Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Iraq Five Years In

Tim McLaughlin Flag

Today marks the 5th anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

President Bush gave
an address this morning marking the start of the war:

“Removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision — and this is a fight America can and must win,” President Bush said, according to a transcript of his address at the Pentagon.

The president hailed the courage of the men and women serving in Iraq and said their effort helps protect America.

“Defeating this enemy in Iraq will make it less likely that we will face this enemy here at home,” he said.

While much of the media coverage today and tonight will lionize the antiwar left - whose members are protesting today in Washington - the focus today should rightly be on those who've fought for American security and Iraqi democracy.

There's a number of first-person collections of war stories around the web today, and these deserve wide circulation. I was moved by the story of Tim McLaughlin, a Marine first lieutenant, whose personal flag went up on the statue of Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square, Baghdad, on April 9, 2003 (in the photo above).

McLaughlin shares how he felt after his service in Iraq:

No one has to convince me that there is a difference between the way the world is and the way it should be. I’ll stand for the way the world should be every time. Peace. Human rights. Racial, sexual and religious equality. But when the noise, trouble and hard work get in the way, not everyone makes the same sacrifices. We won’t always get it right, and it’ll never be perfect, but I’m proud of the people I’ve stood with.

See also the entry at Neptunus Lex, "Five Years In":

As for me, five years ago I stood on the bridge of a veteran warship as wave after wave of F-14s and FA-18s, EA-6B Prowlers, E-2 Hawkeyes and S-3 Vikings rattled down the catapults, the thumping of the waterbrakes moving through the ship, the steam from the catapults rising, the afterburners lighting up the night. Heavy laden, wallowing off the deck rather than springing airborne. Worried for them over the beach, wanting desperately to be with them, but assigned other duties. Somebody had to do it....

We left home knowing the importance of the work to come. We trained hard along the way, knowing that the more we sweated, the less we’d bleed. Waited on tenterhooks for months as the diplomatic dance played out. Watched as the temperatures started to rise again, thought about the hundreds of thousands of young men ashore, wearing CBR gear as they waited in the dirt and dust and pondered those things that only infantrymen know when everyone knows it’s coming but it hasn’t happened yet.

We fought hard as hard as we could for weeks, sprinting. And then it was “over,” and we left. Losing two more aircraft on the way home, stupidly. Partied like rock stars in Perth. Ran very low on fuel coming back north, as wild seas made at sea refueling more hazardous than degraded sea keeping. Made it good a few days later south of Indonesia. Picked up Tigers in Pearl. Came home to an exultant country that celebrated us with emails, letters, posters, cheering crowds on the quay and spouting fireboats in the bay. Family on the pier. We came home never doubting that we had done the right thing.

Except it wasn’t over, and we’re still there, at sea and ashore and in the air. And the crowds no longer cheer.

Go on over there and give Neptunus a big thank you.

Show him that some of us still do cheer.