by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
March 25, 2003
CONQUER WE MUST*
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- President George W. Bush stood before all of us that Inauguration Day in 2001, raised his right hand, and said aloud: "I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States." He is taking care of business; let him do his job.
That's clear to me. What's not clear is seeing mobs of protesters in the streets - many for no other reason than that they can - carrying signs, using flags as drawing boards, shouting "No Blood for Oil!" and not having a clue as to what it's all about. They wear a parade permit required for peaceable assembly; if the requirement were a voting card, I wonder how many would be able to march? Oh, excuse me. Voting is another privilege of being an American - it's not mandatory.
Judging from the shouts, I believe many confuse President Bush's having won the election by a few votes as meaning only a few people voted for him. If he won by only half a vote, he won. It's inconceivable that our President does not have the entire country behind him during this time of acute concern for all of us. Only one of us is the Commander-in-Chief.
Since we identify more closely with screen actors, we tend to listen to them. Oh, they are sincere but in my mind, they are misguided. But, they have the right of all Americans to speak their minds. The fact is, however, they don't have the political savvy to back up their reasons soundly. Nor do I, so I leave it to those with the education, experience, track records and military awareness to do what has to be done.
War is not my game. War is not anyone's game, it's very serious business and once we've embarked, we're in for the duration. It belongs in the hands of the experts and, fortunately, the experts we have seem to know exactly what they're doing.
Is that enough for us? No, all of a sudden we're armchair generals and the television room is our own personal war room. "Take out that tower," someone will yell at the screen where a camera is focused on the horizon. The zoom lens takes us to three men dressed in civilian robes walking along jauntily, white flag aloft, looking our way. The voice-over says they're Iraqi civilians just going home.
The next day, the news reporter said they took enemy fire during the night. The three men "going home" were probably on a reconnaissance mission. "Otherwise, they could not have made such a direct hit on our position," the news spokesman embedded with the division said.
"Why are the lights still on in Baghdad? Hit the power plant."
I don't try to second guess General Tommy Franks' orders. If he wanted that strike, it would have been done, surgically, and the city would be dark. That's not exactly the best way to endear us to the Iraqi citizens we're planning to liberate. In some pockets of Iraq, whether government-organized or spontaneously, people have taken to the streets, hanging George Bush and Tony Blair in effigy. These men are not monsters. Hanging in effigy is reserved for the inhumane, not for our leaders.
The reports tell us more than I want to know; show me more than I want to see. It's shocking but it's real. When we close our eyes, it doesn't go away. It goes on and on until our vigorous action brings the victory over tyranny we're fighting for - for the Iraqi people.
We seem to look for evidence of under-the-table dealings: "Oh, they've got their friends lined up already to take care of the reconstruction of Iraq - contracts are drawn up as we speak.
Words like that disturb me greatly. Are we supposed to leave Iraq in rubble for months before we arrange for getting back to normal?
I was asked how I feel about the war. Well, I don't feel at all good about it. I watched diplomacy fail month after month. We all want to believe that Saddam Hussein is a reasonable man, he trusted our nature not to be aggressive, he thought we were willing to go the extra mile, turn the other cheek.
Monday, Tommy Franks said "this is the fifth day of combat," adding the coalition forces are on track and ahead of schedule. "We're in the early stages of a military operation," he explained.
The few television anchors left stateside are interviewing anyone and everyone to get a slant or opinion on what "they" think is going on. A marine held captive by Iraqis a decade ago was asked what he was thinking. "You just don't want to let your buddies down, that's what you keep thinking over and over again, don't let your buddies down."
I like to think they're all my buddies, both the POW's and the coalition forces fighting a land, sea, and air war. Another former POW from that same war is Major Rhonda Cornum, interviewed Monday morning by CNN's Paula Zahn: "What was going through your mind when you were captured?"
"I was thinking of my family, that's the first thing, how they are feeling right now. And, then, I focused on staying alive, and not becoming disabled, and wanting it to be over." She spoke soberly when Paula asked her if that experience changed her mind about women in combat and the terror she faced.
"It's no difference from the terror we all face every day, whether you're at work in the Twin Towers or an attack ... from some terrorist... ."
I'll admit, when George W. Bush and Al Gore faced each other in the last Presidential Election, I commented that neither one of them is the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but I voted for George Bush. Once having pulled the lever in the voting booth, I stopped wondering which man would be the better man for the job. I've not had any reason to doubt my choice of Commander-in-Chief to our all-volunteer Armed Forces.
*"The Star-Spangled Banner," by Francis Scott Key