As an infantryman whose boots are still caked with blood and dust from Iraq, I am at a loss to understand what Representative John Murtha (D-PA) was thinking when he recently delivered his defeatist comments about our military efforts.
Murtha’s outrage, like that of many Democrats, is completely directed at the war in Iraq and the large number of American youth far from home and serving in harm’s way. Curiously, no comparable anger is triggered by the 1,700 American troops patrolling Kosovo’s tranquil streets. No complaints issue from the anti-war crowd regarding the 3,000-troop strong presence in Bosnia. And what of the 1,754 troops stationed in Iceland? One seeks in vain for anti-war crowds chanting, “Mr. President, bring home our boys from Iceland!”
Iraq, of course, is a different story. John Murtha, offering his Bronze Star with Valor (BSV) as a badge of his authority, demands a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq. On behalf of every veteran of Iraqi Freedom who has exchanged hot lead with the enemy, allow me to observe that Congressman Murtha does not understand the situation in Iraq. Murtha quotes an unscientific poll that asserts that “80 percent of Iraqi’s want us out.” I am no John Zogby but I conclude that 100 percent of Iraqis want us out—eventually. At the moment, however, they very much want us there while Islamofascists continue to blow them up. And they want us to continue training them to defend themselves in the cause of freedom.
Rather than acknowledging the vital mission being carried out by the troops, the Democratic leadership prefers to disparage our efforts. My fellow soldiers are not appreciative of Senators Kennedy and Kerry’s daily attempts to uncover mistakes made by this administration as we come under fire thousands of miles from our homes. In the era of the digital satellite, these senators never consider the bigger picture, and have put us on trial for executing a war as it unfolds.
Former administrations ignored the present danger in this region for years before 9/11, and today we in the trenches pay the price for our past inability to confront our enemies. Each day, the enemy hopes that one more ten-plus death toll inflicted against coalition forces will be the last straw of the American collective will. The actions of Kerry, Kennedy, Dean, et al.—voting against the immediate pullout of the troops and then supporting Murtha’s ignorant remarks on every television program that offers an invitation—constitute a political attack on the troops, an attack that is aiding our enemy.
Though soldiers bleed for the right to dissent, we must remember that at times dissent will embolden our desperate Islamofascist enemy, especially when they read accounts of the growing fecklessness of the American people and her policy makers.
Each day, legislators like Murtha move us closer to losing a winnable war and abandoning a worthy ally. Instead of supporting our cause, they stoke the fires of the Islamist faithful, those who would see a pullout in Iraq as a greater victory than the Soviet retreat from Afghanistan.
Despite the steady drumbeat of negativity, the troops remain undaunted. This is a middle to lower class war fought by volunteers of the greatest generation of American warriors ever born. I have written over 47 Bronze Stars with Valor (BSV) awards for the members of my 34-man infantry platoon. The BSV is growing more and more common during this fight, yet my peers cannot use their awards as a platform to defend their noble struggle because they are still deep in the fight.
Our critics in Congress are burdened by no such constraints. Neither Rep. Murtha nor any other Congressional representative has held a position in a skirmish line under fire in Iraq. Nonetheless, they pontificate to the masses about “their” war experience. Not one has borne witness to the extreme close-quarter nature of this fight or commented on the tearful thanks from a deserving and proud Iraqi people who need us to stay the course.
Instead, Rep. Murtha has the audacity to call my fellow soldiers “broken.” But despite such pessimism, amplified by a cynical media, we are not “broken,” On the contrary, we are winning. Hundreds of thousands of Iranian-trained Hezbollah terrorists, as well as Chechnyan, Wahabbi, and local mujahadeen militants have been pacified by our young patriots. It is regrettable that a man like Murtha, who made his career detailing his undisputed heroism under fire, is the first to chip away at my generation’s valor. Nor have we, as Senator Kerry recently claimed, “terrorized Iraqis in their homes.” And while many anti-war Democrats would have you believe otherwise, we are most certainly not “living hand to mouth.”
These and similar attacks have succeeded only in tarnishing the reputation of the American soldier. Each day, the Iraq War veteran grows closer to the embarrassing disrespect once heaped on the Vietnam warrior. Not only does the Democratic leadership deny the transparent fact that Iraq is indeed the front line in the War on Terror, but it feels the need to apologize for our nation’s ability to deliver unrelenting, but prudent lethality onto our deserving enemies. Thus, their warped template for fighting a war: pull out when the blood starts to flow.
Against this strategy of defeat, the president has called for staying the course. Staying the course isn’t a campaign slogan; it is a life support message for those of us in the midst of battle. Congressman Murtha above all others should know the perils inherent in dictating military policy from across the Potomac. I imagine he can still taste the spittle of anti-war protestors from 30 years ago. As was the case in Vietnam, the American soldier cannot be defeated on the field of battle. It is only the failure of the political class to stomach the hardships of combat that stands in the way of our victory.
David Bellavia is a former Army Staff Sergeant who served in the First Infantry Division for six years. He has been recommended for the Medal of Honor by his leadership, and has been nominated for the Distinguished Service Cross. He has received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the Conspicuous Service Cross (New York states highest combat valor award) and was recently inducted into the New York State Veteran’s Hall of Fame. His Task Force 2-2 Infantry has fought on such battlefields as Al Muqdadiyah, An Najaf, Al Fallujah, Mosul, and Baqubah. His actions in Fallujah, Iraq were documented in the November 22, 2004 cover story “Into the Hot Zone” by award winning journalist Michael Ware. He is 30 years old.
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