John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Courage, Adventure, Patriotism

Posted on June 29, 2008



            My wife and I went to a going-away party for a couple of friends of ours, Alex and Amy Mistri, last night.  Where are they going, you might ask?  Iraq would be the reply.  They will work on special assignment to the State Department, helping to coordinate efforts between the Department of Defense, the State Department and the Congress.


            Iraq?  Are they crazy?  Certainly, Alex’s mother thinks so.  And since she is no fan of this war to begin with, it makes her question her son’s sanity even more.


            But Alex sees not only adventure of such an assignment, but also the great possibility of doing some good.  Whether you like this war or not, the fact is that it is starting to wind down, and decisions are being made in the next several months that will determine whether we win there or we let the Iranians and the terrorists win.


            A big part of winning in Iraq is winning in the United States Congress.  This is not just about staying the course.  In fact, it is not about staying the course at all.  No, this is about finishing the task at hand.  And convincing the Congress that they have to commit to finishing the job at hand is part of Amy’s assignment, which will be legislative affairs.


            It takes a certain amount of courage to make the decision to go to Iraq for even a day, let alone the year that the Mistris have signed up for.  Baghdad in summer is not a very pleasant place in the best of times.  These days, it can only be described as miserable.


            Of course, our armed forces now in Iraq (and Afghanistan) have that kind of courage in spades.  We all know that, even if we don’t remember it as often as we should.  But serving on the civilian side also requires great courage, and I can make the case that since the Mistris and their colleagues have no real training to deal with life in a war zone,  their courage deserves a special mention.


            Alex and Amy understand that there will be great sacrifice in their personal lives in this year in Iraq.  But with sacrifice also comes a certain rewards.  Sure there will be adventure.  Sure Alex and Amy will meet some amazing people and do some amazing things.  But, in talking to them, I think they know that their biggest reward will be the satisfaction that comes from serving their country in this place at this time, when such service is not greatly appreciated nor greatly noticed. 


            According to the polls, most Americans hate this war and want us out.  And in typical fashion,  Democrats have reacted politically, not responsibly.  Congressional Democrats have tried to cut off funding for our troops on several different occasions.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared last year that we had already lost the war.  Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama promises that if he is elected, he will do all that he can to get us out of there.


 All of these Democratic declarations have continued to come despite ample evidence that things have taken a turn for the better in Iraq and that the much maligned surge is working.  Oil revenues are up.   The Iraqi budget is in surplus.  Violence is getting under control.  The government institutions are beginning to work.


Alex and Amy are going to Baghdad, not knowing if the next year will bring a repeat of Saigon in 1975 or Berlin in 1946.  They don’t know if their efforts will be rewarded with a President who is focused chiefly on the responsibilities of the future or one who can’t overcome his obsession with the failures of the past.  


It would be easy to take a pass on service in Iraq in this year of great political uncertainty.  They don’t know if their efforts will be rewarded with the thanks of a grateful administration or derision of a hostile one.  They don’t know if they will be witnessing the completion of a painful and difficult job or the abandonment of one.  They simply don’t know, and nobody does because none of us can predict the future.


But they go anyway.  For these two courageous, patriotic adventurers, I can only tip my hat, and wish them Godspeed.

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