Here are some excerpts from a speech I gave recently. Of most interest may be the list it took just one half hour to compile from two sources for the speech - A Newsweek International article and the MNF-Iraq website. I made note of the number of remains recovered from mass graves. I'd have to go back and find the source on that again. I know the list does not fully represent the totality of what our Armed Forces have accomplished, but at least it's a start.
The speech focused on what the fight is like in Iraq and all the positive things our troops have accomplished.
"...Although they never do, nor would they ask for recognition for their service, they are certainly worthy of it, and even more worthy to have their stories and accomplishments made known as they (and their families) make the sacrifice in the war on terror for the rest of us.
They wouldn’t and don’t ask for recognition. But I’m in a position now where I can be sure to spread the message about all they’ve accomplished..."
"...it’s not a cake walk there and we’re foolish to expect rapid results in such a place against such an enemy.
It’s a tough fight. There are Islamic extremists who want us to die. They want the United States to cease to exist.
In Iraq we have to overcome tendencies of Arab culture not to do the “dirty” work. There are tribal and religious ideologies to work through. There is what we would describe as “apathy” among many Iraqi’s not to act or take initiative because everything will or will not happen because of Allah’s will. There is an entire generation, everyone my age who should be stepping to the plate to lead who still hesitate because they don’t know how. All they know is repressive dictatorship. The obstacles are huge, but still our servicemen and women find ways to overcome them and make things happen for the better.
Working with the Iraqi’s, walking the streets day and night, running up and down the roads, and rebuilding a nation our servicemen and women have achieved great things we don’t get to hear about, don’t get touted on the nightly news, and aren’t part of the debate about Iraq. Consider some of these things our troops have done and the impact they surely have on the Iraqi people themselves. I compiled the following in just a half hour on Monday, using just two sources, Newsweek International and the website of the Multi-National Forces-Iraq. For the Iraqi people and our security, our troops (maybe your sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, or grandchildren) have personally done or created the environment for:
Ø The rehabilitation or rebuild of 4,544 schools
Ø Brought running water to 2.7 million people who didn’t have it before
Ø Allowed three sets of democratic elections and development of a national constitution to occur
Ø Opened up the door for women to go to school and participate in politics – 25% of the parliament is made up of women; that’s the highest percentage of any Arab country
Ø Provided the environment for more than 33,000 new businesses to be established
Ø That in turn has led to what has been called a “booming economy” by Newsweek
Ø The economic growth is broad-based which gives it stability. It is growing in the areas of real estate, construction, retail, wholesale trade, and second-hand sales
Ø Cell phone usage has increased from 1.4 million to 7.1 million people over the last two years and the largest provider, Iraqna has profited $333 million in ’05 and $520 million for ’06 which in turn has created countless jobs
Ø Provided them the environment to allow a 17% GDP growth in 2005 and 13% in 2006; by contrast, ours grows at about 3% to 4%
Ø Allowed the conditions for the average Iraqi salary to increase 100% since ‘03
Ø “Succeeded in creating conditions for small-scale enterprise to succeed” according to Newsweek International
Ø Through our support, the International Monetary Fund, and other countries, our soldiers have completed the water and school projects noted above as well as built or rehabbed 150 primary care clinics and 12 hospitals including the Basrah Children’s Hospital with 8 more planned
Ø They’ve completed 300 electricity projects to restore and provide first time power to many residents there
Ø A railroad maintenance center has been built to support the country’s infrastructure.
Ø They’ve turned Fallujah from a terrorist safe-haven into one of the most peaceful places in the country with a booming local economy
Ø They’ve found a way to work with tribal leaders in Ramadi, one of the most dangerous places in Iraq, maybe even the world, and began eliminating Al Qaeda from there while starting bridge, school, water treatment facilities, community center, and local government reconstruction. It’s become safe to walk down more and more of the streets there everyday.
Ø They’ve paved the way for the Iraqi’s to take full control and responsibility for 3 of 15 provinces now which average less than 1 attack per day, less than crime rates in our own big cities.
Ø They’ve trained 325,000 Iraqi Security Force members and now 80% of all Iraqi Divisions require only limited support from us
Ø They’ve helped the Iraqi’s establish their own Joint HQ Operation Center for control of their Army, Navy, and Air Force
Ø Unearthed and returned to their families over 300,000 sets of human remains from Saddam’s mass graves
Ø And they’ve done all this by and while catching hundreds and thousands of bad guys, securing neighborhoods, finding weapons caches, and killing international terrorists
Ø They’ve done this while trying to positively impact many Iraqi lives at a personal level through personal assistance in off-duty times, school supply, clothing, and toy drives from home, healthcare by Corpsman for sick Iraqi children. Corpsman Chris Walsh from 3/2 as an example started the process to get a sick child with surgical needs back to the states before his death there.
And the list goes on and on. The list of their sacrifices, hard work, and accomplishments continues to grow every day and we should all be proud of everything they’ve accomplished in such an austere environment.
So, no matter your thoughts on the war on terror, please don’t ever short-change those who fight it. Keep their accomplishments on the front-burner, in the forefront of your mind. They don’t ask for the recognition or support, although I know they appreciate it. But don’t ever hesitate to recognize their endeavors and the fruits of their labor and then factor it into your views of our fight against those who wish to destroy us."