An Appeal for Courage

[Lt. Jason Nichols is an officer in the US Navy stationed in Iraq. SSG Dave Thul is co-founder of AppealforCourage.org]

Recently a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle called me here in Baghdad and asked why the active duty military wasn’t opposing the war in Iraq in numbers similar to those that opposed the war in Vietnam. Not surprisingly, he didn’t print my answer.

He was asking my opinion as a co-founder of
AppealForCourage.org, an ongoing effort to allow currently serving military personnel to send a message to Congress asking them to support victory in Iraq. I do not speak as a representative of the Defense Department or the Navy but simply as an individual and on behalf of the signers of the Appeal with respect to the wording of the Appeal. Nevertheless my answer was a military answer. It was a ‘root cause’; a term the military commonly uses to describe the source of an event, a foundation that must be identified before further action is taken. My answer was that the military overwhelmingly wants to win the war, and believes we can. Hence we don’t oppose it.

The primary reason we support the war is because we believe it is just and right, and we were given a mission to win it. The mission was clearly stated: overthrow Saddam and install an independent, stable, democratic government in Iraq. The military necessity was obvious after 9/11, the President said it was required and the Congress voted overwhelmingly in favor of it. We were given a mission and the means to carry it out.

It is a mentality of mission accomplishment that has spurred the Appeal for Courage effort. Just as victory in Iraq seems likely, defeat back home has begun to loom as a real possibility. Vietnam-era Defense Secretary Melvin Laird’s words in Foreign Affairs are a call to action for the modern military:

“The truth about Vietnam that revisionist historians conveniently forget is that the United States had not lost when we withdrew in 1973. In fact, we grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory two years later when Congress cut off the funding for South Vietnam that had allowed it to continue to fight on its own”.

Members of the military have a duty to ensure this mistake is not repeated. We have a responsibility to complete the mission. If that requires us to educate others on the reasons for staying in Iraq, so be it. Yes it’s outside our normal duties and professionally risky. Should we be unwilling to take professional risks while we ask junior soldiers to risk their lives?

The American public is not tired of the war; they are tired of believing that they are losing. They are tired of the daily drumbeat of pessimism and defeat promoted daily by our media and by some in our Congress. (Please continue reading…)