There Comes A Time
Like most Americans I have followed the occupation of Iraq with a passion that rests deep in my soul. I am told by my family not to talk about the war with my friends. I watch television with a mixture of pride and pain, for I am very proud of the young men and women we have sent to Iraq, and yet I am in pain as I watch the numbers of our dead and wounded rise each day. I listen to the all too familiar “stay the course” speeches and “cut and run” accusations. And all of it, all of it, causes my mind to wander to days earlier in my life when we fought in another distant place.
For a while in those days we were applauded as crusaders for freedom. We did our duty over and over, but in the end the people of South Vietnam did not prove themselves strong enough to accept the burdensome responsibilities of democracy. 58,000 American dead later we left and we had accomplished very little.
We could have “stayed the course,” I guess. We could have stayed another 7 years and lost 50,000 or so more of our children, I guess. We could have spent another trillion dollars in that desolate place, I guess. But I wonder what we would have accomplished?
As it was, the Communists didn’t take over the world as we were warned they would. Even though we were told over and over again by our political leaders, our security and our futures weren’t at stake in the jungles of Southeast Asia. They made us feel unpatriotic if we ever questioned their decisions. They made us out to be cowards when we asked what it was that we were accomplishing. So finally and wisely we quit listening to our leaders. After being unwise for so many years, we came home to a divided and weakened America. Weakened not by an enemy, but by our nationalistic pride – a pride that would not let us say, “There comes a time.”
Now that 2,505 Americans have died in Iraq and 20,000 have been wounded, I believe it is time to ask ourselves if “There comes a time” in Iraq, too. Nothing I have seen has made me believe the Sunnis and the Shiites are going to trust one another enough to form a viable democracy in the foreseeable future. Nothing I have seen offers encouragement that if the Sunnis and Shiites have a miraculous reconciliation, that they won’t then turn on the Kurds as they have done so often over the years. Importantly, nothing I have seen has proven our government’s position that Iraq was a dire threat to our security.
For the sake of both our children and our treasure it is time for us to say as a nation that “The time is close at hand. ” Iraq must stand on its own feet, and if it has the will to do so, it can survive. We have rid it of a dictator, but if the people of Iraq cannot put aside hatred and religious bigotry, then democracy will not thrive. They must decide to stop hating. They must decide to stop killing. It simply will not matter how long we stay. They will hate and kill after our Humvees drive by. Our continued military presence cannot will not end the hatred in Iraq. Nor will our presence help create a climate of reconciliation.
My most fervent hope is that the people of Iraq will value the opportunity they have been provided and that the sacrifices our country has made will become the plows for the fertile ground of another great democracy. I will support our diplomatic and financial efforts to encourage freedom for the Iraqi people, but the time is coming when the killing of Americans must end.
I believe this time around we must not abandon our children and our treasure to nationalistic pride. This time those that call us unpatriotic must not cow us! This time we must make the wise decisions that an earlier generation could not. We must be wise enough to recognize when we have done our duty and offered our sacrifices.
This I Believe.
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