For those of us in the military, and Americans in general, there are many anniversaries which swell your heart with pride. World War I had Armistice Day, which later became Veterans Day. World War II had V-E Day and V-J Day. Of course, July 4th marks the official beginning of our first military, and it's fight to give generations of Americans freedom. For me and more than a tens of thousands of others who served in Iraq, unfortunately, today marks a day which sums up the failure of our Commander in Chief in the current war -- the anniversary of "Bring them on."
Today, in 2003, President Bush declared his brash challenge to insurgents in Iraq, and to this day, it still sticks in my mind as the single biggest morale buster in the course of the war.
I was in Iraq when the president said these words. As you can imagine, internet access wasn't an everyday thing. A few days after the President made his challenge, I logged on, and the first thing I saw was that he uttered these words. My head was spinning and I was sick. He said what??? We had just lost a number of soldiers, including one who had his head blown off. How could anyone say "Bring them on?" How could our Commander in Chief be so detached from what we were going through?
That's the point, I later realized. It's really easy to say "Bring them on" when all you know about the war is limited to some video-game-like graphics in the situation room, and waging war is reduced to moving pieces around like it was Stratego. Go to any arcade, and you'll see kids playing some shoot 'em up game, taunting each other with cries of "Bring it on!" as they're getting blown up on screen. It's easy to say when something isn't real to you.
It's always somewhat tough for a President to truly appreciate what's happening on the ground, that's true. But that's why Presidents, for the most part, have relied on their commanders on the ground to give them a clear idea. Had the President asked any of his commanders if "Bring them on" was a smart thing to say, I have no doubt that each and every one of them would have explained to him the losses we were taking, and how hard it was on our troops, and that such a statement wouldn't just be hurtful to morale, but would only serve to stoke the fire of the insurgency and place our troops in greater danger.
But, as we know now, the President didn't listen to his commanders on the ground. Rather than realize his mistake, and fix it by truly keying in on what his commanders were telling him, and running things past them, the President is still not listening. The escalation of the war in Iraq is the policy equivalent of "Bring them on." The refusal to engage in serious diplomacy, and fire up the economic and political engines in Iraq, is just another slap in the face to the troops and commanders.
Having your press secretary declare that we're going to be in Iraq for more than fifty years, like Korea, is another "Bring them on" moment. At a time when our forces are trying to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis, and convince them that we're not there to take over their country, the President gives insurgents the greatest recruiting poster they've ever had in this war.
So, today isn't a good day. If there's anything positive that can come of it, let it be that on the blogs and in the media, we take today to recognize that four years ago today, the President proved just how out of touch he was with those of us in the military. Let us remember that since then, there's been many more "Bring them on" days, and recognize that if we are ever to protect our troops and save our military, Congress absolutely must step in and rein in this inept and dangerous President who continually proves that he just doesn't get it.