It's one thing for leaders to oppose a mission, another to undermine it; one thing to make course corrections, another to sabotage the ship, one thing to overhaul an engine, another to wreck it in flight. The time to abort a mission is before it's launched. Once launched, it's all hands on deck. But for congressional leaders, it's every man for himself.
It's not rifles or smart bombs or Humvees or night vision that separate American troops from others: it's Honor.
Walter Reed can give soldiers news limbs, but where do they get honor lost? There was honor in firemen's fight to save those in Twin Towers, honor in Flight 93's Todd Beamer struggling to save those on the ground in D.C., honor at D-Day, honor in Desert Storm: but to congressional leaders there is no honor in Iraq: only pity.
And potshots at America's new ally.
Every problem in Iraq is being attacked in Iraq by Iraqis and Americans together, yet congressional leaders snipe.
- Snipe that Iraqis wouldn't choose democracy: they have.
- Snipe that Iraqis wouldn't approve a constitution: they have.
- Snipe that Iraqis wouldn't share oil revenues: they have.
- Snipe that Iraqis wouldn't reintegrate former Baathists: they have.
- Snipe that Iraqis wouldn't fire corrupt commanders: they have.
- Snipe that Iraqis wouldn't turn against Sadr: they have.
- Snipe that Iraqis wouldn't turn against Al Qaeda: they have.
- Snipe that Iraqis wouldn't welcome American troops: they have.
- Snipe that Iraqis troops are cowards: they're not.
- Snipe that Iraqis politicians are bickering, partisan, and self-serving.
Yet congressional leaders bicker on, partisan on, self-serve on, proclaiming all the while Iraqis will never be statesmen like them.
Statesmanship may be the stance, but hunting is the game, the bigger the game the better.
Summon a general shouldering 160,000 American lives -- his own son soon to be among them - to an ambush disguised as a hearing and to blasts, disguised as "disbelief," that he lies.
Demand the head of a general, this one Marine, Vietnam vet, 40 years dedicated to his country, whose name itself -- Pace -- means "Peace" in his father's native Italy, telling him he can't be trusted with the future of America's fighters because of his past with America's fighters, his own son included. To his peers he's a man of integrity, to congressional leaders he's unfit.
- that he pledged and lived a life of sacred honor,
- fought, as Vice-Chairman and then Joint Chiefs Chairman, to assure that troops shall not have died in vain,
- that more Marines -- 5,521 -- died from five weeks at Iwo Jim than all services have in four years in Iraq.
Congressional leaders demanded his head. Marines routed Al Qaeda in Anbar: on Capitol Hill, they haven't got a chance. Such are the ways of leaders paying lip service to troops while kissing up to backers.
Who exploited Abu Ghraib more -- Al Qaeda or congressional leaders? How many leaders came to troops' defense saying those few betrayed their buddies and their commanders, their commander-in-chief included?
Wronging prisoners is a capital offense; wronging military leaders is a Capitol pastime. Friendly fire in battle is deplorable; on Capitol Hill, it's routine. Collateral damage is despicable, collateral damage to troops matters as much to congressional leaders as nursery tots did to Timothy McVeigh.
Congressional leaders love to mesmerize, hypnotize, repeating again and again that Iraq is a fiasco staged by Bush, waged by Bush, controlled by Bush, unaltered by Bush, conducted by Bush.
Unanimous advice of the Joints Chiefs? Never mentioned. Unanimous judgment of the world's intelligence communities? Never heard. Unanimous resolutions by the UN Security Council? Never happened. Unanimous conclusion by the 9/11 Commission that a failed Iraq will be the top breeding ground for attacks against Americans? Never mind.
Iraq isn't a quagmire -- it's a crucible. Masks are burned off, character stands bare, make-up is wiped off, what you're made of shows through.
Rob troops of honor, parents of belief, Iraqis of hope: and what's left? A world peopled by the two-faced. Abandon hope all who enter here.
And prepare to be lulled by their lullaby. Within their world there's no Heaven, no Hell below us, Above us only sky, no countries, nothing to kill or die for, no religion too, no possessions, no need for greed or hunger, all the people living for today, living life in peace, sharing all the world, the world will live as one: just Imagine. Thus it is sung, thus it is sold. What a wonderful world it would be.
But that world is not this world. That world has no snakes; this one does. That world has no rapists, killers, thieves, child molesters; this one does. And this world has terrorists. Only in an imaginary world would they vanish
Only in their imaginary world would Saddam not have rearmed as sanctions ended and as he pledged. Only in their imaginary world would there be
- no North Koreans arming Saddam with outlawed missiles,
- no weapons experts snuck in past inspectors' eyes,
- no Iraqi experts ordered not to leave,
- no millions siphoned from Oil for Food,
- no UN officials bribed,
- no "friends" kicking back,
- no financing terrorist attacks on Israel,
- no race with Iran to nuclear-arm,
- no Libya nuclear-arming already,
- no A.Q. Kahn exposed since there'd be no one to expose him,
- no No-Fly zones since there'd be no sanctions,
- no attacks on Kurds north and Shias south when Saddam was again free,
- no mass graves, rapist rooms, wires electrocuting testicles,
- no millions of barrels of oil gushing out, billions of bucks gushing back in,
- no haven offered to Al Qaeda when Afghanistan was attacked but Iraq was not.
All they are saying is give peace a chance: Saddam had 17.
How different the world would be were today's congressional leaders in power in 1957. Three years earlier, Brown v. Board of Education; three years later, Arkansas National Guardsmen blocking blacks from enrolling in Little Rock Central High. Ike sends the 101st Airborne, nationalizes Arkansas National Guard, Blacks integrate, Supreme Court enforced.
But congressional leaders, content with Saddam like Orval Faubus was with segregation, would have pled for the status quo, letting the Supreme Court issue opinions -- and the UN issue resolutions -- but God forbid they ever be enforced.
Like Ike, Washington and Lincoln faced challenges unsought yet sought victory. Such times would cow today's congressional leaders. They not only seek defeat now, they'd tell the world how to defeat America again: homemade bombs, Hollywood stars, and heroic-to-themselves bloggers are all that's required.
Blue Angel pilots soar due to crews on the ground and Americans backing those crews in return. Soldiers succeed in combat because of team support and Americans, in turn, supporting those teams. But that's history. Marcus Welby is passé, Jack Kevorkian is Chief of Staff, Rosie the Riveter dims, Susan Sarandon shines.
Congressional leaders -- Saddam's defense team -- proclaim they know now what they didn't know then and thus would have let Saddam go. In their imaginary world with their imaginary friends Schroeder and Chirac, they'd have contained him. No sweat, no threat.
Nor would there have been lessons learned from Iraq because there'd have been no Iraq to learn lessons from. IEDs -- kryptonite in Iraq -- wouldn't have exploded nor would suicide bombers. There'd be no protesters: no soldier deaths to protest.
Congressional leaders would flood Afghanistan with troops and be welcomed as liberators, no formerly anti-Soviet turned anti-American jihadists among them. Poppies would disappear, democracy would pop up in a civilization, like Iraq, thousands of years old. Bin Laden would be seized or, should he flee to Pakistan, tribal Pakistanis - with no Iraq invasion to goad them to ally with the US - would embrace American troops and rally to rout Al Qaeda.
We've seen this play -- and this ploy -- before. Washing their hands of a war whose unpopularity they helped create, concocting Pilate programs so they didn't get nailed, they ask not, What is truth?, but What is Honor?
Such is the imaginary world of imaginary leaders -- pretenders to the throne, pretenders to the noble, pretenders to good.
Little boys love toy soldiers; little leaders love toying with soldiers, toying with honor, playing heart games, mind games, while affirming they can touch hearts, touch minds of Muslims around the world.
Contrast congressional leaders' world with the one war fighters see:
- a man who had weapons before and swore he'd have them again -- and use them again -- is gone;
- a people terrorized for decades are free from him but not from Al Qaeda, not from neighbors, not from other terrorists in their midst.
There's honor in helping them, or should be. There's an ally gained from helping them through their stumbles and struggles, or can be. There's security for America as Iraq's enemies who are America's enemies are annihilated. But sacrifice and selflessness are not congressional leaders' style.
Theirs is a world of one-liners and put-downs, cartoonists and comedians, in-crowds and the trendy and the fashionable and zingers, sermons about imposing democracy while foisting civil war, rants about Halliburton while the real war profiteer, Michael Moore, waddles away. In their world Cindy Sheehan marches into combat; in a soldier's world, medics would get her help. Billed as a world peaceful and loving, beneath the mask it's a world of bullies and cut-throats, soothing on the outside, savage within.
A soldier's world is one of straight-shooters, in more ways than one. Asked if more troops will likely die in Iraq, David Petraeus answered, Yes. Asked if billions more will be spent, David Petraeus, answered, Yes. Asked if Iraq was worth it, David Petraeus answered,
Sir, I wouldn't be here, and I wouldn't have made the recommendations that I have made if I did not believe that...this is about continuing to commit yourself to something that is bigger than self.
No wonder congressional leaders have lost faith; faith in themselves is the only faith they've ever had. Soldiers have faith in something, and someone, bigger.
Iraq is about faith: faith that our troops know what they're fighting for, faith that their commanders do everything they can to see them through and see them live; faith that Iraqis want to live free; faith that their prime minister is risking his life -- like the slaughtered sheik leading Anbar against Al Qaeda -- for his country and not for spoils; faith that all men are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights; faith that American civilian leaders do their best with the light they have for one nation under God.
There are honorable Democrats in Congress. The majority of House and Senate leaders are not among them
Nor is a senator, strengthened by sips from Lake Superior, scolding General Abizaid that hope is not a method. To which he replied, Despair is not a method.
Despair: literally meaning? "Hopeless."
The only thing hopeless about Iraq is congressional leaders.