Thus far, we have an NIE assessment that is less than rosy. The leader of Iraq says that the escalation is not reducing violence there — it’s just shuffling it around in a more intense version of whack-a-mole.
And this morning, we have a leaked GAO report that says that the Iraqi government has failed to meet all but 3 of 18 political benchmarks. And we hear that the report was leaked by someone at the GAO who feared that the Bushies would tart it up (read: Cheney would blue pencil it) for public consumption. (What does it say when an official at an independent government watchdog agency fears that the President’s minions will tamper with a report like this? Has this been happening frequently the last few years? Shouldn’t we be asking that question?)
What is most compelling, though, is this speech given by an Iraq vet at a public forum in Minnesota. (Huge H/T to Kate for linking this up in the comments):
…I learned what it was like to live in constant fear of dying in an explosion. Every time a soldier leaves the base they are waiting for an anonymous roadside bomb to take away their limbs, their eyes, their ability to function or their lives. It gets to the point that it is almost a relief when one goes off, at least you get to think about something else when you are dealing with the fall-out.
I learned to be extremely wary of the Iraqi soldiers and police officers. They had outposts all over the city, but some how they never saw or heard anything when we were attacked. At some point the decision was made to station Iraqi army regulars on our base. For some reason the mortar attacks we endured every few days became more accurate and many of the raids that we went on with them were exercises in futility because the targets seemed to know that American soldiers were on the way before we ever left the wire.
I learned what cruel irony was when a female soldier we’d never worked with before got added to a routine patrol with us. The truck that she was in got hit by an anti-tank rocket, and an anti-tank rocket is a nasty thing. It has an explosive to penetrate armor, and a secondary explosive that detonates inside the vehicle. If it hadn’t been for her last minute addition to the patrol that Christmas Eve, her seat would have been empty and her tiny body wouldn’t have been there to catch that secondary explosion, and four of my brothers might have been taken instead. The irony of the situation was that when she got out of the army, she was going to become a nun. Because of that fact, her sacrifice has been the only one that I have found any meaning in….
I learned how to cope with the torment of suicidal thoughts, and that I’m not alone in that. A handful of guys from my unit confessed to me that they are plagued with the same thoughts. If that’s not bad enough, a few developed a nasty little habit known as cutting. If you’re unfamiliar with the term I’ll outline it for you. When someone experiences severe emotional trauma or is put in a position where they must numb themselves from life they may seek to feel something else. Sitting alone in a room with a knife, they cut themselves, and they feel something else.
These are some of the lessons that the men and women who fight on your behalf are learning every single day. These are the burdens that we carry for the rest of our lives. I won’t speak to the legitimacy of this war tonight, but I ask that as you contemplate it you remember that there are nearly four thousand dead American soldiers, seven times as many wounded and no one comes home undamaged. For those of you who want to do something but are hesitant for whatever reason, I implore you to get active on behalf of the men and women who risk everything for us. Your voice does matter, and NOW is the time to a stand.
Congressman Ramstad, I ask you to justify your continued support of President Bush’s policies in Iraq. When a person decides that they will risk their life for their country, they cross a bridge that few do, and they gain a wisdom that few have. I have crossed that sacred bridge, and Congressman Ramstad I tell you that this war is not worth the blood that it costs to fuel it. The next time you are faced with a vote concerning the war, side with America, and side with the troops that live and die defending her. Bring the troops home, and give us the care that we need and deserve.
Stop listening to the pundits — they’ll only recommend a couple more FUs. (If you missed the rebroadcast of Moyers’ “Buying the War,” do take a peek here.) Elected officials need to hear from their constituents — not just from lobbyists and pundits. Make sure they hear your voice today. The time for accountability is now…
(Photo via soldiersmediacenter, taken by Staff Sgt. Stacy L. Pearsall. Great shot — you can feel the tension in it. Well done.)