Wednesday, February 28, 2007

?Appeal for Courage? comes at right time

Express Staff Writer

They're far from home and so often separated from their families. Their hours are long. A free Saturday can disappear at the whim of a commander. The place is a hotbed of unfathomable divisions, and it's sometimes hard to tell friend from enemy. They believe in what they're doing, these committed men and women, but sometimes wonder whether the folks back in the states still support them. And sometimes their courage wavers.

That's when our wavering men and women in Congress need to hear from our troops.

Bucking up Congress is the idea behind "An Appeal for Courage," a grassroots effort for active-duty military to support the mission in Iraq. The appeal reads in part: "As an American currently serving my nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to fully support our mission in Iraq and halt any calls for retreat."

The authors believe that "most service members fully support the war in Iraq and feel calls to retreat by Congress and attacks by our media on our conduct and mission ... motivate our enemy while demoralizing our support at home, directly increasing the threat we face and resulting in greater American casualties." Active-duty military folks can sign the "appeal for redress" at:

Somehow they don't believe lawmakers who favor the nonbinding resolutions opposing the surge or the folks who favor Democratic Rep. John Murtha's "slow-bleed" strategy to stop the surge under cover of funding conditions support our troops. They don't buy the "we support our troops" trope of those who want us to head for the exits. They're unimpressed when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democrats say a vote against President Bush's surge strategy is really a vote to support our troops.

In brief, they have a low tolerance for cant.

"Can Congress really give General Petraeus a unanimous vote of support to lead our effort in Iraq and then turn around and deny him the strategy he told us he believes is necessary to win?" Rep. Greg Walden asked in an exceptional speech during the House debate. "A former colonel in the Air Force wrote to me recently ... and she said some in Congress say they support General Petraeus ... but 'don't want them to undertake the mission they were confirmed to do. It seems right out of Alice in Wonderland.'"

No, it's right out of the Congressional Record.

Supporting our troops? Walden rejected Democrats' "we support our troops" mantra. "Another of the e-mails I received," he said, "was from a veteran of the Vietnam War who, like many other veterans of that conflict, urged me to vote against the (anti-surge) resolution. ... He wrote: 'Our troops need unqualified support. They don't need to be told they're participating in a lost cause.'"

Precisely. Democrats and GOP sunshine patriots voting for these nonbinding resolutions say they support our troops. But consider the real-world consequences of their resolutions. On the House floor, Walden heard from another Vietnam War veteran who spent almost seven years as a prisoner of war, half in solitary confinement. "Debating nonbinding resolutions..." said the Texas Republican Sam Johnson, "only destroys morale, stymies success, and emboldens the enemy."

Sorry, but is this supporting our troops? Congress is saying: Don't let our nonbinding resolution of disapproval hit you on the way out to Iraq to fight in a war we Capitol Hill Clausewitzes believe cannot be won. Even though the Senate just voted unanimously to confirm the man who will implement the strategy he created. Even though many of us aren't committed enough to our anti-surge views to vote outright to cut funding for the surge.

Yes, the "Appeal for Courage" couldn't come at a better time. Democrats don't have the nerve to cut off funds for the Iraq surge—that might make them accountable for the consequences—and instead conspire to stop it clandestinely. Republican sunshine patriots wander, shell-shocked and incoherent, back and forth across a kind of "no man's land." And all these bipartisan bravehearts congratulate themselves on supporting their nonbinding resolutions—and the troops. Sad, really.

They need all the support they can get from our active-duty troops at "Appeal for Courage."

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