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"Vets for Freedom" takes the Hill

July 18, 2007

Thirty representatives of the thousands-strong advocacy group Vets for Freedom, made up of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, took Capitol Hill (specifically, the Russell Senate Office Building) by storm yesterday, meeting with Senators and their representatives and making their case for continued support of General Petraeus and the American effort in Iraq.

Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) met with separately the group's representatives to start off the day. Both expressed their staunch support for the troops and for the mission, thanking each and every soldier, sailor, airman, and Marine there for their service and for their advocacy, and promising to do whatever they could to stave off the opposition who are seeking to declare defeat in Iraq for political gain, and Graham spoke forcefully against al Qaeda and Iran, who he said were "the two biggest killers of American soldiers" in that country, and derided the Democrat leadership for their "all night stunt" which was on the calendar for that evening. "Woooo, they're staying up all night. Very tough," said Graham, hs voice dripping with very welcome sarcasm. "Our soldiers are staying up all night tonight, too -- in firefights with the enemy, with al Qaeda."

Fresh off the successful and friendly meetings with McCain and Graham, the group decided to go after Sen. John Warner (R-VA), one of the Republicans who has recently gone weak-kneed on Iraq and a cosponsor of the Warner-Lugar amendment (which would order President Bush to plan a withdrawal from Iraq). Warner wasn't available, but one of his military advisors -- an active duty Naval officer -- sat down with the group for the better part of an hour, asking the veterans present for their take on the situation on the ground in Iraq, and attempting to explain -- very slowly, as though speaking to people who had no knowledge of politics whatsoever -- that, despite protestations to the contrary, opinion polls really should dictate American foreign policy, and the "separate but equal" doctrine really meant that Congress should dictate the tactics and strategy used in warfare.

"We have to have a contingency plan," said Warner's representative, when asked why, while executing a new strategy -- and in the middle of the largest offensive since 2003 -- Senator Warner's top priority appeared to be preparing for defeat. "If you ask this administration what their plan is for bringing the troops home from Iraq, they look at you blankly and have nothing to say," he explained. "This would make them draw up that plan."

"No, sir," said a sergeant who served in Iraq with the 1st Infantry Division. "You don't engage in a fight, you especially don't change course to a strategy which is working, and then plan for losing. You plan for victory."

The poignant exchange continued with the Warner representative's question of "What do you say if Gen. Petraeus comes back in September and says nothing has changed, that he can't make a difference? You have to have a contingency plan for that."

Said the 1st ID soldier, "What if he says that the plan's working?" -- the response to which was, "Well, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it." (Apparently "contingency planning" only applies to hedging for defeat, not victory -- but that is an aside and perhaps another subject).

Other than the above, the most notable statement made by Warner's representative was his claim that the Senate's 81-0 confirmation represented an affirmation of the President's "right to select and appoint people for positions," and was not "an endorsement of the 'Surge'" or any other strategy -- a weak position at best, and one which sidesteps responsibility for approving the current course of action in Iraq at worst.

"Sen. Warner has been one of the most staunch supporters of the President on 95% of things," the representative declared. "We can't keep issuing blank checks."

"With all due respect, sir," came the sergeant's reply, "that doesn't wash. You don't go 95% of the way to victory then declare defeat. When I was in Fallujah, we didn't clear 95% of the city, then say, 'well, that's all we can do -- better go home now!' Sir you stick with the fight all the way to victory, or you bring everybody home right now. There's no in between."

After leaving that meeting, the group broke up into smaller contingents, each of whom spent the better part of two hours seeking out Senators and staffers, both Democrat and Republican, with whom to share their concerns or their gratitude for each's position on the Iraq war.

The day concluded in the Capitol Building, where a joint press conference featuring Vets for Freedom executive director Pete Hegseth and Sens. McCain, Graham, Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was held. Also in attendance behind the podium were Texas Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, and a handful of other officeholders, as well as some members of Vets for Freedom and a severely wounded Army soldier, who was transported over for the event from Walter Reed, where he has been undergoing face and hand surgeries to repair and replace parts of his body severely damaged by an IED in Iraq.

Each of the speakers not only thanked the servicemen there for their sacrifices to their country, but redeclared their commitment to preventing the Congressional opposition from surrendering to al Qaeda in Iraq, and to ensuring that no war supplemental with withdrawal dates included would pass the Senate if they had their way.

"We are not 'filibustering' anything," said Sen. McConnell, referring to the press coverage of the "A 'filibuster' is a continuation of debate to prevent a vote.
The Senate has been debating Iraq all year and Republicans welcome further debate. I have offered the Democrat Leadership the opportunity to have a series of votes...they objected. There is no need to further delay votes on these important amendments with what a senior Democrat aide characterized as ‘a political stunt.’ Our soldiers and the American people expect more from us.
Said McCain:
Though politics and popular opinion may be pushing us in one direction, to take the easy course, we as elected leaders have a greater responsibility. A measure of courage is required. Not the great courage exhibited by the brave men and women fighting today in Iraq and Afghanistan, but a smaller measure, the courage necessary to put our country’s interests before every personal or political consideration.
Pete Hegseth made his remarks, as well, affirming General Petraeus and his strategy, reiterating his belief that America is not a nation of quitters, and imploring the Senators who were not present to pay less attention to politics and more to the reality in Iraq now, as experienced by the veterans present and as portrayed by Petraeus himself, saying:
Make no mistake, the group you see here, which was assembled in just four days and paid for on their own dime, is not alone. We've got a lot of our guys out there still meeting with senators as we speak. And you should know these guys represent thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are deeply troubled at the defeatist sentiment emanating from Capitol Hill.

We think we can win in Iraq. We know we can win in Iraq. We've seen it; we've been there; we understand the stakes. And setting a deadline for defeat is just not an option.

We're on Capitol Hill today, and we'll be back again in September, to tell our representatives and senators to give our nation's warriors, led by General Petraeus and his new counterinsurgency strategy, the time and resources necessary to defeat America's enemies.

His strategy is working. Security is improving. Al Qaida and company are on the run.

But make no mistake about it. We are in a fight in Iraq. We're facing a radical enemy there who's capitalized on three-plus years of failed policy and knows that while they cannot defeat American troops on the battlefield, they can seek to undermine America's political will, through suicide bombers, roadside bombs and snipers.

And that's why we're here today -- to tell Congress and the American people that we cannot allow politicians in Washington, motivated by election cycles, to make decisions about this war. Too much is at stake.

General Petraeus just received the troops he needed in Baghdad. The strategy he has is showing progress.

And while Iraqi political progress is certainly not where it should be, the security improvements American soldiers are purchasing in blood and sweat are a necessary precondition for political progress and a stable Iraq that denies haven to Al Qaida and company.

So we say to Congress, let General Petraeus and the troops do their job. They want to win.
The message presented by Vets for Freedom on the Hill Tuesday was clear: America is better than the political games being played, and deserves better than the orchestrated defeat Senators from both side of the aisle appear to be working toward so cavalierly.

The question about Iraq has never been whether or not there was a ground truth there known by some men and women. The question has been whether or not those men and women -- whichever among them it might be -- would be granted the venue to share that ground truth with the multitudes who have no idea what the current situation in Iraq is.

With the platform provided by the organization Vets for Freedom -- and by some key, patriotic Senators for that organization -- the experienced pro-victory side of the Iraq debate may finally have found its voice.

With General Petraeus's testimony coming up in just a few short weeks, that voice cannot have been found a moment too soon.

Jeff Emanuel, a special operations military veteran who served in Iraq, is a columnist and a director of conservative weblog A veteran embedded reporter, he will be returning to the front lines in Iraq this fall to provide the American people with firsthand information on the situation in Baghdad and elsewhere while Congress debates America’s future there. Click here for more information, including how you can help support this vital effort.

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At 7:28 AM, Blogger rick the mouseherder said...

What 1st Lt Pete Hegseth of VFF needs to do is abandon his part-time National Guard post and join the regular fighting Army, the folks who have made 3 or 4 or 5 deployments to Iraq and where company grade officers like Hegseth are leaving in droves and are in extreme short supply. Let him fight and die for his beliefs like a real soldier, instead of standing on the sidelines writing articles.

BTW, Hegseth is a bit of ringer. Check out him and his organization at Vets for Freedom is a completely GOP front 527 organization and has, as far as anyone can determine, very little active duty military membership (vff won’t release a list of members, but donors and contributors are mostly republicans loyalists).

At 11:09 AM, Anonymous markpeevey said...

Nonsense: SourceWatch is a leftist "screening" room. It heavily criticizes sources it does not agree with. Note how SourceWatch perceives MEMRI.ORG, an organization helping to detect authorities on jihadist recruiting webstites. SoureWatch is terrorist friendly.

At 11:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the above is a typical leftist liar. SourceWatch is a leftist "screening" room. It won't tell the truth about sources it does not "like." Note it's hatred of MEMRI, a source that is helping authorities to discover Jihadist recruiting websites. Mouseherder is a typical intellectually lazy leftist.


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