A marvelous letter in the July 16, 2007 American Conservative:
Regarding Kara Hopkins’s “Stupid Party” (June 18), I too have been thinking about the exchange between Rudy Giuliani and Ron Paul about 9/11. I have been a lifelong Republican and have been a supporter of the war, which I can back up with a Department of Defense DD Form 214 showing my service in Iraq. After quite a lot of reflection, I still hold the same beliefs about why we are at war. However, my sense of how we should be fighting it has changed.
I voted for Bush in 2004 because I couldn’t vote for a guy who openly admitted to comitting atrocities in Vietnam while he was an officer and should have had the leadership and moral courage to stop. And I supported the war because both Clinton and Bush told us there were WMD. God help our civil liberties if Saddam drops one of those on an American city, I thought, though I was not of an interventionist mindset. (I believe that all of our soldiers should have returned to within the U.S. borders after the end of the Cold War.)
I served my tour in Iraq after it was clear the WMD would never be found and stood by my helicopter and saluted with tears in my eyes as the body bags containing the remains of my fellow GI’s (some weighing less than 30 pounds) were loaded.
As I crisscrossed thousands of square miles of Iraq, I had high expectations about the country becoming free and prosperous. I was there for the first two elections and hoped with all my soul that they would quit killing each other and, of course, us. After I got out of the country, I followed the news every day, searching for some hint that the violence was abating. I listened in vain. We cannot install a democracy there. The hatred is so deep that we would have as much luck invading Lebanon, Palestine, and Israel, combining them into one country, and having them vote in one democracy.
Every great general in history knew when he had lost a battle and had sense enough to withdraw, regroup, and rethink his strategy. Once soldiers see that they are dying in vain, a general rapidly loses the support of his men—and even more so when he is giving orders from the rear. It doesn’t help when they know he didn’t spend time in the foxholes in his youth.
If Americans believe we are at war with all of Islam or we are at war to keep the oil flowing, then we had better buckle down and fight all out like WWII. Quit trying to pretend that we can go on enjoying peacetime lives while tossing a few sons and daughters toward a far-off battle. It is going to take a lot of bodies to kill 1.5 billion Muslims.
If, however, as I believe, we are at war with a radical few, then we need to get out of the Middle East and deprive al-Qaeda of the rallying and recruitment point American occupation provides. Those thinking I have become an appeaser and pacifict could not be more wrong. It is my firm belief that all things in this universe are about force and counterforce and the struggle to survive. Terrorism will always be with us, and I will fight without hesitation for my freedom and right to live, but war is a ghastly thing that brings out the worst elements of human nature. If we can find different strategies that cost fewer lives and defuse the constant human struggles wherever possible, we must go that route.
I was wrong about the war and have to admit my mistake. As I look around for a leader to replace Bush, I have to go back and see who was making sounder judgments than I during the time of 9/11 hysteria. It wasn’t any of the “top tier candidates,” Democrat or Republican. That person was Ron Paul.
JOEL (LAST NAME WITHHELD)