Friday, December 22, 2006

An Early Christmas Present

As Christmas nears, it is once more time to remember those who serve so far away from home.

Should it suprise anyone that the new Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has already been called a "yes man"? From the Washington Post, William M. Arkin has this title, "Gates Disses the Troops, and the American People", in which he points out that Robert Gates abbreviated visit to Iraq was merely a photo-op with the troops, while lamenting the fact that Gates has had a change of heart regarding his view of the need for continuing American troop strength in Iraq. Arkin points out in his piece that while former Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was never a favorite of his, calling him "aloof and impatient", he insinuates that Rummy at least did not "diss" the troops with fly-bys for photo-ops. At least Arkin and I can agree on that.

For all of Rumsfeld's being "aloof and impatient", he did take time with the troops when he could. Case in point, Rumsfeld's spending time while flying out of Iraq with my son's battalion when they were flying in to begin their year of service there. It happened in Germany in the early part of 2004. When Rumsfeld heard that my son's battalion was being held over at the terminal while their plane were being serviced for the last leg in, Rumsfeld could have chosen to remain in his own area of the terminal enjoying the relative peace and comfort of the priveledged, but instead he waded right into the tumult of a crowded room filled with boots to be soon on the ground.

Many pictures were taken that day by the soldiers of Rumsfeld wearing a jogging suit, first standing on a chair to say a few words, and then shaking hands and bantering with most of the group during the short time he had before his plane was ready to leave. What impressed the soldiers the most was his softly stated words of support, given with thumps on the back, and his smile. Something a phony photo-op could not produce, if as Mr. Arkin relates in his piece on Gates he believed Gates achieved. This particular group of soldiers did not feel dissed or used as a photo-op, although the story did make the news for the day. What those soldiers took away from that chance meeting with Rummy would stay with them in their memories of a soft-spoken man who really cared for those whose duty he was charged with. He became "Rummy" to them - a man who growled at the media and his dissenters, but who also was capable of genuine and humbly offered words of support and comfort when amongst his troops.

Mr. Arkin never had the opportunity to put himself in the boots of those on the ground. It is easy for him to criticise Rumsfeld's being "aloof and impatient", because of this. It appears that the new Secretary of Defense may be even more of a dissapointment to Mr. Arkin. Gates is already labeled by Arkin as a "yes man", for entertaining the thought that he possibly was wrong about the situation in Iraq, based upon his reaction to meetings he had with the powers-that-be while on his "photo-op" tour.

I can't help but laugh at Arkin's Scrooge-like reaction to Gates newly gained wisdom. It seems to me that Gates new enlightenment really mirrors the actual sentiments of those living in hell in Iraq. Those that serve can understand the importance of why they are there. Those that live there can understand the importance of American support. Did Gates really diss the troops and the American people, as Arkin claims? I don't think so, unless you are just counting those liberal bleeding heart peace lovers who have hated every moment of a GOP majority.

It would appear that there may be a Santa afterall. Gates has given the troops an early Christmas present. He gave them an admission that he was wrong and that what they were doing was really worth it. For the American people who serve and their families, that was a huge admission by Gates and one I believe couldn't have come at a better time.

Mr. Arkin, all I can say to you is - put that in your Christmas stocking and stuff it.

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posted by Is It Just Me? at 8:52 AM