Many tales to tell about Iraq

Published 3:05 am Wednesday, December 24, 2003

By Staff
Saddam Hussein's capture was indeed an early Christmas present, not only for the people of Iraq, but for the entire world.
As you may have heard by now, I was actually in Baghdad at the time Saddam was captured by members of the now famous 4th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army.
The purpose of my trip to Iraq was actually two-fold: first, to visit with the men and women -- especially from Alabama -- who are away from their homes and families during the holiday season, and second, to see firsthand how this mission is going, how your tax dollars are being spent, and what, as my Mother used to say, is the "other side of the coin."
Prior to the news showing Saddam's capture, the national press coverage in recent weeks had been anything but positive.
I must admit that traveling to a war-torn country where random acts of violence continue was not something that we did without pause or reflection. Rest assured none of the five other members of Congress -- one each from New Jersey, Tennessee, California, Georgia and Missouri -- were interested in becoming an international headline.
That said, when given the opportunity by the Speaker of the House to go to Iraq and see for ourselves how this mission has progressed, I couldn't help but jump at the chance. After all, many thousands of young men and women from all over Alabama have been playing an integral role in both the war phase of "Operation Iraqi Freedom," as well as what is now an even more difficult challenge -- that of establishing a lasting peace.
And naturally, the question many south Alabamians have raised in recent months -- even while being supportive of our president and commander in chief -- has been whether the cost of this mission is really worth the price?
Never mind the financial price tag most Americans have already agreed to; there has also been the loss of 450 young men and women -- soldiers in the prime of their lives -- who have made what is truly the ultimate sacrifice in the preservation of freedom.
The national press has worked overtime to highlight the "bad" news of the day, but my trip to Iraq requires me to point out that there is definitely another story that deserves to be told:
A story of pride, determination and extraordinary bravery by the young men and women of America's military -- active duty, reservists and guardsmen alike, as well as thousands of civilians who are also playing an integral role in giving Iraq a new lease on life. These exceptional men and women are truly an inspiration, as well as a model of what good training, adequate funding and strong public support can mean to the defense of this country.
More importantly, to a person, they realize that they are fighting the war against terrorism "over there" so that we can minimize the chances of seeing terrorism "over here" again.
A story of hope. In the midst of an area of the world that has known trouble and conflict for centuries, a free Iraq is now becoming a reality.
Moreover, considering the evil that lurks around almost every corner, a liberated Iraq can become an oasis of freedom in the Middle East and a strong ally in the ongoing war on terrorism around the world.
A story of tremendous success. Following World War II, it took Germany 14 months to establish its own police -- it has taken Iraq just 2 months.
The Germans took three years to establish a major reconstruction plan --for Iraq, this has occurred in just 4 months; and it took 10 years to train a new military in Germany -- today, American soldiers are training the new army of Iraq just three months after major hostilities ended.
Make no mistake, much more work must be done and even the capture of Saddam Hussein doesn't guarantee that the job will get any easier, at least in the interim.
But in the end, with a strong will, an unbending determination, and a moral compass, America can answer in the affirmative the question "was this the right thing to do?"
Yes for Iraq. Yes for America. Yes for the world.
May this season of hope also bring peace to your hearts and to our world.
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