Gloom. Despair. Agony. Oh, my.
If you read the papers or watch the news, you probably assume we?re losing in Iraq, since nearly all the pictures you see from there are negative. And sadly, some members of the media are no longer content to merely find and report bad news. They?re literally creating the news, and using our troops as props.
During a recent town-hall meeting in Kuwait, Specialist Thomas Wilson of the Tennessee National Guard pressed Donald Rumsfeld about the lack of armor on some army trucks. The exchange was played up as a regular soldier making his boss face an unpleasant truth. As it turns out, though, a newspaper reporter from The Chattanooga Times Free Press drew up Wilson?s question.
?I was told yesterday that only soldiers could ask questions, so I brought two of them along with me as my escorts,? reporter Edward Lee Pitts wrote in an e-mail to his colleagues. ?Beforehand we worked on questions to ask Rumsfeld about the appalling lack of armor their vehicles going into combat have.? Pitts went so far as to search out the man with the microphone for the event to make sure ?his? soldier got a chance to ask his question.
Now, this isn?t to say that the lack of protection for our troops isn?t a serious problem. We shouldn?t be sending people into combat without all the tools they need to be safe. Other soldiers cheered Wilson?s question, so this is clearly something they?re concerned about. Still, the military is working on the problem. Military columnist Joseph L. Galloway recently reported that, ?every Humvee requiring armor in the combat zone will have it within 90 days.?
The problem here is that, while journalists focus on the negative, they?re missing the positives.
Of course soldiers have some complaints. Every soldier who?s ever gone to war anywhere had some complaints. But the story you?re not reading is that, despite all the complaints, the American military is committed to the war in Iraq and the overall war against terrorism.
In fact, the service members who?ve been called to Iraq are re-enlisting in impressive numbers. ?Retention is higher in the units that have been mobilized than across the force, and across the force it is high,? Brig. Gen. Frank Grass, deputy director of the Army National Guard, told the American Forces Press Service.
During a recent lecture at The Heritage Foundation, Army Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker explained why. ?In Iraq, in my view, we?re making progress. And everybody there thinks we?re making progress,? he said. ?We have got extraordinary soldiers that understand what they?re in the army for.?
They?re in the army to fight. ?We deployed a company out of the Old Guard, the Third U.S. Infantry regiment that does the Tomb of the Unknowns, does the funerals, does all the ceremonies here in town. And you know what happened? For the first time in 10 years, the Old Guard made its reenlistment objective,? Schoomaker, the Army Chief of Staff, added.
In other words, soldiers were more likely to reenlist if they were going to see combat than if they were going to do safe duty stateside. Americans are willing, even eager, to fight when we know our cause is just.
Osama bin Laden has learned that, to his chagrin.
?The Americans are cowards,? he told an Arabic newspaper in 1997. ?If they even think of confronting me, I will teach them a lesson similar to the lesson they were taught a few years ago in Somalia.?
His view seemed to be confirmed when al Qaeda carried out attacks on two American embassies in Africa in 1998 and we responded weakly, using cruise missiles to attack some tents in Afghanistan and a factory in Sudan. Then in 2000, al Qaeda bombed an American navy ship, and this time we took no action at all. Bin Laden drew the mistaken conclusion that the United States wasn?t willing to fight at all, anywhere.
But since Sept. 11 we?ve been on the attack in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now, after three years on the run, bin Laden has changed his tune. ?Your security is in your own hands. Any nation that does not attack us will not be attacked,? he whined back in October. In other words he now claims that if you leave us alone, we?ll stop bothering you.
Ah, but we won?t. Americans have the enemy on the run, and a key reason we haven?t been attacked here at home is because we?re fighting al Qaeda and other terrorists on their turf.
Our men and women in uniform know that, and that?s why they?re so willing to fight. Keep their confidence in mind the next time you read a gloomy newspaper account about the war in Iraq.