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Springer Journal: I Support the Troops, But ...

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PINEHURST, N.C. — It is hard to have a day, or an hour for that matter, go by without hearing someone say "I support the troops, but not the war." They are talking of course of the on-going conflict in Iraq. I have a little trouble understanding this position on Operation Iraqi Freedom. Too frequently the statement reflects a political or ideological belief, rather than a more complete understanding of just what is happening in Iraq.

I read e-mails written by the troops in Iraq, some on their second or third deployment in the Global War on Terror. These troops profess a genuine belief in what they are accomplishing there. Certainly they are concerned about the roadside bombs and the death and wounding of comrades in arms. They know that casualties will happen in combat. They are quite proud of the contributions they are making to Iraq's infrastructure ... schools, hospitals, water and electricity grids, etc. They are also proud of their security operations which assist the Iraqis with elections and the drafting of a constitution.

There are also media reports of congressional delegations making brief visits to Iraq. Members of both political parties come home and report favorably of the progress they see. They also comment on the high state of morale of the troops they see ... quite often troops from their constituency back home. For example, Congressman Henry Cuellar, a democrat representing the area around Laredo, Texas recently returned with high praise for what he had seen while visiting Iraq. From an interview with the media, the San Antonio Express-News reported that Congressman Cuellar noted "... he was impressed with the projects underway, including schools, clinics, and water and electric plants." The congressman also stated that "the morale is astounding."

So when someone remarks that "I support the troops, but not the war" I sense a dichotomy. Since the troops, in large measure, support the war, how does one support the troops but not the war?

I fully realize there are many who believe we went into Iraq under false pretenses. Some go so far as to accuse President Bush of "lying" to Americans and others around the globe with the threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD's), especially since no WMD's were found following the attack of Iraq and the demise of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. This "lying" charge, if true, applies to politicians of all parties, think tanks, academicians, pundits, and the United Nations. And me too!

Clearly there may not have been any WMD's found following the conflict. However, intelligence sources from many areas and countries reported that there were WMD's in Saddam's arsenal. UN Resolutions demanded that he report such inventories of weapons which had been outlawed as a consequence of the first Persian Gulf War in 1991. Saddam did not comply. So President Bush can be faulted for going to war on faulty intelligence. So can the United States Congress which voted for the same action if Hussein refused to cooperate with the UN Resolutions. I do not believe George W. Bush, nor the Congress, nor the UN, nor our coalition partners can be accused of "lying."

Another bumper sticker slogan about the on-going war in Iraq is the comparison to our long and costly struggle in Vietnam over 30 years ago. Here again simplicity of statement simply does not jibe with reality. I served in Vietnam. I saw the organized, trained and equipped military forces from North Vietnam which entered the fray by the millions. They were a foreign army on South Vietnam soil. There was also a very large number of indigenous forces (Viet Cong) fighting there with the logistical and personnel support of the North Vietnamese. Together they greatly outnumbered the South Vietnamese forces and their ability to defend their territory and people. There was also a Cold War in high gear at the time with Communism vs. Democracy loving nations. Today it is a world war on terror being prosecuted globally.

There is one obvious similarity with Vietnam and Iraq. It is nearly impossible for our troops to readily identify the insurgents. In Vietnam it was the Viet Cong forces and their sympathizers ... men, women and children. In Iraq it is the Islamic extremists, the Baathist holdovers from Saddam's regime, and terrorists entering Iraq from neighboring nations. Again it is men, women and children who wear no uniforms or identity. Like the booby traps of Vietnam days, the roadside bombs of Iraq are the weapon of choice for the insurgents. But, there is no large external army supporting the relatively small number of enemy forces which are trying to destroy any attempt at a democratic Iraq ... an Iraq where freedoms known to other nations can flourish.

As this conflict in Iraq continues, there will be "Cindy Sheehan like" protests to bring the troops home. These protesters will exclaim their support for the troops but not the war. Maybe they should sit back and reflect on what America really stands for, and how we have helped democratize nations around the world over the past century. They may also want to realize that never have we used war to realize the gains of natural resources following our victories. So the "no war for oil" slogan doesn't hold up either.

And bringing the troops home before the mission is complete is not an option either ... they know why they are there. And they want to see it through.

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