As I was surfing through several news sites yesterday, I read a couple of editorials I found interesting. One, from National Review, detailed a tour of Iraq by conservative radio talk show host Michael Graham. During his tour, he spoke to at least 100 soldiers on the ground throughout Iraq and Kuwait. All, according to him, support the war and believe we are ultimately winning. The other editorial, from my hometown StarTribune, had a very different view, believing that our swift departure from Iraq is the most likely way to ensure progress here. I have always believed that when you hear widely divergent views, the truth lies somewhere near the middle, and that is probably the case here.
What angered me about the Strib's editorial was not it's conclusion, although I do disagree with it. I was appalled at the implication that the soldiers in Iraq are somehow shielded from the reality of the war: It's "not politics that blind him from seeing the real Iraq," she said. "The [Green Zone's] maze of tall blast walls and miles of concertina wire obscure the view, too."
Pardon me? The soldiers fighting this war are blinded from the real Iraq? I am shielded from the real Iraq by nothing more than a SAPI plate and a pair of WileyX's. I deal with hundreds of Iraqis a day. I have dealt with Iraqi civilians, Iraqi soldiers, and have been inside Iraqis homes. I have lost friends. My unit is rebuilding and expanding a nearby school, and we are maintaining and improving this FOB, which will be turned over to the Iraqi Army in short order. How dare a journalist, from the comfort of a hotel in the Green Zone, make the implication that we are blinded from the real Iraq! Whose opinions of the violence are really more valid, that of the journalists risking their lives to chronicle it, or the soldiers risking their lives to fix it?
I wonder if the Strib's editorial board, when faced with the reality that most (but admittedly not all) of the soldiers in Iraq believe we are making progress, made the decision to attempt marginalize our experiences by finding an excuse to discount them. Yes, we have a Burger King, we carry pictures of our families who we do miss terribly, and we surround our FOB's with blast walls and concertina. The Strib says children aren't going to school, but I see them in school. The Strib says we are making progress in drips and drabs. Progress is progress, and if you are patient, a bucket can fill a drip at a time.
So who knows the truth? I choose to believe my own eyes.