Friday, June 23, 2006

Supporting troops asserts hope for future

Guest opinion by Sen. Mike Crapo


U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, a Republican, is the junior senator for Idaho.

I see them most often when driving. Yellow ribbons adorning vehicles and windows—reminders that fellow American men and women are going about routines far more dangerous than our usual drive to work or trip to the store.

We hear intermittent success stories and, regrettably, more doom and gloom in our media about the progress of the rebuilding and emergence of democracy in places far from home. These reports depict single observations of events and trends. Each may be valid, but should be considered with the bigger picture. When we listen to our troops, we hear another part of the story.

In an April visit to Iraq, retired four-star General Barry R. McCaffrey, who served during Operation Desert Storm, under President Clinton as the U.S. Drug Czar, and now as an NBC military analyst, reported: "The morale, fighting effectiveness and confidence of U.S. combat forces continue to be simply awe-inspiring ... I probed for weakness and found courage, belief in the mission...an understanding of the larger mission...unabashed patriotism and a sense of humor ... Many planned to re-enlist regardless of how long the war went on."

These words reflect sentiments of the Idaho members of the 116th when I visited with them in Texas in the summer of 2004 and in Iraq last fall.

If this is the general feeling of troops on the ground, why should our commitment at home be any less?

Theirs is patriotism by the minute. One army private told of the detonation of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) six feet from where he and his patrol were standing. The device exploded in a different direction, sparing him injuries, beyond ringing in his ears that lasted for hours. The seconds-long detonation could have changed this man's life forever. Yet he, like his fellow soldiers, continues on. Insurgents have learned that fleeing the scene of an explosion attracts attention, so perpetrators in this attack remained anonymous in a sea of people on cell phones.

The enemy is sometimes invisible, always determined and clearly not invincible.

Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi's death reveals the bravery of Iraqis who infiltrate the web of insurgents (many times on pain of death to them or family members). It underscores two core necessities for our troops' safety and success: the people's trust and the willingness of Iraqis to withstand horror and despair in hope for a better future.

Supporting our troops asserts our hope for the future. Some claim to support our military members but not the mission—perhaps in an attempt not to repeat the shameful reception American troops received upon their return home from Vietnam. Yet this makes the entire sentiment void of meaning. Supporting the troops means support for their "belief in the mission" and an understanding of "the larger mission," that of taking the fight against terrorism to its roots. This is what the yellow ribbon on the back of a passing car means.

"National Review" writer Andrew McCarthy put it best:

"Hopefully, Zarqawi's demise is a clarifying event in the United States for the administration, the Congress, and—hope against hope—the media. This was the real American military in action, in all its effectiveness, doing what the American people sent it to do despite often impossibly difficult circumstances: namely, eliminate nondescript terrorists who strike in stealth, then weave themselves back into the civilian population."

Last week, Congress approved much-needed funding for our troops on the ground. This will equip those who are taking freedom's defense to those whose creed and actions aim to destroy what our country stands for: liberty and individual human rights free from murderous tyranny and oppression.




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