There comes a responsibility with sending ordnance down range. Once fired most weapons are on a one way mission to unleash their lethal, stored energies. The kinematics of the weapon and the explosives package are fused to get a specific result upon detonation. Mostly those results are designed to be lethal.
There is no recall button to push on the weapons menu once you release a HARM (High Speed Anti-radiation missile) towards an emitting target. There are no self-destruct buttons, so lavishly included in most Hollywood movies, which will protect innocents from the wayward launch of a MK-83 (general purpose, high explosive, air-to-ground ordnance, a.k.a. 1000 lb dumb bomb). There is no “do over” once the hammer strikes the firing pin.
The firing or release of any ordnance is an event that demands the focused attention of the person behind the weapon. It demands sound judgment based on conditions. It requires purposeful training and rehearsal, so that its effect is maximized and its collateral damage is minimized. It needs to be fired or released calmly and methodically. A hurried release may result in a fusing error, a guidance error, or simply a poorly aimed miss.
My Marine Option Instructor (MOI) at Tulane never made his Marines carry grenades in Vietnam. It was an optional weapon for his Marines. His reasoning was sound; a nervous or unsure Marine could do more damage to his own squad with a dropped grenade than would likely happen in a full on fire fight with the enemy. Weapons must be firmly and competently handled at all times.
Before the trigger is pulled, before the pin is pulled, before the lanyard is pulled, before the pickle button is pushed, the person holding onto or sitting in the weapon must know what the impact of that weapon will be.
Just as Pete Domenici and Gordon Smith should have known what their votes sending our troops to Iraq would entail. They knew that our military would do harm and suffer harm. Such is the power of a Senatorial vote.
Their votes were votes that would have our soldiers, Marines, airmen, sailors and Coasties killed in combat. They were votes that would result in thousands of our men and women suffering grave injuries. Their votes would unleash a string of events that would commit our country into a mission from which there was no recall button, no “do over.” Their votes unleashed the full combat power of the greatest military to yet to walk the face of the earth.
Those votes would physically and emotionally commit hundreds of thousands of our nation’s best to the liberation of the Iraqi people, to the deposing of a brutal dictator who used WMDs on his own people, to the destruction of those weapons, to denying the use of Iraq as a replacement training ground for those Islamofascists displaced from Afghanistan, to bringing hope of peace and prosperity to 25 million Iraqis who have known little except repression and terror.
Their votes would necessarily entail hardship and loss. Those votes would ask our troops to die in the field in support of what they had determined to be a worthy cause. And our troops would produce. They executed a brilliant air/ground campaign in OIF I, and they are performing admirably in the difficult environ that is asymmetric or insurgent warfare. They are leaving pieces of themselves on the battlefield, and will carry the scars from those wounds into perpetuity. They are still volunteering, and still dying.
And the only thing, THE only thing, that makes that worthwhile, is the belief in the mission and the hope that Americans will appreciate the effort and truly support the mission until a positive conclusion is reached. In the end, this means not leaving Iraq because of political pressure at home, but leaving only when it is reasonably certain that the population is protected, predominately through its own capabilities, from genocide similar to the one that followed our hurried and politically motivated departure from Southeast Asia.
For no service member will consider their efforts in the field worthwhile if we abandon the people of Iraq and trade our progress for immediate reversal and potential genocide, just so the likes of Domenici and Smith can hold onto their Senate seats for a few more years.
No one likes to see their best efforts undone, and nothing would make the sacrifices of our men and women worth less than abandoning the Iraqi people before their future is secure and they have a reasonable chance of securing their fledgling democracy.
That is the point where withdrawal can be discussed. That is the point where our troops would welcome their return home and a moderation of the tasking that they have been burdened with. That is the point where they can pin a value on the worthiness of their sacrifices and efforts. That is the point that they will feel that they have accomplished their mission; the standard by which all military success is measured.
But that point will not be March of 2008. And it will not be on a timetable that revolves around the re-election campaigns of some invertebrate Republicans who have pulled their version of a trigger, and pushed their version of the pickle button, and who consciously unleashed the dogs of war.
By back-tracking on their earlier votes they are acknowledging that they have wasted the lives and limbs sacrificed thus far. They are acknowledging that they did not understand the full consequences of their previous votes, and as such are ill suited to continue to serve in the Senate any further anyway. And they are acknowledging that they believe that their Senate seats are wroth more than the lives of our men and women in uniform.
There is no “taking it back,” no “do over.” No way to put the round back into the gun.
With three thousand dead on the field the only way to honor them and their sacrifices is to complete the mission, and that does not include the re-election of Smith and Domenici.