Imagine it is bottom of the ninth inning, your team (Visitors) are leading 4 to nothing, and the other team (Home Team) just struck out for their third out. That means the game is over and the Visitors won. Well not if you’re the current American President and Administration. They have decided to allow the Home Team, which is a loosely coordinated group of thugs called Al Quieda to keep playing the game. In fact they cannot even tell us when the game will end. The score is still 4-0 as will be explained later in this article, but some in our government and in our congress and on the conservative radio airwaves want the game to just go on and on. If you play to long the other team will eventually catch up.
I want to insure that there is no missed perception here. I am proud of what we did in Iraq and Afghanistan and proud of what I did there. I have shaken the hands of Iraqi men who personally thanked me for removing Saddam. I have walked in 4,000 year old ruins in the City of Ur in southern Iraq that many historians accept as the birthplace of Abraham from the Bible. America has saved the “Cradle of Civilization”.
However, as is I hear the debate about what to do in Iraq and Afghanistan (The forgotten War) rage everyday I am perplexed. Perplexed as a career soldier with a Bronze Star from the war in Iraq, as the father of soldier in the combat zone, and as an American Citizen.
As a senior Army Officer I got the privilege to sit in on very high level planning briefings before we invaded in Iraq. We had established a four-point mission statement for this military action.
- Search and destroy any weapons of mass destruction within Iraq, so they could not be used on American / Coalition troops or on Iraqi citizens as had occurred in the past.
- Defeat the Iraqi Army and insure that Iraq could not longer threaten it’s neighbor countries or conduct armed action against Iraqi citizens
- Dismantle the Baath Party and depose its despotic leader Saddam Hussein.
- Assist in the formation of a new Iraqi government and allow free elections.
That was the mission we soldiers were given and here is the scorecard. American Military Four, bad guys Zero. We are four out of four. We accomplished every aspect of this historic mission. We won, we won.
We did not find any weapons of mass destruction, but let’s not be foolish enough to think that they never existed there or the lunatic Saddam and his henchman did not use them on helpless women and children in the past. As a soldier standing in southern Iraq in a full Nuclear / Chemical / Biological Protection Suit in 110 degree heat and scared of dying a horrible death from poison gas or biological weapons, I was real, real happy we did not find any. We proved that Iraq did not still have any WMD. That is a mission phase accomplished.
We defeated the Iraqi Army handily. Did we move too fast to Baghdad without securing the country? Yes we did. First rule of ground combat is secure your flanks, left and right, and protect your rear areas. We did not have enough troops to do this and still do not have enough troops to do it now. We did however defeat the Iraqi Army and insure they could not threaten their neighbor countries or conduct armed actions against its own citizens. Mission phase accomplished.
We Americans and the newly freed citizens of Iraq, with extreme prejudice dismantled the entire Baath Party and the leaders of same. The Iraqi people even demanded the death of the top dog, Saddam and so U.S. Forces captured him and let Iraqi justice prevail that led to his execution. Mission phase accomplished.
Finally we helped Iraq form an interim government, hold elections, and then form it’s current government elected by the people. While not perfect, it is their government, for after all, it is their country.
In Afghanistan we have accomplished the same things, with the Taliban out of power and a new government in place.
The success of our military intervention goes beyond the four mission goals just stated. The United States proved to the world that we are the only country on earth with the moral courage, the military power and the will power to take action to depose tyranny.
When North Korea, Iran, Russia, Cuba and even Venezuela see our military might and our resolve once engaged in armed warfare, it makes them all think twice about pursuing interests contrary to those of the mighty United States. While not well publicized or well understood, this aspect of success brings benefits for future generations by keeping these adversaries fearful. The commonly accepted view of the War in Vietnam is that the U.S. lost. I argue that while North Vietnam did eventually take over the south from a corrupt and inept South Vietnamese government, the long-term effort of the United States in Vietnam kept Taiwan free from Red China, Central Europe free from the U.S.S.R, and Central America free from the Communist Cuba.
So for all you anti-war types and “doves” from the past, the 55,200 U.S. personnel killed in Vietnam along with the 3,700 killed in Iraq and Afghanistan did not die in vain. They died to help us avoid future, larger conflicts.
Back to the game scenario. Robert E. Lee said, “thank god war is so terrible lest we grow fond of it”. Mr. President, we won, we won. Quit listening to the defeatists who are trying to say if we leave Iraq and Afghanistan we have lost. The only way we can lose is if we stay too long. It is now up to the citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan to step up to the plate and accept the tremendous gift of freedom we have given them, paid for with blood of our soldiers and hundreds of billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars. Four and one-half years in Iraq and six years in Afghanistan is just too long. The day is done, the game is won, and it is time to come home.
Colonel (Ret) US ArmyFormer radio talk show host of The All Things Military Show and the The Daily Briefing with Colonel Ray heard on radio station KCAA, 1050AM talk radio, San Bernardino, CA