I Support Mike Lee, Because He Supports the Troops

In the past few days, Senator Bob Bennett has switched into--what seems to me--desperation attack mode.  He claims viciously, vehemently, and falsely that Mike Lee does not support the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines of the United States military.  Having been a soldier who spent a year in Iraq, I'd like to illustrate to you why, as a soldier, I feel much more supported by Mike Lee than I do by Bob Bennett.

In the past few days, flanked by "three retired generals" and a former member of Congress, Senator Bob Bennett has given Mike Lee some very opportune publicity by claiming preposterously that Mr. Lee does not support the troops who serve in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.  Bennett called
...Lee's stance on Afghanistan as a naive, dangerous "cut-and-run" policy that could lead to the return of Taliban rule.

Bennett launched attacks after recent debate statements by Lee about Afghanistan, including saying America should not subject "our young men and women to danger if the purpose is simply nation building, if we're there for the purpose of bringing Meals on Wheels to foreign governments or building self-esteem in foreign governments. That's why we're there."

At a news conference at the Vietnam Memorial at the state Capitol, retired Maj. Gen. Peter Cooke said about such comments, "I don't know if they're naive or they're trying to get political gain. Now is not a time for either. ... One must know those kinds of comments hurt our soldiers engaged in fighting." 
No sir.  You're wrong.  Lee's comments do not hurt the soldiers engaged in fighting.  Rather, they accentuate the danger to soldiers in the Middle East who, in many cases, are not fighting.

I received a letter from Bob Bennett's campaign today, reaffirming the baseless attacks on Mike Lee.  The letter, unsigned, but carrying the names of six Republican state delegates, claims that Lee's "positions on foreign policy appear to be well outside the Republican mainstream."  That may be true, but if so, I suggest that that is an indictment of the Republican mainstream--and not Mike Lee.  The statement may also not be true, because, unfortunately for Bob Bennett, the Republican mainstream is changing.

I think Mike Lee has been very clear--and correct--on what he meant regarding Afghanistan. The "Meals on Wheels" statement was taken out of context, in that it was accentuated at the expense of everything else Lee said about the subject, which, in toto, is very clear.

A friend of mine--and fellow Utah state Republican delegate--intrigued me the other night by stating that he had his vote narrowed down to two candidates for Senate--Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater.  I explained to him that my surprise arose out of the reality that Tim Bridgewater has shown himself to be just like Bob Bennett on a plethora of issues, not the least of which is regarding what it means to "support the troops".  Consequently, Lee and Bridgewater can hardly be any more different in they way they look at United States defense policy.

As an Iraq War veteran  (2005-2006), I gave my friend a completely different perspective on what it means to "support the troops".  This is a perspective that "three retired generals" cannot possibly have acquired unless they served in Vietnam. Whenever I went out into the Iraqi populace, I wore the uniform of the United States Army.  It did not matter whether I was patrolling or handing out soccer balls to children, I wore that uniform.  And that uniform painted me as a gigantic target.

I met more than one Iraqi who courteously but candidly told me that because I was wearing a uniform of the United States, I was his enemy.  I told one of my Iraqi interlocutors that I hoped one day to return to Iraq, with my family and without a uniform.  "In that case, sir," he told me, "I would welcome you into my home as a dear friend."

If there is a MILITARY need to have the military in Afghanistan or Iraq, then let us by all means have the military in Afghanistan and Iraq.  I think I echo the words of Mike Lee, however, when I say that there is becoming much less of such a military need, as evidenced by the military performing a myriad of non-military functions.

If, on the other hand, there is a non-military need for Americans in Afghanistan and/or Iraq, then let us offer to bring civilian help there. Civilians are not often targets.  Soldiers ALWAYS ARE.  Ironically, those who claim that Mike Lee does not support the troops are the ones who, themselves, have the most disregard for our men and women in uniform.

Before our conversation, my friend had never considered a soldier's point of view in what it means to be "supported".  After considering my perspective, he told me that it now makes great sense to him to vote for Mike Lee.

The best way to "support the troops" is either to give them a legitimate military mission or bring them home.  This is only one of many reasons why Mike Lee will get my vote on May 8th.


  1. As a veteran of the Utah Air National Guard, I support Mike Lee's positions of maintaining a strong national defense, having clear objectives when we place our brave men and women of the Armed Forces in harm's way, and bringing our troops home when our objectives are achieved.

    The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war and grant letters of marque and reprisal. I trust that Mike Lee would use those powers wisely and appropriately and would work to prevent the President from usurping those powers.

  2. I whole heartedly agree with Mr. Staheli. Mike Lee is rock solid and principle centered. Mr. Bennett is not and never has been. Mr. Bennett is using the same tactics he used against Joe Cannon in the race that got him elected in the first place. He takes things out of context, twists words and is dishonest. I was feeling sorry for Mr. Bennett earlier in the week but not anymore. Mike has my vote!


  4. Not a prayer would I vote for Mike Lee. He told me himself that we're sending troops to Afghanistan just to "deliver humanitarian packets to orphanages." That doesn't come from a Bob Bennett ad, but a face-to-face conversation with Lee himself. Now he's trying to move the goalposts on this issue.

  5. Since the "Republican mainstream" is the same kind of attitude that led to the destruction of the Nephites, I'll place my views outside of it too.

  6. I have to agree that unless we give the troops "a legitimate military mission", we should bring them home. Of course, then we have to ask the question what truly legitimate mission could there be for U.S. troops in the Middle East? IMHO there isn't one, never was one, and it's really difficult to imagine a scenario under which there would be one.

    If we define legitimate in this case as acceptable under law, then that would require that both US and international law authorized the military mission, meaning that the US was under imminent threat of attack by one of the 3rd rate powers in the Mideast, AND that the UN Security Council specifically and clearly authorized a mission. Not bloody likely, so any candidate who takes that position would get my vote.

    As a veteran, I understand supporting the troops as making sure they are not asked to put their lives on the line unless there is a real and imminent threat to the US, and then sparing no expense to insure that those who are serving and who have served and their families receive the benefits to which they are entitled.

  7. I am a delegate to the Utah Convention and am still undecided between Lee and Bridgwater. The thing that bothers me about Mike Lee is that he was an attorney for Gov. Huntsman and Huntsman was not very conservative. He was pro-global warming, pro-teachers unions, etc. Mike Lee was very much a part of that ideology. So what assures us that Lee won't win as a conservative and then vote like a moderate, the very ones we are trying to get out (Bennett). I am just not convinced that Lee is really a conservative. I think we have a moderate masquerading as one.

  8. D Richards: I had not heard that Lee shared in the pro-global warming, pro-[I assume] federal control of education with Gov Huntsman, as you imply. In fact, I have heard him speak to the contrary of both of these positions.

    It would, however, be very helpful to have examples that might indicate that he recently changed his tune on this issues.

  9. Good post. I'm positive there are retired generals out there who would back Lee and his comments on Afghanastan. Bennett is just more connected, which is to be expected.

    Whenever a retired general speaks out politically, they should fully disclose who they currently work for, what stocks they own, etc...


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