‘Let us fin­ish the job’

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

With the han­dover of power in Congress and the res­ig­na­tion of De­fense Sec­re­tary Don­ald Rums­feld, it might be a good time to won­der how the troops in Iraq are han­dling all this. Quick sum­mary: It looks like we shouldn’t worry.

A Lon­don Times re­porter in­ter­viewed a hand­ful of U.S. troops sta­tioned in Iraq and asked them about their feel­ings re­gard­ing the changes back home. As the Times re­ports, “Some mem­bers of the 101st Air­borne Di­vi­sion and other troops ap­proached by the Times as they pre­pared to fly home from Bagh­dad air­port [. . .] ex­pressed con­cern that Robert Gates, Mr. Rums­feld’s suc­ces­sor, and the Demo­crat-con­trolled Congress, might seek to wind down their mis­sion be­fore it was fin­ished.” No one yet knows just how Mr. Gates might dif­fer from his pre­de­ces­sor, at least un­til the Baker com­mis­sion’s find­ings on the war are re­vealed. But the troops’ con­cerns that Democrats might fol­low through on their cam­paign rhetoric and abort the mis­sion are cer­tainly war­ranted.

As op­posed to the glee felt in many quar­ters of the coun­try fol­low­ing Mr. Rums­feld’s res­ig­na­tion, the Times found a hand­ful of troops who felt dif­fer­ently. In­sist­ing that Iraq was bet­ter off than be­fore the war, Staff Sgt. Frank No­taro said that Mr. Rums­feld “made de­ci­sions, he stuck with them and he did what the thought was right, whether peo­ple agreed with it, like it, or not.” That’s clearly not an en­dorse­ment, but for the sol­diers on the front lines res­o­lute de­ci­sion-mak­ing is prefer­able to sec­ond-guess­ing. Staff Sgt. Michael Howard was more force­ful. “It’s a blow to the mil­i­tary,” he told the Times. “He was a good Sec­re­tary of De­fense. He kept us fo­cused. He kept lead­ers fo­cused. It’s go­ing to be hard to fill his shoes.”

In­deed, one gets the sense from the Times story that the troops’ big­gest con­cern is that the changes in Wash­ing­ton might lead to a con­fu­sion in pri­or­i­ties on the ground. While they would ac­cept a change in tac­tics, it seems un­likely they’ll ac­cept de­feat. “I hope his­tory will judge that we did some­thing good and stuck with it and saw it through,” said Ma­jor Mike Ja­son, “be­cause it’s al­ready been pretty damn costly.” As blog­ger Ed Mor­ris­sey has pointed out, the Times is not a pro-war pa­per. It should be com­mended for giv­ing the troops a chance to speak their minds — some­thing oddly miss­ing in the U.S. me­dia af­ter the Nov. 7 Demo­cratic vic­to­ries. And what the troops are say­ing to Wash­ing­ton is, “Let us fin­ish the job we started.”

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