02/24/07 — Pondering Iraq: Mission for liberty mustn’t be abandoned lightly

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Pondering Iraq: Mission for liberty mustn’t be abandoned lightly

There are lots of people who talk about what it means to be an American.

Some start their definitions with the flag, while others speak of freedom and the right to live your own life without government interference.

It is true that for each of us, the term has a different emphasis.

But what we all seem to forget, especially in times of trouble, is that the term “American” used to stand for leadership, determination to do what’s right and championing those who are not strong enough to take care of themselves.

In other words, this country’s flag and nation stood for character, honor and the pursuit of liberty in the face of despotism no matter what the cost.

And for many of us, they still do.

In recent months, this country has been through a lot of stress with regard to the war in Iraq. We are losing our servicemen, many of them barely old enough to be on their own, in a war that we are not sure is what we thought it was supposed to be.

And that makes it hard.

But as we continue the debate about the war in Iraq, we need to remember that sometimes, doing what is right and hard, when it is tough and no one else seems to have the conviction or the drive to get the job done, is the true mark of a leader.

There is a saying, “these colors don’t run.” And as we listen to the debates, we need to think about that phrase and what it means in light of the ever-increasing threat from terrorism across the globe.

Men, women and children who strap bombs to their bodies and who are willing to die and kill innocent civilians in the name of their religion are not impressed by diplomacy. To them, backing down from a fight or negotiation is a sign of weakness of character — and one they will exploit to accomplish their own mission.

So, how do you think it sounds to the Taliban and other Islamic militants when they hear criticism of the American government’s policies and the mission in Iraq and its leaders talking about retracting their resolve to fight?

It sounds like weakness.

We might not want to continue much longer in Iraq — and there might be plenty of reason to criticize the conduct of the war — but battling now to protect future generations from an enemy whose sworn mission is to destroy our country and its people is a noble decision and one we need to think long and hard about before we discard it completely.

Militants, a civil war and much more time than we thought are hard burdens to bear.

But as we think about our next step, we need to remember that we are also fighting for more than 3,000 people who died simply because they were Americans.

Never forgetting their faces, fighting for their honor and making sure future generations are protected would be distinctly “American.”

Published in Editorials on February 24, 2007 8:29 PM