Sunday, March 12, 2006

On Friday night I was channel surfing and was lucky enough to come across "Saving Private Ryan" just beginning on one channel. Since I am a sucker for watching something I liked over and over, and I had not seen the first half of the movie for years, I settled in and turned the volume up a little.

The very beginning, where an aged Ryan walks through the cemetary on French soil, made me think about what is going on in Iraq. Seeing all the graves you can't help but think of all the young Americans who have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past few years. These thoughts were even more focused as the movie progressed into the Normandy landing and the carnage that occured there. You have probably seen it, and for me it is hard to watch as soldiers who are younger than my 20 year old son are shot, blown up, decapitated, drowned, disembowled, and generally just killed in the worst possible ways. I cannot help but wonder at the courage these men showed in leaving the relative safety of a landing craft and advancing up the beach, knowing that many of them would not live to see that evening. How were they able to do it? Presented with the same situation, how would I react? Am I a coward compared to these heroes?

If these scenes had been available in real time on cable news television back home, what would the reaction of parents, other family members, and politicians have been? How could this slaughter be justified in defeating an enemy who had never attacked or threatened us? Surely, the bloody battles in the Pacific were justified to avenge the deaths at Pearl Harbor and defeat the Japanese regime, but why were we sending America's best into the teeth of withering machine gun fire to defeat an enemy across the ocean who had no way of threatening our homeland?

I could not help but compare this to our situation today. We are assaulted daily with claims that we have no business in Iraq, that there was no immediate threat to the United States from this Facist state. We are sending our sons and daughters into harm's way for nothing. More than 2000 American servicepeople have died needlessly. There is no way we will ever establish a representative government in Iraq.

I disagree. I think that if we had been able to witness the goings on during the Second World War as we can now, the outcry would have been as strong as it is today to stop the carnage. It is only human nature to be revolted by the scenes described to us now on a weekly basis, just as the opening minutes of Private Ryan revolt any reasonable person.

Yet the arguement will be made that Hitler deserved it, yet Saddam was no threat. Let's compare them. Hitler, death camps. Saddam, advocate of eliminating Israel from the face of the earth, and paymaster to the families of suicide bombers who venture into Israel to murder innocent Jewish citizens en masse.

Hitler invaded neighboring countries and instituted facist rule over them. Saddam must have pleasant memories of walking over Kuwait and annexing it to Iraq. That he was thrown out was a very near thing. Remember that the United State Senate agreed with this mission by one vote.

Let's not forget that Hitler invaded a country we feared, the Soviet Union. After a bloody four year campaign he was expelled. Sounds like a trick Saddam decided to emulate with his invasion and eight year war with Iran, another country we hated and feared.

There also seems to be a real fascination with WMD's as well. The way I remember history Hitler's Nazi regime used poison gas to attempt the extermination of the Jews. The next widespread use of poison gas in the world that I am aware of was Saddam trying to exterminate not just Kurds, but using it in his war against Iran.

I don't know if Saddam possessed WMD's when we invaded. I suspect he did and they left the country just before the invasion, but I can't prove it. What is beyond question is that he had proven multiple times that he had the capability to manufacture and deliver them, and that he was willing to use them. I am not aware of any other current regime in the world that has demonstrated this capability and willingness.

My point is that Iraq is a very hard battle. Thousands have died, on both sides. How do we decide if invading was the correct decision? I think the comparison with Hitler above helps in deciding. Our choices were bad (invade, with all the negatives that entails, including deaths and financial cost) or worse (leave Saddam in power to continue his war on the free world, rewarding of terrorists, and murdering thousands of Iraqis every year to maintain his hold on power). Sometimes there is not a good and bad choice, there is only bad or worse.

There is no question we have made mistakes, many of them, throughout the campaign. However, we are where we are, and need to work forward from here. Remember, the Iraqi people are better off without Saddam. We are killing terrorists in Iraq, and they deserve to die. Millions of people have had the opportunity to participate in free elections and decide their future. Every American who has served in Iraq can be proud of what they have accomplished. Did they enjoy it? Probably not, but neither did the young Americans who liberated Europe 60 years ago. Remember, you can take pride in an important job well done whether it was pleasant or not.

In conclusion, thanks to all Americans who have made freedom possible for billions of people across the globe. I salute you, and recognize the sacrifice you have made. I will never forget your comrades who died making this possible and feel eternal gratitude for their sacrifice. Thank you!

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