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.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.
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."
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.