Tom Foreman | BIO
Reporter's Note: President Obama spoke last night about the end of the combat mission in Iraq. I listened and wrote my daily letter to the White House.
Dear Mr. President,
Happy to hear about the progress in Iraq. I know a great many Americans have been waiting a long time for this, and if it truly signals a milestone in that conflict, that is wonderful news. You deserve a good word for following through on your commitment. (I know that some people will quibble about the notion that President Bush pretty much set the time line for withdrawal before he left, and you really didn’t alter it much, and on and on…but let’s just leave it where it is for now.)
That said you may detect a trace of skepticism in my tone. And that’s because we still have 50,000 troops over there and I’m not convinced that the people who want to hurt them are necessarily going to change their plans just because we no longer call it a combat mission. Remember one of the chief problems we had over there for a long time (and presumably still) is that our enemies don’t exactly play by the rules.
And after all, many young Americans spent some pretty scary days in Vietnam calling themselves “advisors.” As best I can tell, advisors get shot at just as easily as combat troops. Maybe easier. And of course we still have Afghanistan flapping in the breeze, which is a dangerous place whether we are making progress or not, and frankly that seems pretty murky at the moment.
You know that I’ve argued that sometimes war is necessary, as much as we may wish otherwise. History has always produced brutal tyrants who seem unable or unwilling to answer to anything except force. Sad, but true. And while we can’t trot around engaging any and all of them at the drop of a hat (or a scud missile,) there will also be times when we must suit up and go.
Still, as we pass this mark on the calendar, I find myself thinking back over all the stories I’ve done on this war - all the research into soldiers, enemies, insurgents, neighboring governments, weapons, battles, and local politics. And I find myself wondering if the history of this war, written twenty or fifty years down the line, will make it any clearer what it was all about. Because while I can see the good that was gained (look, Saddam Hussein was a bad guy no matter how you slice the cake and having him out of the world seems like a positive thing…I’m just saying,) I can also see the bad. Whether we netted more of one or the other, I suspect, will be up to the future to decide.
But more than that, I am thinking about our troops and their families who have been through so much - endured such long days and frightful nights in a war that any day, at any time, most of us too easily forgot all about. They have deserved our highest respect and care all along, and they still do. In our culture, where we toss around the word “hero” like popcorn, many of them truly are heroic.
So with all respect, I think I’ll keeping following the news from that region, hoping the best for all of the troops, and I’ll save the cake for when they are all home.
Best to you and yours. Call if you can. I’m going to dentist tomorrow morning, so afternoon is probably better.
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