by Joe Shea
American Repoorter Editor-in-Chief
September 15, 2007
TO HONOR THEIR SACRIFICE
BRADENTON, Fla., Sept. 16, 2007 -- in the little town where I grew up on a farm in the 1950's, there is an ambulance building dedicated to the men and women who served their country in World War II, and its words impressed themselves upon me every day as I passed it on the bus, trying to memorize it as quick as I could read. Today, I don't recall it well, but it seems like it went, "To the men and women of the town of Monroe who gave their lives in the service of freedom, this memorial stands."
The roots of patriotism run deep in my heart. Like the cold streams that water our fields as they flow from the foothills of the Adirondacks, and like the warm blood that flowed from the wounds of my cousin Paul as he tripped a mine and died in the jungles of Vietnam; like the blood that flowed from my beloved Uncle Billy's wounds on the rough terrain of North Africa, and as the wounds that flowed from my great-grandfather's face as he lay on the fields of Gettysburg in the Civil War, and like his father, killed at Shiloh, I am a son of America to the very core of my soul.
Our struggle, our sacrifice, and our survival as a nation is a matter of personal ownership with me. I never forget that it is my nation, my government, my responsibility, and that everything that flows from it flows from me: I am America. Thus, today, it is my war we are fighting in Iraq, and mine to win or lose. Five men from my little town lost their lives as firemen, cops and office workers at the World Trade Center. And although he was not) so far as I know) related to me, on the top floor of one of the World Trade Center Twin Towers, in the largest office on that floor, in the highest role in his firm's operations, sat Joseph Patrick Shea, managing director of Cantor Fitzgerald. I followed his career for years through the Internet, and felt his death not so profoundly as his amazing wife, Nancy, and his children and family, but as a death of my own.
These are the central sources of the words that flow from me today. It is the soul that lights the mind, and the mind that perceives the soul's intent. Through its rocky creeks and tributaries. down its mighty rivers, its broad lakes and brave seas the mind and the soul intertwine to shape thoughts and decisions that reflect not only their origins but their destination, that place of calm and peace that is their authentic expression.
Violence has no place there, and yet it is there that the violence of war and the prospect of its peaceful resolution must be contemplated. Yet it is the way of this world, crashing noisily around us like a pileup on a freeway, that it is considered instead in the hurly-burly of politics, amid the scandals and slings and arrows of presidential campaigns, where decisions that may forge our very destiny as a nation, that will determine whether all the wars and blood and sacrifice are sufficient unto the day - and therefore the outcome of our struggle - are made for the practical reasons of electoral strategy: to please the most, to anger the least, to win enough of the in-between to triumph on Election Day.
I watched last night as a news channel displayed as best their cameras can the terror, the tragedy and the triumph of the U.S. Marines' Battle of Fallujah. a battle in which my nephew, Lt. Col. Michael Kies (then Major Kies), played a key role. I saw a young Marine named Owens run across a street get shot, and then a corpsman come to his aid, and get shot, and a third soldier come to his aid, and get shot. Their bravery, loyalty to one another, and indomitable courage gave me inspiration and indeed, a renewal of my own resolve to honor their sacrifice with the very deepest service of my American soul.
It is my resolution that they shall not have died in vain, these brave Marines and thousands like them who have fought a bitter, faceless, implacable enemy and died in the struggle to bring reason, freedom and peace to Iraq and the Middle East.
There are many among my colleagues, in my party, and in my family, who believe the best way to honor the sacrifice these men and women, and those who came before them in America's long and difficult march to democracy, is to end their struggle and bring the soldiers who serve in Iraq and Afghanistan home from the war as soon as humanly possible.
What they do not ask, or consider, is whether the men and women who are fighting this war, and putting their lives in the way of the rockets, mortars, grenades and roadside bombs that have killed so many of them, want to abandon this struggle and come home. It was not long ago that three sergeants, two now wounded and another dead, argued that the war cannot be won. The majority leader of the United States Senate, a member of my own party, has said in fact that the war is lost. Yet the portrait displayed by American men and women fighting this war is one of resolute courage, great personal sacrifice and utter determination to succeed.
Into this divide between the current Administration and the presidential campaigns of the opposing party flows the energy and intelligence of the American people. Most oppose any further struggle and expense of life and money for the future of Iraq, reject the party that supports the President's opposite view, and seem likely to elect a presidential candidate who will end the war at any price. It is clear that there has been a reduction of violence and a heightening of losses among the enemy that has been accompanied by a reduced loss of life on the American side; it is equally clear that the central government of Iraq is not equal to the task of secular reconciliation or the nation-building we suppose must precede a meaningful peace.
It is incumbent upon all who contemplate the resolution of this war to consider all possibilities, all arguments and all strategic considerations as well as the removed moral foundations of this struggle for Iraq, before any ultimate decision is undertaken that will shape and define the future and the destiny of so many nations.
Too often, we hear arguments to end the war that do not answer to the consequences of ending it; too often we hear arguments for extending the war that do not answer to the questions about its origins and purpose. The historic struggle of the American people for a better world demands these answers in concrete and accountable terms. The sacrifice of 3,700 American soldiers must define a future role in this war and any others, informing our every step on the world stage.
Three presidential candidates have argued for a resolution that would empower regional, semiautonomous governments within Iraq that would share the nation's future oil revenues and be individually responsible for the operation of public affairs within their regions, while leaving national defense and diplomacy in the hands of en elected central government and parliament. Yet it is this very consensus among the three - all of whom are deeply respected by leaders of their party for their experience and insight in the arena of public diplomacy - that is now being constructed by the Administration in formerly hostile provinces like Anbar, where those three soldiers were killed or wounded in their tenacious and finally decisive fight for the city of Fallujah, and that has succeeded in the now largely autonomous region of Kurdistan.
Let us build on the common ground that has been created by the circumstances and situational ethics of this war, whose moral foundations have been shaken, if not shattered, and now must move to the greater stability of a new Iraq. The shape of that new nation envisioned by the candidates and created by the blood of American soldiers, now endorsed by the words and actions of this Administration, is now plainly visible. We must secure its reality and its future with real and constructive progress. Even if it has been forged in the furnace of campaign warfare, it can succeed.
Regional semi-autonomy is a definable, viable goal and resolution of the Iraq war that will honor the sacrifice and the courage of every American man and woman who has fought in the uniform of their country in every war, and so magnificently in this one. It is a resolution my America can abide.