Voice your opinion – the war impacts us all
Seven of the Utah National Guardsmen serving in Iraq learned this week their tours of duty had been extended by 125 days. The military’s decision to "reset the deployment clock," resulting in extended deployments for volunteer troops across the country, is a direct result of President George W. Bush’s announcement this week that he intends to bolster the military’s efforts to help local forces quell the violence in Iraq.
Of approximately 400 Utah National Guardmen currently assigned to active duty in the Phillipines, Afghanistan, Qatar, Kuwait and Germany, about 100 are in Iraq.
Many have been involved in violent conflicts and have been overseas for 15 to 18 months, compared to the 12 they anticipated when they enlisted. Nevertheless, according to Utah National Guard Spokesman Major Hank McIntire in 2006,the Guards saw its best year ever in terms of enlistments. Utah citizens, he says, are still willing to make sacrifices for their country.
But, set against the debate about whether to increase or reduce America’s support of the war, many soldiers may be feeling insecure. With congressional rhetoric heating up and Democrats’ threats to deny funding for the president’s plan to ramp up the number of ‘boots on the ground,’ some may wonder whether their safety will be compromised.
In hindsight, there is little doubt the administration failed to establish realistic objectives before entering Iraq in 2003 and that Bush’s victory celebration in 2004 was a sham. Since the beginning of the war, U.S. fatalities have topped 3,000 and more than 16,000 soldiers have been wounded.
Clearly the war has not been won. But as the debate over Bush’s plan to send in more troops intensifies over the coming weeks, it is paramount to ensure the safety of the troops who are already there and the security of the Iraqis who have joined with the U.S. in trying to establish the new government.
Party lines should have no part in the discussion.
Sadly, Bush has failed to demonstrate the leadership necessary to end the fighting, which some say he instigated. At this point he and his critics must devote themselves to finding a path toward peace.
Though it will be tempting to tune out the depressing statistics and seemingly redundant arguments, Summit County citizens must remember they have a critical stake in whatever new strategy is adopted. On one hand, local families have sons and daughters serving in Iraq whose lives could be in jeopardy if Congress decides to withhold additional support. On the other, many more families could be affected if additional troops are called up.
The grave question facing Congress is whether escalation will end or enlarge the war in the Middle East. Our charge as citizens is to pay attention, offer constructive input and to play a role in the decision.
Here’s how to contact your local Utah congressmen: Rep. Rob Bishop, (202) 225-0453; Rep. Chris Cannon, (202) 225-7751; Rep. Jim Matheson, (202) 225-3011;Sen. Bob Bennett, (801) 924-5933, (202) 224-5444; and Sen. Orrin Hatch, (801) 524-4380, (202) 224-525.
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In the wake of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, PJ Falten has been thinking about the “fallen heroes who gave their lives so that something like last Wednesday could never happen on sacred ground. … What would they have thought?”