Back in Baghdad (and Depressed as Hell)
Seriously, though, the three days of travel back to Iraq were some of the most depressing days I've ever experienced. There were basically three broad sources for my dark mood:
1- It was much harder to say goodbye to Marya, and especially to David, than when I originally deployed in March. The pictures and DVDs simply do not do justice to how amazing David is. He has an incredibly warm personality, and warmed to me much more quickly than I had expected he would. To see his face light up with a smile in recognition of seeing his Mom, or sometimes even me, is as close to the divine that I have ever experienced. Although I will see him again in four months, and will get to spend every day of the forseeable future with him thereafter, the sense of loss I feel at missing the changes he will undergo between now and then is tangible and hurts like hell.
2- I'm depressed about the mid-term election results. To be honest, the Republicans deserved to lose. They abandoned fiscal responsibility and conservative principles that brought them into power in 1994. There were of course several corruption scandals that hurt them at the polls, but for every Bob Ney and Duke Cunningham on the Republican side, there is a William Jefferson ($90,000 in cash in the freezer), Alan Mollahan, and Harry Reid/John Murtha on the Democratic side who are equally corrupt. In other words, the Republicans deserved to lose, but the Democrats did not deserve to win. But such is politics, and you have to accept that your party will lose some elections rather than resorting to the conspiracy theories and condescension that the Left wallowed in after the 2000 and 2004 elections. (Also, most of the new Democratic Representatives and Senators elected to form a new majority are actually relatively conservative -- i.e. my friend Chris Carney, elected from PA-10, Heath Shuler, etc. Voters rejected racial preferences in a Michigan ballot initiative, and even Connecticut had the sense to return Joe Lieberman to the Senate despite the Nutty Left's capture of the Democratic Party there. So from a policy perspective, all hope is not lost).
What depresses me about these results are its consequences for our efforts here in Iraq. The Democrats have wasted no time in expressing that their policy is one of pursuing an exit strategy than a victory strategy in Iraq. Senator Levin is already touting his plan for a "phased withdrawal," which is nothing more than code for retreat. Whether we were correct to initiate this war or not, ceding Iraq to the terrorists and extremist death squads responsible for the sectarian violence would be disastrous to our national security for years to come. As the April 2006 National Intelligence Estimate stated,
"Perceived jihadist success [in Iraq] would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere . . . Should jihadists perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge few fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight.
But despite attaining power, the Democrats do not appear to be any closer to attaining a sense of responsibility when it comes to national security."
3- More depressing, however, is what the election says about the American people's willingness to conduct the War on Terror. Supposedly, the election was an expression of Americans' fatigue with the war. We have suffered a little more than 2,800 Killed In Action in Iraq, and although each one of these casualties is a tragic on a personal level, the low estimates for anticipated casualties before the war was 5,000. This is also a far cry from the 55,000 servicemen America lost in Vietnam. The unfortunate reality of the world today is that there is an enemy out there committed to killing as many Americans as possible in order to achieve their objective of establishing a global Islamic empire. Short of victory, there is nothing we can do to make this enemy go away -- no negotiations, no deterrence will dissuade Al Qaeda and similar extremists from pursuing their objective. However, if we abandon Iraq because we can not absorb 3,000 casualties (and again, I don't want to minimize the pain suffered by these heroes families at the death of their loved one), we have no hope of winning the larger War on Terror. And failure in this broader conflict will assuredly mean more than we will inevitably suffer more than 3,000 fatalities here in the United States sooner or later.
I don't know. Maybe the fatigue from the travel has skewed my perspective a little bit. I'll try to end this on a more positive note. Soldiers coming off of leave in the eastern United States have to report in to the USO at the Atlanta airport. After signing in, we were asked to wait in line outside so that we could be escorted to the desk where our orders were collected and our baggage checked for the flight to Kuwait. After about 15 minutes of waiting, we filed in behind an elderly volunteer carrying a USO sign and an American flag. As we marched through the atrium of Atlanta's airport, we were greeted by standing applause from the families and commuters waiting in the airport. During the subsequent five hour wait for our aircraft to arrive, I had roughly a half-dozen people approach me to thank me for my service.
It was good to know that there for every San Fransisco school board decision banning JROTC, for every protestor (and their disgusting supporters) who throw blood on military recruiting stations, and for every John Kerry insult, there are still some people who appreciate what we are doing here in Iraq.