03/25/08 — Anniversary talk: War in Iraq’s milestone should bring positive thoughts, too

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Anniversary talk: War in Iraq’s milestone should bring positive thoughts, too

A little less than a week ago, Americans marked a milestone — five years since the beginning of the war in Iraq.

And as expected, the anniversary brought with it the usual chorus of criticism from those who still see no purpose for ever having breached the borders of Iraq — or for continuing any of the efforts there.

The analysts were pontificating and the politicians were stumping — and few people seemed to ask anyone who is there what they thought about progress, purpose and the mission.

But that is typical.

There are still questions to be answered about the conduct of the war in Iraq. Did we hit hard enough? Should we have gone in with a different game plan? Should we have waited a little longer for more information before attacking? Is Afghanistan the War on Terror’s real frontier?

That’s what happens with war. It is much easier to look from outside and offer opinions on how you would have done it if you were in charge.

And that is what most of those who commented on the anniversary did — offer their backseat driver opinions.

What they won’t tell you is that they did not know how this war would turn out — or that they are the least qualified to give an opinion now on where it should head next.

And that brings us to what should have happened on the anniversary of the invasion.

Americans should have taken the time to remember the men and women who are still carrying out the mission and perhaps listened a little closer to some of their views on progress there.

They should have sent a message to the world that this country is backing its soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines 100 percent, that we are proud of their service and the job they have done.

This is a time to look with a critical eye to the future of the war, but also to remember that there was a real purpose for being there, and that while the progress might be slow at times, there is reason to be optimistic.

Today, we heard that for the first time Iraqi troops are handling a mission of their own — regaining control of Basra from militants — a step that would have not been possible a few months ago. That is progress.

As with any anniversary of any military engagement, there are sad statistics, too. There have been thousands of Americans who have died since the war began. This is the time to remember them and their families, and to renew our commitment to them.

And it is a reminder that the mission they started should be finished.

That is how you mark an anniversary properly.

Published in Editorials on March 25, 2008 12:58 PM