While I, thankfully have not become a member of the Gold Star ranks, I am a blue star mom, twice over, soon to be thrice. And here is why I'm going:
As the mother of a son who was perched on the berms of the Kuwaiti-Iraqi border in the run-up to the war, I ingested every single living breathing detail about Iraq and it's threat to the United States that I could, from when the president first hinted at going to war there, after his multi-week vacation in the summer of 2002.
My mind told me it was not a good move, this "war of choice", this "pre-emptive war" stuff, conducted in a country that was cobbled together of three different regions and cultures and religions.
But in my heart, I could not believe that this president, this administration would lie to get us involved in something so serious unless there were real evidence to back it up, evidence that we had no clue about, could never be told because it would be too shocking and destroy our confidence in our country, kind of like the way parents keep information from their children for the child's own sakes.
I, the child, placed my trust in my president and sent my son over that berm with full support and a "go get the bad guys" last phone call between us on March 18, 2003.
I was glad that our congress voted to authorize the president to go to war, because it gave him a bargaining tool to use to get the UN inspectors back in there, which worked. Kind of like a chess game, to get the opponent to react.
But I thought he was only going to invade if it was a last resort, and I thought that's what congress authorized.
I thought, in the end, he'd heed the words of folks like Brent Scowcroft, his father's National Security Advisorwho said a war in Iraq would divert us from the central war on terrorism, could destabilize the Middle East, in fact.
I thought ultimately, he'd heed his own pre-election Aide-de-Camp James A. Baker's words and go in, as his father wisely did, only with the full support of the United Nation's security council.
So I supported the president and the push to go to war. It must have been a last resort, I rationalized, and gravely, gravely urgent.
I surmised this, even though I had recorded and watched every minute of the UN National Security Council meetings where Blix and El Baradei continued to report that there were no findings of any WMD's in Iraq, that there was no threat of the nature the administration was claiming.
This, even though I recalled reading that the aluminum tubes that were supposed to be made to enrich uranium were, in fact, not to specifications for such a critical job.
This, even though I read Joseph Wilson's op ed about the falsehoods behind the Nigerian yellowcake.
This, even though I knew that Saddam, because he was governing without religion (a secular government), was hated and despised by Osama Bin Laden.
This, even though Saddam hated and despised Osama Bin Laden back and was not involved in Sept. 11.
This, even though I knew that al Queda, who was based in Afghanistan and working with the Taliban there for many years, was the perpetrator of September 11 and had nothing to with Saddam Hussein.
This, even though I knew that General Norman Schwarzkopf said that going to Iraq was unwise.
This, even though I knew that Bush's father stopped short at the Iraqi border because as he wrote, in his biography that he knew that without Saddam in power, the country could revert to civil war because of the historical divisions within the country between the Kurdish North, the Shite South, and the Sunni Center, and that it would likely destabilize the entire Middle East.
How did I learn all this? I am a mother of a son that was waiting at the berms on the border and I made it my business to learn all I could. My son's life was on the line and I had both the radar of a mother watching over her young and the resources of a journalist.
Overriding all my concern was the fact that this "war of choice", this "preemptive war" had to be fought because the president was worried about things like mushroom clouds and unmanned aerial vehicles striking the eastern United States with Hussein's arsenal of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, even though Blix and El Baradei could not locate them.
I did wonder at times, why the administration did not just tell Blix and El Baradei where these weapons were before the war started, but that's another story... Instead, the UN inspection teams made a hasty exit when Bush announced the deadline was imminent.
In the end my son, along with his unit, went over the border on that very first day and rode like hell toward a busy intersection in the middle of the country in a place called Nasiriyah, the site of the 501st's incident and major Marine casualties not two days into the war. Several of those Marines, it was learned much later, were felled, tragically, by friendly fire.
I slept very little and dreaded every knock on the door, and fell apart with each strange car that came up our driveway. I prayed and wrote letters and waited. I thanked God and our own personal "guardian angels" that kept my boy safe from harm.
I watched the news, every bit of it. Recorded something like 20 VHS cassettes of it to archive for my son in case he ever wanted to visit that place again in his memory. I clipped and saved every article on the unit he was with, including one New York Time's headline referring to the region my son was in as a "turkey shoot for the Marines there."
I sent massive quantities of supplies to him and others in his unit because, although Sec. Rumsfeld said "there are no supply shortages," I learned that my son's unit was only receiving one bottle of water each day and one or maybe two MRE's rather than any base-cooked food.
On Mother's Day, nearly two months after the war started, I heard the joyful sound of my son's voice on the telephone for the very first time after he went over that berm. To me, it was as beautiful as his very first cry in the birthing room.
My son returned home safely, but carrying the baggage that engaging an enemy in guerrilla warfare carries. Although initially Donald Rumsfeld said there was no guerilla warfare, the Secretary of Defense later backtracked and called it just that.
My son is back in Iraq now, at this very moment, perched on the Syrian border, trying to keep insurgents from flowing over into and attacking the Iraq he fought to free.
Before the war started, General Eric Shinsecki, the Army's chief of staff, said publicly that the post-war security situation would require hundreds of thousands of troops.
Tommy Franks, according to Bob Woodward's book, suggested to Rumsfeld that they "finish Afghanistan" first. That way, they'd have all the troops and resources they needed.
Apparently, the intelligence about the mushroom clouds and UAV's was too pressing and threatening because Rumsfeld took most of the assets out of Afghanistan and, in fact, missed a prime chance to capture Osama Bin Laden, the actual perpetrator of the Sept. 11 tragedy, at the region called Tora Bora.
Franks, it is rumored, also wanted several hundred thousand troops, in keeping with the "Powell Doctrine" which was forged after the Vietnam war, when military leaders vowed "never again."
The "Powell Doctrine," in essence, says to use an overwhelming force, and have an exit strategy. According to several sources, the original invasion plan called for more than 500,000 troops. That was about the size of force it took to oust Saddam from Kuwait. The Pentagon, the story goes, wanted 80,000. Tommy Franks negotiated with Rumsfeld and the final number ended up being 151,000 troops.
One has to wonder, if the higher number of troops were used, would that mean that the borders would have been secured right from the start? That places like the Al Qaqaa weapons facility would not have been broken into? That looting and anarchy would not have ruined so much infrastructure in Baghdad and elsewhere and would not have cost so many billions of dollars of our taxpayer money to rebuild? (About $9 billion of which is rumored to be lost and unaccounted for, by the way.)
Would my son be back there now, fighting the insurgents at the Syrian border if there were enough troops to begin with? Would my youngest son, my baby, be forced to go there in the coming months?
Would more than 2,100 coalition troops be dead if our civilian leadership had listened to the advice of it's military and retired commanders?
Would Iraq be on the brink, still, of civil war?
Would Afghanistan's battle still be going on?
Would our troops still be in Afghanistan if they had finished that first and then gone to Iraq?
Would we have captured Osama Bin Laden and the rest of those who actually did do us harm on that soul-renting September day back in 2001?
I recall Senators and Congressmen asking for an exit strategy before the war, but one was never presented.
Then, after the statue of Saddam fell in Baghdad, came the testimony of our first WMD team's leader, David Kay. "We were all wrong," he said.
Then came the reports of the second WMD team, the Dulfour report. It was clear: there were no wmd's and the efforts to contain Saddam's WMD program had been successful before the war ever started. THERE WERE NO WMD'S.
Then came news that the displaced Iraqi that was the purveyor of so much of the intelligence leading up to the war, Ahmed Chalabi, was passing along our intelligence and action information to the Iranians through his second in command who was an Iranian spy! Chalabi was a favorite source of information of Vice President Cheney and of the journalist Judy Miller. It was even thought that Iran had set up the whole thing to get rid of their lifelong enemy, Iraq and it's leader, Saddam, who held the fundamentalist state in check. The fundamentalist state which took more than 100 Americans hostage back in 1979.
Speaking of Judy Miller, she is in jail now, for refusing to answer questions about involvement in the leaking of the name of a CIA Analyst, also referred to as the outing of a spy. That act, President Bush's father said one time, is nothing short of treasonous, and he should know. He was the head of the CIA for a time in the 1980's.
Speaking of the CIA spy who had to give up her career because her name was leaked to the press, the case is currently being investigated by a grand jury, and the prosecutors are closely scrutinizing two key players in the White House: Karl Rove, the president's political director, and Scooter Libby, Vice President Cheney's right hand man. The president said he would fire any leakers, but these two men still advise him and the vice president. And he was the president that vowed he would restore honor and integrity and accountability to the White House.
The thinking is, this woman's spy identity was revealed to get back at her husband for calling attention to the fact that Iraq was not really buying yellowcake to enrich to make nuclear weapons (those mushroom clouds) that Cheney and Rice referred to. In fact, the president even used that claim when he spoke to the nation in the state of the union address in January, 2003, to illustrate how dangerous and evil Iraq really was.
Well, with two sets of our own weapons inspectors going over everything with a fine tooth comb AFTER the war, and another bunch, sent by the UN before the war but hastily pulled out because Iraq wasn't cooperating (how could they be cooperating when they had nothing that the UN Weapon's inspectors were looking for?). Saddam bluffed that he was big and bad and threatening to keep his mortal enemy, Iran, at bay. Now, Iran's type of government, it is almost certain, will be the one that is ultimately set up in Iraq. So much for democracy, try theocracy on for size, with sharia law, the kind that kills women for misbehaving.
As if to confirm this worry, just last week, Sen. Chuck Hagel, the Republican Senator from Nebraska that is a member of the Sen. Foreign Relations Committee said the likelihood is that we're going to see "an Islamic republic and maybe a civil war in Iraq."
To date, the war in Iraq has cost hundreds of billions of dollars and nearly 1,900 of our sons' and daughters' lives. The war was conducted based on faulty intelligence and was undermanned. The current recruiting numbers point to a likely shortfall of manpower in the Army and Marines for this year.
Sen. Hagel said, again, very recently that he's not sure "we can sustain another 12 months of what we have been through like the last 12 months," in Iraq. That means there aren't enough troops to stay in Iraq whether we want them there or not.
Worse, that means that if there are any other threats to our country's national security, we're in deep trouble. At least that's this mom's interpretation.
There have been gross errors and yet no "I'm sorry" by this president, by Sec. Rumsfeld, or anyone else in this administration for getting us into something so serious and devastating that women like Cindy have to cry herself to sleep at night over the loss of her 24-year-old son Casey. And that sons return home heavy-souled and ask their mothers if they will go to hell for what they were forced to do.
Why can't the administration just say "I'm sorry!" or like David Kay, "We were all wrong?" What happened to that promised accountability?
There has been no "buck stops here" mentality in this administration and for that reason, I am going to Crawford to join Cindy to remind this president that since he gets paid with our taxes. The buck, does, in fact, stop at his doorstep and he damned well better make some time for Cindy Sheehan and the rest of America, including Congress, who want explanations and a cogent exit plan!
Instead, he rides his bicycle, and takes care of his health. Instead, he flies the returning coffins to Dover Air Force Base under cover of darkness and out of range of the press's camera lens.
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