Amid ‘Pullout’ Talk: Remember the Wounded Troops

By: Dennis Anderson

The New York Times editorial on Sunday calling for a speedy U.S. exit from Iraq is simply one of the most thoughtful pieces I have seen written about where we are, what we must consider, and very possibly what we must do.

I can only say as a news reader and citizen that the nation would have been better served if their newsroom honchos had imposed more controls and rigor on their pre-war reporting. That will probably go down in news history like Gay Talese’s reading of the disconnect between Kennedy and The New York Times on their play of the “Bay of Pigs” advance reporting — sadly with much greater and tragic continuing consequence today.

Of course, I was one of the citizens — and news people (editor of a smaller California daily) — who believed what the government pitched as the case for war: imminent WMD threat and a nexus between bin Laden style terror and Saddam Hussein’s availability to find common cause with that. It turned out a great deal differently.

Sen. Richard Lugar’s shift I believe will be marked — like Walter Cronkite’s — as one of the significant turns of corner. Gen. Petraeus’ efforts, I fear, seriously considered as they are, probably arrived with too few resources — read that soldiers and the stopping power that go with them. As he related upon taking the assignment, “We don’t have any more on the shelf.”

Being a community news guy, with an oddly peppered military background that includes time in the ranks, time on Knight Foundation military fellowship, time at the Army War College (and twice an embed in Iraq), I have watched each bad turn with the trepidation and hope and fear one of who knows a little too much — and yet, not enough. Thomas Ricks’ work in “Fiasco” has been the most on-target among the gusher of books that deconstructed what went wrong.

My own worries fall in two large categories, as a citizen, as a former military man, and as a newspaperman covering community at a scale where you know your customers. I fear what will happen flowing from our extraction from this reckless geopolitical politico-military clash of cultures disaster. And I fear what will happen if we do not get out.

Topped to that the continuing association and friendships configured on shared grief and anguish over young people dead to parents I know personally, and wounded children of fellow Americans in my communities of coverage.

These are difficult times in the passage of history of our republic, and it is confounding and mystifying that this peril, this jeopardy, this toll in humanity (ours, Iraqi), this drain on our military infrastructure which is a critical national security resource … it is confounding that this seems to have so little impact on the larger American public. Which, I believe, at length, is how this government of poor stewards has gotten away with its runaway war for so long.

My own involvements — from the beginning — have operated at Ernie Pyle’s “worm’s eye” view of the 360-degree battle space. In other words, our coverage has configured on the Ground Zero that is experienced by troops and their families. Troops enduring, troops surviving, soldiers and Marines getting killed, soldiers and Marines wounded — terribly wounded, and the impact that imposes on their immediate family.

Ours — all of us, you, me, all — ours is an American family. We do not do it right all the time, but we do try, I believe, to get it right. It is bad now. It’s been bad before and we’ve gone to the repairs. We have to do that now.

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