Thursday, September 01, 2005

A soldier's reply to Cindy Sheehan

Much has been written on this blog and others about the Cindy Sheehan protest. A common argument from the other side is that those who oppose Sheehan who have never served in the military or do not currently have any family members in Iraq should sit down and shut up.

Okay then... let's read a letter from an actual soldier stationed in Iraq:

Michael McCoy

The following is an excerpt from an e-mail Capt. Michael McCoy sent Aug. 26 from Iraq to his family and friends at home in Orange County:

As I am sure all of you know, Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq, has been holding a vigil/protest outside President Bush's Texas ranch. Sheehan has stated that she wants an audience with President Bush so that she can ask him "what her son died for." She also has stated that she believes that all of the troops should be brought home from Iraq, because the war was based "on a lie" and Americans are "dying over there for nothing."

With all due respect to Sheehan, I strongly disagree with her and believe that her public comments and actions are not only detrimental to the legacy of her son, but also have the very real potential to make our lives over here in Iraq much more difficult and dangerous.

Taking the second point first ... the insurgency listens to the same news broadcasts that you and I do. They hear story after story about how support for the war is falling, how Americans are demanding an early withdrawal and how a spirit of defeatism is gripping the landscape. And with each story, they are emboldened to carry on. Because with every car bomb they explode, every mortar and rocket they fire and every American they kill, the calls for retreat from Washington and the American public grow louder and louder. The way they figure it ... all they need to do is "outlast" us. And given the lack of fortitude the American public has recently shown regarding the war, that can't be much longer.

In the meantime, and in an effort to hasten this process, the insurgents will do everything they can to kill more of us. So they can create more Cindy Sheehans who will stand up and cry and say that "we have lost," and "we must withdraw our troops" and abandon the cause.

What Sheehan and many other Americans don't understand, but what the insurgency most certainly does, is that withdrawal at this stage of the war equals American defeat. If we pull our troops out now, if we abandon this country now, we will have unequivocally failed in our noble mission to lay a foundation for lasting peace in this troubled region of the world. Moreover, we will have rendered the deaths of over 1,800 American troops meaningless.

Sheehan continues to ask "what her son died for." If she asked me, I would answer that question by telling her that her son gave his life for a cause greater than himself (an act increasingly uncommon in modern American society). I would remind her that her son volunteered to join the military not once, but twice (he re-enlisted even after the war had started).

I am sure that he joined the military for a whole host of reasons, not least of which was a desire to serve his country. I assume that he decided to re-enlist, even during the war, out of a sense of loyalty to those he served with, and maybe (just maybe) a belief in the cause in which he was engaged. In both acts, he put aside his strong instinctual feelings of self-preservation in favor of a commitment to those he served with and for. And tragically, he gave the last full measure of devotion to both. For this, he should be extolled, and his sacrifice should not be questioned but unequivocally honored.

I find it sad, but not surprising, that of the 1,800 men and women who have died in Iraq, America only knows the name of oneof the parents who lost their child. Ignored are those parents who quietly mourn and who continue to honor their children's lives by not delegitimizing their deaths.

That pretty much nails it and I have nothing to add. Capt. McCoy puts it better than I ever could.

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