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On the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, the continuous guns fell silent…… After years of incoming artillery’s deep, resonant pounding,…..the quiet began. The rare pop of small arms fire,….. faded away. Cautiously a brave soul or two crawled out and stood on top of the trenches. Turning to the other side, they saw the enemy of just a few minutes before, mirroring their own actions…..It was truly over.

Compared to the rest of Europe, the US fared well. Germany, France, Great Britain lost an entire generation of their young men…..

Some dreamed that surely, after such a waste, there never could, or would be such a war again……

It was only a dream…..as history would soon prove……

On this day, there are 22 verified veterans left….worldwide. Four of these are Americans. Soon the last living memories of this war….. will fade away……….

My brush with living memories happened when I was in High School. What the German war machine failed to do………an insignificant clot accomplished. Those who visited, told stories of the dark, turbulent wrestling within the soul……They whispered of an alert mind, albeit one locked in the year 1917 from which it would ultimately and peacefully escape…. They spoke in hushed tones of an old man, possessing enormous strength, incapable of being subdued by even the hospital’s largest orderlies……They told of the soldier’s enterprising son, who climbing back into those years to be with him, and navigating the treacherous barbed wire memories, peacefully calmed him down, until the old soldier finally accepted that his war was over, and quietly signed his own armistice with God………..

We learned he had suffered from shell shock as they called it then, spending the post-war years in a sanitarium somewhere in occupied Germany, of the bland letters to his wife and unseen child back home, letters whose lack of substance during this vapid time, played rabidly on her fears of another women…..

We heard stories of involuntary reactions, occurring some twenty years later…of a face, framed by white hair, turned scarlet in the middle of a social gathering, when someone absently said, “Oh that was during the war.”

And then there were the personal effects, a letter rapidly written in German by a dying officer, with our hero’s first name mentioned as being the one entrusted to make sure the letter got back to his wife, a letter that said the war would soon be over for him, that the only important thing he hung onto as he crossed over to the the other side, were the times he and she had shared together……..As kids we used to march around in a dough boy’s hat, and a genuine spiked Prussian helmet. (the originals were all black, by the way, no silver.)

And then the youngest son, who came along after our soldier had mellowed somewhat, told of stumbling with his dad, across a model of one battlefield, I think it was Belleau Wood, and how that opened up the memories which, pent up for years, calmly flowed out unrepressed, with no emotional consequences.

Through this, we heard the story of a young officer defying a direct order to attack, solely because the objective was unattainable and trying to attempt it, would wipe out every one of his men….Who opting, instead of facing a firing squad, to have himself crawl into no mans land……accompanied only by his sergeant who had stood steadfast with him during this ordeal only to get ripped apart minutes later, had to lie there for two days protected under the warm, safe body which occasionally absorbed a well placed bullet, kept safe by only the tiniest rise of land preventing a direct shot…..

The story of showing up in France, and leading the AEF’s first attack, upon a fortified hill surrounded by the Meuse, and succeeding…..

Those memories didn’t die….they passed and took seed in another generation. Today they lie embedded in one more, a generation who once again questions the “why” of war.

Like his grandfather before him, this person too was brought up under a religion that seem to question war and tell us to “turn the other cheek.” Like his grandfather before him, this person too believes that sometimes there is no greater duty, than to give one’s life for one’s country……..How are these two, supposedly opposite points of view, ever to be reconciled?

We know that Jesus allowed his disciples to carry swords. During the final days, when he asks the disciples if they have a sword, and Peter shows two, he says that is enough…..But later that night when Peter uses his sword to protect Jesus and cuts off a servant’s ear, Jesus tells him sternly. “Put that away. We will have no more of that…”

Fascinating. This duality starts from the beginning of the Christian religion itself.

Throughout history, the worst wars fought have been religious ones. The longest animosities, the ones considered too hard to bury, are those originally pricked by religion….

When we are told to turn the other cheek, perhaps we are to do that on a personal level…. By doing so, hoping that we show others, just how deeply we believe these principals . Perhaps this line of thought recognizes that we are each small instruments of change; but a change of heart in multitudes of men, can implement massive changes…..Therefore doing a self deprecating act, such as dying for another, or carrying an enemy soldier’s bag an extra mile, can have a much greater impact overall, than another killing and the loss of one dead soldier…..

But as a nation of free people we have another responsibility. That responsibility is to ensure that justice, (or that which is right),… prevails over evil, (or that which is wrong)…. As some of you may note, there is a wide play of interpretation in just exactly what is right, and what is wrong…..

But for a strong nation to appease a despot like Stalin, Hitler, or those tyrants in Burma, does exactly the opposite of performing justice. Instead it shows others, despite our words, that we implicitly support these evil regimes, and in doing so, we fail to send hope and inspiration to those who fight, to right the wrongs caused by their misguided leaders….

War enacted by a political state is sometimes a necessity, the last remaining line of defense against the selfish designs of a demented few. Less pain and suffering worldwide, can be bandaged by enacting war, than by allowing open wounds to fester, rot, and spread their evil infection elsewhere.

Therefore as a nation, the United States must occasionally gamble all of it’s resources in the ultimate test…. One must on occasion risk all, to determine whether all was worthy to be risked……

Any nation is only as good as its foot soldiers,…. its grunts. Those choice veterans I know, with whom I’ve hugged, laughed, and cried, …… continue to reinforce the notion I once had as a child: that based on the quality of people who put their lives on the line for this nation, we are truly the best nation to have ever lived upon this planet……..

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The long awaited Petraeus report is due today. Since the White House has admitted it will be responsible for content, one can assume that it will represent the Republican take of the war in Iraq.

However, timed to break just before the Petraeus report, were two other reports of which we have heard already. One, by David Walker of the GAO, could be said to represent the Democratic view of the crises at hand. The other, sponsored by Senator Warner, featuring General Jones (Retired: who looks like he stepped out of the move “White Christmas”) could be said to provide a centrist, or otherwise unbiased, review.

Oh boy….here we go again……surprisingly, all say the same thing………WHAT?…….. All say some progress has been made militarily, but the true solution needs to be political.

So when asked if the surge worked, the answers are all the same. There are gains in stability in some regions as a result of the surge. But politically, we are in the same spot or worse, as we were in January 07.

At each of these hearings, each time this same conclusion is uttered, the Dems posture and say the surge didn’t work….and the Republicans hunker down and say some progress shows momentum…..you can’t quit while you are moving forward.

Oh No! Parallels to Vietnam: In Vietnam, the US Military won every engagement it fought against the enemy. However our State Department was unable to matriculate a political solution. So it is in Iraq. I heard Lindsey Graham, (R-SC) make a speech that would have fit quite nicely in an anthology of “Hawk’s” statements from the early ’70’s.

America: we are smarter than this….We should not make the same mistake twice……

All three reports comment on the marvelous success we fell upon in Al Anbar province. However it was not our military that forced the issue. Rather it was the local population that became fed up with Al Qaeda’s brutality so much that they did something about it. It was fortuitous that the troops were there, to capitalize on the decision made by the Sunni sector.

Had we not had the surge and enough troops in the field, we could have still been holed up in the Green Zone, and the opportunity that presented itself, could have slipped through our fingers. Supposedly the tipping point for the Sunnis came when Al Qaeda made a point of punishing a tribe by killing 6 or 7 of its young boys. The chieftain asked for protection. The astute Lt Col. said “I’ll have a tank parked here in two hours”…… The domino effect rolled throughout the region based on the momentum off that one incident.

But one incident doth not a war make…. As we succeed in Al Anbar, we are unraveling in the South; insurgents are moving back in as the Brits pull out. This should surprise no one……going back 67 years ago:

hostile forces will withdraw into the more remote parts of the country, or will be dispersed into numerous small groups which continue to oppose the occupation. Even though the recognized leaders may capitulate, the subordinate commanders often refuse to abide by the terms of the occupation. Escaping to the hinterland, they assemble heterogeneous armed groups of patriotic soldiers, malcontents, notorious outlaws,…… and by means of guerrilla warfare, continue to harass and oppose the intervening force in its attempt to restore peace and good order throughout the country as a whole.

Anyone out there recognize that? That was taken directly from the declassified version of the Marines’ Small Wars Manual, first published in 1940. It suggests that to countervail such forces, similar to what we anticipate today, we need numerous presence patrols organized with the help of local, native militias, and outposts that are erected dispersed over a wide area in order “to afford the maximum protection to the peaceful inhabitants of that country.”

This blanket approach of embedding Marines into local tribes, and assisting them in regaining some type of stability in their lives vis a vis their experience with the chaos caused by terrorists, means we often wind up doing the work, and leaving local militias with the credit. This has worked well in the southern Philippines, and has for many years worked well in Afghanistan. We did not employ these type of winning tactics in Iraq, until Petraeus took over, and because of bureaucratic squeamishness over causalities, we have let up on our winning strategy inside Afghanistan.

Americans are good…..and as long as we fight on the “side of good”, we continue to win the hearts and minds of local populations. On this direct level no one can compete with us. No one! Our administration lost sight of that. Intent on imposing a government made to help the image of the republican party, American forces found themselves, instead of fighting for the good in the local populations eyes, fighting for oil rights and Cheney/Bush’s tough machismo.

I call this post Mosquito Wars, because as I sat through each of these hearing, listening to all everyone had to say, the war became less of a military adventure, and more of a politically psychological one. After all, that is how the Soviet’s broken regime crumbled…..not by nuclear strikes or preemptive invasions. They just imploded.

The Soviet analogy sets this up well. During the peak of Cold War, we were beset by Soviet spies. They were relative easy to find, hard to kill, and harder still for their agency to replace. Today against the terror threat, the parameters have changed. The terrorists are very hard to find. easy to kill, and easy for their agency to replace.

The way you fight terrorism is with intelligence. If you know what terrorists are going to do, you can prevent it. But finding out is hard, especially when they mimic regular citizens. But as long as the root causes of terrorism are still out there, as long as there are breeding grounds to replace the ones killed or captured, terrorism itself will be never conquered.

Which brings us to mosquitoes. You can live with them, by walking around with mosquito netting over your head whenever you choose to go out, or you can spend 100 % of your outdoor time, watching your bare arms, and swatting whenever one lands. But if you really want to kill mosquitoes, you change the environment to one where they cannot survive. We did so as we built the Panama Canal. We suffocated their breeding grounds with oil; we sprayed standing water. We succeeded.

Terrorists are not lions, tigers or bears…oh my. They are mosquitoes. Totally harmless entities until they land on you. So lets fight them the same way we fight mosquitoes.

Fix the abject poverty in the area where they breed. For a mere 12 billion, it is estimated, we could permanently end poverty in the world…….Drill some wells, teach crop techniques, vaccinate their livestock, provide lifesaving medical attention, and do so with some M16’s standing by in case a lone mosquito slips in and needs a good swat…

It’s America…..it’s how we win…….and it is not to late to win in Iraq. Announce the timetable, work hard to build an Iraq ready for withdrawal, and leave whenever we are done, not a moment before. But announcing the timetable is the key to developing political will among all factions in Iraq.

Remember how the moment Reagan was sworn in, the Iranian hostages were released after 444 days of captivity? They were not going to budge an inch as long as Carter was still president.

Let us move things fast forward too, by changing our leadership on this side of the Atlantic, doing so on our fast forward timetable (67 votes), thereby giving Iraq some hope too………

It’s something to think about; the next time you swat a mosquito……