"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

My road to Vets for Freedom

So I'm sitting in front of my computer this morning, doing my daily news catch-up as I kill the time before I have to go in for a night flight, and I come across this article by an Iraq veteran who summarizes fairly well the complete abdication of responsibility by Congress in both backing their unanimously confirmed counterterrorism leader - Petraeus - and coming up with any sort of post-withdrawal strategy to deal with the inevitable blood-letting. It wasn't so much the content of the article which drew me as the name - Gallo - since my commissioning ceremony was MCed by Mr. Walter J. Gallo, an esteemed alumnus of my college who served over 30 years in the Marine Corps and has two sons both serving right now. I thought perhaps this was one of those sons, but after googling myself silly for half an hour, it turns out the name is simply coincidental. However, Alex Gallo's biography is quite interesting on its own (a good summary is here, and I might add that condescending twits like Charles Rangel should take note that Mr. Gallo is attending the Kennedy School of Government after his stint in the service before they open their mouths and bemoan the poverty-stricken background and lack of intelligence that forces men and women into the military).

The search also led me to a group called
Vets For Freedom, an organization of about 5000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who think that we should be talking about victory - not withdrawal - in the halls of Congress, and whose experience overseas (along with men like, oh, Petraeus) I think lends pretty good credence to their perspective that defeating the insurgency is possible. Perhaps Harry Reid should avail himself of the wealth of such experience that exists, or go to Iraq and sniff around for himself (that is, if he can find any soldiers or Marines willing to place their bodies between him and the jihadists. I guessing any such list, if it even existed, would be pretty small). Anyway, an article beside Mr. Gallo's featuring the group's leader, 1stLt Pete Hegseth, makes several good points particularly applicable to the all-night grandstanding we saw on the Hill yesterday. Among my favorites:

  • On Guantanamo - "We bend over backwards to conform ourselves to the detainees’ way of life,” . . . “I think their food is better than what my guys got.”
  • On "redeploying" and leaving only forces behind for "counterterrorism" - in a nutshell, it's “an abandonment of the Petraeus doctrine and a return to the Rumsfeld doctrine.” And “That’s what we did for three years . . . We sat on big bases. We sent out strike units to go hit what we thought were pockets of al Qaeda and just hoped things would get better. So now we’re supposed to push out further into the desert and do counterterrorism? How are we going to know who we’re striking?”
  • On how fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq has caused us to take our eye off al Qaeda elsewhere - "At this point, al Qaeda has declared that Iraq is the central front in the War on Terror . . . and if we leave, they’re going to spin that p.r. ‘til the cows come home." On that same note, today we learn that coalition forces captured the most senior Iraqi in the AQI chain of command who, apparently, is also the "conduit" between AQI and al Qaeda at large. I submit that a) this is fairly good proof, on top of the already huge existing body of evidence, that AQI is part of the larger al Qaeda network Democrats claim to want to destroy, b) as such, we should fight and kill AQI members where they are right now, in Iraq, and c) that this capture was brought to you by General Petraeus' current strategy of putting troops on the streets, thereby grabbing AQI by the nose, kicking them in the ass, and shooting them in the head; and would be virtually impossible, or at least much harder, to achieve by pulling back to FOBs as we did in the past.

Both he and Gallo also touch on Congress' complete silence on what will happen if we simply leave (detailed here as well).

Well, all in all Google helped turned this into a much more interesting morning than I'd anticipated when I woke up. Thank you Google, now how's about you give China the same access the rest of the world enjoys. But I digress. As the argument on Capitol Hill gets louder and more venomous, the prospect of withdrawal more frighteningly real, and my own deployment gets closer, I find myself turning more and more to primary sources i.e. those who've actually been there. While there are any number of good columnists who, I think, present valid facts and sound thinking, it becomes clear that, apart from fighting AQI, we're also fighting over which conception of Iraq is the right one. Congress has one, while those deployed have one that seems quite different. So from now on, I will try to dig deeper and present more of those primary sources, adding their links where applicable and ultimately my own first-hand perspective (which, from the cockpit of a helicopter, will be admittedly limited) once I get in theater. In the debate between who's holding on to facts, and who to fantasy, I'm afraid the experience of those who have front row seats to the battle is being shamefully overlooked.

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