Monday, January 08, 2007

Picture of Iraq From Moorhead Guardsman

From the Grand Forks Herald...

VIEWPOINT : Victory in Iraq depends on your support

CAMP AL TAQADDUM, Al Anbar Province, Iraq - Christmas has come and gone. But if you don't mind, I have an idea for a Christmas gift Americans could give their servicemembers overseas, and it would be so treasured and precious that we wouldn't mind a bit that it was late.

It's the gift of solid support for President Bush's new policy in Iraq.

I serve with the Army in Iraq's Al Anbar Province, and when I was in Minnesota during the mid-term elections for my leave, I grew very concerned about our country's divide over the war. It is incredibly disheartening to see civilian support for our mission crumble while we are forward-deployed. It is even more alarming for me to hear that we had the first instance (in Syracuse, N.Y.) of a citizen spitting on a soldier who was returning from the war zone.

I'm not alone in my concern. In October, when soldiers from the Minnesota National Guard took a picture with their now-famous sign for John Kerry, they were reacting to more than just the senator's comments. There is concern in the ranks that our country is losing its backbone to complete this mission.

Yes, America's sons and daughters are dying on this battlefield. However, we do not need and are not asking to be saved. We believe in our mission, and we need the American people and politicians on both sides of the aisle to believe in it as well.

In fact, I believe our victory here depends on it.

Having lived in Iraq for most of 2006, I know that there are no easy answers. Our country spoke during the midterm elections about the need for change. The president responded by appointing a new secretary of defense and including many new voices in his decision-making process. He is now about to announce a new policy, and we need to give him the support he needs to make it work.

As a member of the armed forces, I must support the orders of my president. However, all Americans should understand that without their support for this new direction, failure in Iraq will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Imagine the impact live TV reports would have had on the outcome of World War II, had reporters been broadcasting from Omaha Beach or during the Battle of the Bulge. Today, those battles are remembered as classic victories, but they were bloody and difficult fights in which winning was not assured.We are in a similar situation in Iraq. The fights for Baghdad and the Anbar Province are critical to our success, and those battles have yet to be completed.

But constant media reports of death and violence, as well as continuous criticism of our elected officials, are making the situation worse. I did not say, "it is not helping us to win"; I said, "it is making the situation worse." Terrorists want us to fail in Iraq, and they use the media as their weapon: Blow something up, show images of death in areas where the press travels, and reporters will cover the story. Do it every day, and it will drown out any coverage of progress made or milestones passed.

So what can we do?

I believe that in order for the president's new plan to succeed, two things must happen. These conditions are the belated but extraordinary Christmas gift that Americans should consider giving to their servicemembers overseas.

-- First: When the president announces the new direction, we need to make sure it works. That will take strong support from the American public, true statesmanship from our politicians to overcome partisanship, and accurate reporting from our media.

-- Second: I believe we must demand that American media organizations report a complete picture about what is happening in Iraq. The Coalition Forces and the Iraqi government are making progress in many areas; it is not always fast, but it is happening.

I have seen firsthand an Iraqi official who is willing to lead, despite the threat of death to him and his family, and rebuild his town. While we have worked together, we have opened a new school, repaired a water plant, created a sanitation project that employs more than 30 people and begun repairing the town's sewage system and power substation.

This is real progress, and he has stood up to partner with us in his village.

I believe we are making a difference in Iraq, and progress is taking place. However, such stories are not being told in the media or are being overshadowed, which is exactly what the terrorists want.

I cannot guarantee the above actions will win this war. However, I can say that without significant change in the political atmosphere in the United States, those who believe that this mission is doomed to fail will be proven right.

So many American servicemembers have fought and died for this mission; please don't let it fail. You can make a difference by helping to restore the resolve we need to win.

Gilberston is a captain in the Minnesota National Guard and serves with the Guard's 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry, which is based in Moorhead. He is a native of Fosston, Minn., and currently lives in Moorhead.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Priorities in Politics

It's been another milestone week in our nations history.

Our country lost another great man in the passing of our 38th President, Gerald Ford. Even if you weren't familiar with the man or his term in office, you couldn't help but be touched by the outpouring of sentiments and accolades given in tribute to him by people from every walk of life. Known as the "accidental" president, the only one to date that was not elected for either the vice presidency, or the head office, the other act he will most be remembered for is the "pardoning" of our 37th President, Richard Nixon and the whole Watergate scandal. I was too young when that all happened to know what it was about, and now, it almost seems a small paragraph in the whole torrid page of what was happening in the chapter of those years of history. As an adult, I can only imagine the discord that act meant to some, yet what a courageous step. Mr. Ford had the fortitude to look ahead, and by doing so, helped our country to heal.

The media at that time was really just beginning to start reporting the "sensational" side of politics...I guess Watergate helped that along! Before that, the office, I believe, was more revered, and in some ways perhaps, too "secretive". But there are just some things I don't want to know about that go on behind the closed doors of the Oval office, and things that the public really doesn't need to know about. For instance, Gerald Ford was made fun of during his term for being "clumsy", tripping down the steps of Air Force One. Who really cared? Did it make him a worse president? Did Dan Quayle's misspelling of a word REALLY need to be the top news story for umpteen weeks? How about President Bush trying to open the wrong door at a function during a Presidential visit? Or even VP Cheney's shooting accident? Report them if you must, but quit dwelling on it! Even this week with our first female Speaker of the House being sworn in, too much emphasis was given on what Nancy Pelosi was wearing and how many thousands of dollars she spent on her suit and shoes. Are we missing the point?

Sometimes, it takes something like the death of a President for us to notice these things and remember the good and wonderful things that a person did, and is capable of. As our new sessions in government begin both locally and nationally, let's hope that 2007 is a "good year" for the history books, one that we may remember for working together, and making a difference that matters. Let's overlook the "small" things and focus on leaving a legacy we can all be proud of.