Mary Katharine Ham

I know a Marine. He sits in a bar in North Carolina. He came there by way of Fallujah. The same close-cropped blonde fuzz glimmers on his head in the dim light as burned under the hot sun of Iraq. He’s the greatest storyteller I know, spinning tales about his overseas exploits, both combat and otherwise—only with the express permission of the mixed company present, of course.

He speaks with a wit and color that would surprise John Kerry. He is not a quiet man. But I wonder what he would say this week. I wonder what he would say to the Iraq Study Group’s proposed “change in the primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq that will enable the United States to begin to move its combat forces out of Iraq responsibly.”

I imagine he’d just shake his head at me. He knows what the new “primary mission” is, as does anyone who’s even skimmed the report, and it’s not the type of mission Marines are accustomed to. The mission is to lose. Lose slowly, lose “responsibly,” lose diplomatically, but lose without a doubt. My lively Marine friend would likely be disgusted into silence.

But there’s another kind of man who is not silenced by the prospect of an American military defeat. He’s downright enthused.

Tim Russert’s first word for the report was “extraordinary.” Later in the day, he had much more to say:

This was such a sobering report. Powerful. Passionate. Bipartisan. Unanimous. I think it's not only a wake-up call for the Bush White House, but for the whole country. We are in very difficult straits…

I mean, when you sit here and read these recommendations, it is numbing how passionate, how bold they are, and how bleak the assessment is.

These accolades for a report, which acknowledges that “a slide toward chaos could trigger the collapse of Iraq’s government,” a “humanitarian catastrophe,” and a “propaganda victory” for al Qaeda, but insists that the U.S. should carry out its “planned redeployments even if the Iraqi government” is not ready.

How do people find so much to be gleeful about in such a plan? There is nothing “extraordinary” or “bold” about quitting in the face of an enemy who wants to swallow up our very way of life in one sharia-abiding caliphate by way of suicide and dirty bombing. Smiling and pretending there is honor in giving them a win does not make it so, unless you are in Washington.

I know a Marine. He sits on a low bench at Walter Reed Hospital, white paper crinkling beneath him as he works his left knee back and forth. Below the knee is about 12 inches of tibia, wrapped at the end in gauze and tight bandages while the wound heals.

Mary Katharine Ham

Mary Katharine Ham is editor-at-large of, a contributor to Townhall Magazine.

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