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FIVE YEARS & CHANGE


photo by Buck Sargent

Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it.
-Thomas Paine


The Means Justifies the End
The media roundtable question of the day on the five-year anniversary of 9-11 was "Have we changed?" I’m not uniquely qualified to answer that one for the country at large, but I can say without hesitation that I most certainly have.

I am an entirely different person than I was a half decade ago. Stronger in nearly every way: mentally, physically, emotionally, rhetorically… I can now endure things that would have made my previous self curl up in the fetal position and cry out for divine assistance. I have now seen more of the world than I ever imagined I would or ever cared to. Dark, outlying corners that most would just as soon consign to the flea market of history.

I volunteered for the Army within weeks after the Twin Towers fell precisely because I believed to my core that Islamic radicals (or militants, or fascists, or whatever it’s politically correct to call them these days) not only needed to be fought, but decisively defeated. It was instinctively apparent to me that appeasement as foreign policy was no longer a façade we could realistically afford to maintain.

In the past five years I have willingly given up nearly everything I have to offer in service to my country: my future plans; my scholarly pursuits; time with my friends and family; my husbandly duties; a normal life; if need be, my very life itself. In just over fours years in the military, nearly half of them I have spent away at war in the Middle East.

The al-Qaeda training camps and sanctuary of Afghanistan were an obvious place to start, but I cared not where we followed the trail, or where it followed us, provided it was not again on U.S. soil. It could have been Iraq, or Iran, or Syria, or Pakistan, or even the Saudi kingdom itself. But my idealistic streak strongly identified with our new, untested President at the time: "We did not seek this fight, but we will answer it at a time and place of our choosing." Never before had any words rung truer to these ears.

Victor Davis Hanson once penned the single most elucidating statement on our current struggle that I have yet to come across:
We seek military action and democratic reform hand-in-glove to end Islamic rogue states and terrorist enclaves -- not because such audacious measures are our first option (appeasement, neglect, and complicity in the past were preferable), but because they are the last.
Fighting radical Islamists anywhere in the world -- whether it be Iraq or Afghanistan or Indonesia or the Horn of Africa -- is fighting the War on Terror. Period. (Hell, exclamation point!)

Wherever they congregate, we should fight them. Wherever they follow us to, we should fight them. Wherever they hole up and make a stand, we should fight them -- and we should continue to fight them until they are all killed, captured, or until their worldwide movement capitulates. Just because we can afford to relent at this juncture, doesn’t mean we should.

You can’t defeat an idea, assert the professional pessimists. Sure you can. Anarchism was an idea that took hold in the turn of the century, rallying many converts and claiming several world leaders until it was belatedly confronted and ultimately smashed. Ditto with mid-century fascism. And communism was perhaps the most wicked idea ever conceived, responsible for the deaths of untold millions before it was banished to the hinterlands, surviving only as a bizarre relic of a rescinded era.

International terrorism had a beginning. For us it was the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979 that sounded the alarm we refused to acknowledge for over two decades. It is a diffuse and elusive enemy, yet it is incontrovertibly dependent for survival on nation-state sponsorship. A major attack that took years to conceive, plan, and execute simply cannot be accomplished within the confines of internet chat rooms alone. Huge sums of money and freedom from prying eyes are required that only rogue states or Bond villains can adequately supply. And when your rogue state du jour is presided over by a quintessential Bond villain (Axis of Evil, anyone?), you have a ready-made recipe for ideological mass murder.

The Soviets were the original sponsors of modern Islamic terrorism, a patronage the Iranian mullahcracy has in recent years gladly stepped in to uphold. They currently have their dirty fingernails dug in from Lebanon to Gaza to Afghanistan, with Iraq squarely in the palm of their grip. At some point, they will have to be confronted as well -- be it diplomatically, economically, or militarily -- if we hope to avert their eventual ascendancy and domination of the entire region.

Fortunately for us, all movements with a beginning can also come to an end. When our avowed enemies no longer have the means to attack us, then -- and only then -- will we know we have reached it.


The Politics of Victory
I have a confession to make: I am indeed a product of my biases. I freely admit to harboring an agenda, though not a secret one. Unlike the misnomer of "objective journalism," I make no claim to be a disinterested party nor an impartial witness to the present conflict. I am very much a participant, and my agenda is to win -- nothing more, nothing else, and nothing less. That entails sending a clear, cohesive, and unambiguous message that we are not going to leave -- we are not going to give up, throw in the towel, or walk away -- until the conditions set for withdrawal are met.

I don't care who gets the credit, but I do know who is more likely to get the job done -- albeit imperfectly at times -- but it would be remiss of me to pretend otherwise. Call me old fashioned, but ANYONE BUT BUSH is simply not a very inspiring foreign policy alternative. The lives and future of 25 million Iraqis deserve better.

It’s true that most soldiers don't care for politics. This follows from the perfectly healthy and encouraging fact that neither do most Americans. But to then infer that politics can somehow be divorced from the dirty business of war is absurd. Clausewitz wrote, "war is the continuation politics by other means." The inverse is equally true. War is instigated by political realities, is conducted by means of political advantage, and with success or defeat ultimately measured in accumulated political capital. One cannot possibly understand the War Between the States without factoring in the election campaign of 1864 or the long Vietnam conflict without the presidential politics of 1968 and ‘72. War and politics are irrevocably intertwined.

For a soldier to perform his duty only concerned with the when and the where and the how, without any regard whatsoever to the "why," is operationally laudable, but morally irresponsible. That’s not fealty to our Oath of Service, it’s a Nuremberg defense. Admittedly, the U.S. military does an excellent job of training its armed forces in the "how," but makes a poor show of educating its troops in the "why." The Spartans did not fight to the last man at Thermopylae for job training and money for college. Is it any wonder our house is again so divided?

It’s admittedly exhausting to continue to make and remake a case that should be obvious to all, yet I will not tire in my efforts to convince Americans that this is a fight worth having. This is more of a war of ideas now than one just of bullets and bombs. The insurgents have no hope of defeating us on the battlefield -- it’s not even close. But they can wear us down and wait us out until our politicians and people get bored or fed up or simply apathetic and want it all to just go away so they can return to focusing on the domestic issues that are their bread and butter.

History shows victory belongs to those who persevere the longest and believe in their cause the strongest. And nothing emboldens a brutal enemy to hang on until the bloody end quite like national ambivalence. Just ask the North Vietnamese:
The enemy will pass slowly from the offensive to the defensive. The blitzkrieg will transform itself into a war of long duration. Thus, the enemy will be caught in a dilemma: He has to drag out the war in order to win it and does not possess, on the other hand, the psychological and political means to fight a long, drawn-out war.

Adjust Fire Left, Over
Some readers have taken issue with my previous criticisms of the battle plan for Baghdad where I posited that we seem to be inexplicably playing to tie at this point rather than win. Though if someone can name an individual more pro-victory than myself, I would not only like to meet this person, I would enthusiastically follow him on clearing ops straight into the heart of Sadr City.

As far as Donald Rumsfeld goes, I personally like his gruff, no-BS, in-your-face style. Always have and still do, despite the fact that he has at various times made my life considerably more trying than perhaps need be. But that is precisely why I am so disappointed in him of late. He is now either feeding us and our families a line of bullshi’ite, or he is being fed one himself. And either way, it’s unacceptable to me.

Barely a few months ago I penned a missive in support of the current SecDeaf when he was under attack by the League of Disgruntled Generals. At the time I believed their criticisms to be unfair and unwarranted, but his recent conduct is now making me look foolish. And just as I never suffer fools lightly, neither do I particularly enjoy being made to come across as one.

I’m a "glass-half-full" kind of person. I’ve approached this war with that same attitude from the very beginning, and I still feel that way. But when you start to feel the liquid dribbling down your chin, is it crazy to think that perhaps you’ve been handed a trick cup?

I don’t take issue with our representatives playing politics with war. They’re called politicians for a reason: playing politics is what they do. And as I‘ve said, their involvement is wartime decisions is a necessary facet of republican government. To believe otherwise is to advocate a return to monarchy or a series of rotating military juntas. But what does get under my skin is when they advocate or support ill-conceived notions of what is in the war effort’s best interests based on purely their own political self-interest.

When that becomes the case, then all bets are off.


The Battered Bastards of Baghdad
I’ve long felt that being in the Army is akin to what it must be like to have had a deadbeat father figure. He takes from you more than he gives back, he’s always breaking his promises and letting you down, he’s rarely been there for you… but when all is said and done he’s still your father and you’re stuck with him whether you like it or not. He doesn’t deserve your love, but you begrudgingly feel it toward him nonetheless.

I’ve written before (and will likely write again) that many soldiers have a similar love/hate relationship with Uncle Sam. It is a truism that no one can have as much pride in and simultaneous disgust for the United States Army as one who has actually served in it. I currently loathe the Army and all the indignity that comes with it, yet once I finally say goodbye and depart back home to Ft. Living Room, no one will be more proud of a five-year period in their life willingly given up to the needs of their country than will I.

As a veteran marathon runner, I can attest that the feelings of both endeavors are relatively similar. The idea of completing a marathon is exciting; the training phase is tough but rewarding; the beginning of the race, packed in like sardines at the starting line, is invigorating. But at about the midpoint of the race, you have completely forgotten why on earth you’ve chosen to attempt such an insane test of endurance. The pain in your feet, your knees, and all your joints is nearly unbearable, but by this point it’s too late to turn back. Either way you’re going to have to tread another 12 some-odd miles, and you can’t stomach the thought of your family and friends knowing that you ran half the race just to throw in the towel. Let it be said that shame is an extremely powerful motivator in anything you attempt in life.

So it is with military service.


Advanced Placement
It has now been five years and change, and our nation’s military has finally equaled the lives lost on that initial volley of my generation’s war. Thousands of more Americans have now been changed forever by the chain of events that were spawned from that single fateful morning. What we do from this point on will determine whether or not their sacrifices were worth the price paid; whether we need to make more room on the National Mall for those who’ve fallen in defense of freedom -- or whether we should simply tack on an additional 3,000 names to the 9/11 victims memorial.

That decision is ultimately in all of our hands. But for the record, I know which wall I’d rather be on.


In Memory of CPL Alexander Jordan (1975-2006)
Corporal Alexander Jordan’s desire to serve his country developed while he attended the New Mexico Military Institute as a high school student for two years. He enlisted in the United States Army in September of 2003 in order to fulfill this desire. Upon completion of basic training, Cpl. Jordan was assigned to the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team as a member of the 4th/23rd Infantry stationed at Fort Richardson, Alaska. He immediately distinguished himself among his peers as a natural leader within his mortar section.
Cpl. Jordan was an outstanding mortarman, a fine soldier, and a great friend. His awards include the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal (w/Oak Leaf Cluster) Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Medal, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
The loss of Cpl. Jordan weighs heavily on the hearts of all who served with him. His dedication to the nation and his fellow soldiers will never be forgotten. He is survived by his wife Tiffany, mother Candace, and father Robert.
Corporal Alexander Jordan was killed in action in the Shaab neighborhood of Baghdad on September 10, 2006. He was the first, and as of yet, only fatality in the 4th/23rd Infantry battalion’s thirteen months in Iraq.

He will be missed; he will not be forgotten.

Thank you buck. We are printing your blog out and will give it to every American Citizen who can read with whom we come in contact . Our prayers are with you, but more our minds and hearts are with you. We will never give up in this all necessary war. I say...lets run Buck Sargent for President. We like your politics and we know you are the kind of man America needs on the battle field, and in every other part of American society. Take care and thanks again.
Annie & Neatie

Be on the lookout for "Return of Tales from the Front" and a brand-new GIVE WAR A CHANCE film trailer, all coming soon.

I haven't posted much this past month due to a flurry of job-related activity, but that doesn't mean I haven't been working on stuff in what little spare time we've had. October should be a much more productive month for me, blogwise.

As always, stay tuned. Random Buck time, same Buck channel.

OUSTANDING!!! As usual Buck you've nailed it dead on. While I realize that politics is binding your hands currently I also believe it to be a necessary evil in that if the Dems take control of Congress then the troops will be withdrawn before the job is done. That would be a disaster for the future of America. Thanks so much for ALL that you do.

Dear Buck Sargent,
I just wanted to say HUGE THANK YOU fo fighting for us,for shareing your thoughts with us, for your very existans. People like you give us hope and inspire us to go in wright direction in understanding of this war. I wish there would be more people with the same approuch as you have(particulary among polititions).

STAY SAFE AND GOD BLESS YOU AND YOUR FELLOW SOLDERS.

Tatyana

Buck Sargeant... I have appreciated your blogs & all the honesty expressed. Your sacrifice as well as all the scrifices of all the boots on the ground & their families is so much appreciated. You are all considered heroes in my home. God Be With You All.

Buck,

You are truly an inspirational human being. You are sure to have left an indelible mark on many of us who follow you.


I wish to express my deepest sympathies to you all on the loss of Cpl. Jordan, as well as to his family and friends back home. I know his memory will live on through the dedication and determination of your unit to the mission at hand.

As always, looking forward to your future writings/movie trailers. Keep fighting the good fight.

Thinking of you all every day.

I must admit, I too, was troubled by your post. My immediate reaction was similiar to some of those comments by other vet types. But, I delayed posting because I realized I would be reacting to emotion with emotion. So I sat back, folowed the posts, and gave your post some thought.

I remember my service days. It was a love hate relationship from day one. It was actually that way for most of us. It's how we handled the things beyond our control that seemed to overwhelm at times or in other cases what we saw as B.S. stuff which always turned out to have a good reason though sometimes we never saw it, lol.

Having never been in combat, my only way of identifying with your situation was remembering the guys just back from 'Nam and the adjustments they had to nake, the obvious effect on them, and the subsequent effect on me and the others permanentky stationed at the base. Between the drug problems, PTSD, violent out burst, amazingly quick reflexive reactions, it was the closest we would ever come to war. I have to say looking back, it left a permanent scar on me and others. I cannot imagine what it did to those troops! Add to that the disappointment of extended deployment without notice as in your case.

We did not blame the guys. We simply rode out the tide doing the best we could to understand. I am sure we never came close though we tried. I hope in some small way we helped them.

You don't owe anyone an apology! But, being the honorable soldier and man that you are, it was not unexpected. Simply remember, we are family and family sticks together and toughs it out through the good times and the bad.

I agree 100% with your views on the war and fighting terrorists. Why can't people see you cannot negotiate with terrorists? Why can't they see that even if we withdraw, they will follow? Why can't they comprehend that we didn't start this war? It's not a tit for tat. The enemy declared war on us and has ever intention of destroying us or die trying?

I am truly sorry for your loss. I offer my sincerest condolances to you all and Cpl. Jordan's family. This I do understand because I have lost a loved one in the war too.

God Bless you all. May he give you peace in your hour of grief. Thank you all for you courageous sacrifices. Thank you Cpl. Jordon for the ultimate sacrifice. Tell Mike hi!

Buck - I love your blog - you are honest and make us think - those that have a problem with it just need to not read it - but they will be the ones missing out - We live in a country were we can make our own choices to what we want to believe and by reading your blog I do some serious soul searching that maybe I would have not - my son is with you and you open my eyes to things that he is having to deal with and that is very important for me to help when he comes home.
CPL Jordon gave his life for what he believed in and my sympathy's go out to you and his family and you are all hero's in my eyes.
As I always say to my son - Be Safe and Be Strong -
A Proud 172nd B-Co Mom

You've hit the nail on the head again, Buck. Diplomacy with whom? We can't negotiate with tyrants and fanatics. I can't for the life of me understand how supposedly intelligent, educated people think we can (or should even try). Victory is the only way to go! Seems to me, if we make it dangerous enough to be a Terrorist, and profitable (satisfying) enough not to be, their recruiting numbers will drop accordingly. I keep wondering if a very old enemy might not have a sneaky hand in all the turmoil.

Thanks for the hard work y'all are doing. Keepin' y'all front and center in my prayers.

As usual, another excellent post. I'm impressed with your ability to see the bigger picture in spite of being in the midst of adverse situations. I certainly remember similar emotions while serving years ago; some things don't change. That's one reason I'm so impressed by those who choose to stay and make military service a career. It's a special calling not everyone can fulfil.

Your service is important and appreciated by many, so continue to be encouraged by our support and gratitude.

BTW, here is a good article on a Rumsfeld interview: http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=ZGM2MWUzY2MyMGRiMWI5MzFkOGQ0ZTFjMDI1Yjg1ZDU=

I deeply regret and am saddened by your loss of Cpl. Jordan.

A fellow blogger friend of mine made a disturbing comment associating America's (especially the Red States) fight with the Islamofacists to the degree of favor with the Gospel. In essence, the fight with the Jihadists will end as soon as we all take the Gospel seriously and turn the other cheek.

I was floored at the sheer idiocy of that statement that is starting to spread amongst the sufferers of BDS. This is the mentality, you as a grunt and I as a bubble head, are fighting on the home front as we fight the jackasses overseas.

Thank you for a much needed boost to my liberal immunity system. Like you I sometimes feel fatigue explaining the same thing to people who think that appeasment will be the saving grace in fighting this war on terror; they just don't understand that turning the other cheek just exposes the other side for them to slice.

Press on, stay safe, and God bless.

Buck, What is your opinion of the troop levels debate back home? Would your job be easier/safer/quicker if there were more soldiers there to hold on to cleared areas and keep insurgents from seeping back in? Or would additional troops require too much more support and just provide more targets for the enemy? Just curious.

MJ,

Yes, we need more troops. But not American troops, IRAQI troops. Ones that actually give a damn about their own country rather than just themselves, and that are willing and able to hold the ground that we clear out for them.

We can never leave this place until that idea finally gets through people's heads. Iraq's broken society was decades in the making and will take just as long to correct (if ever). But it will have to be done by them. As I've said before, we can no more solve all their problems for them than they could help us solve ours at home.

But the militia movement has been allowed to infiltrate the police and army to such a degree that I'm afraid we're never going to see that happy ending that people keep holding out for. Our best bet at this point is to maintain our strong alliance with Iraqi Kurdistan in north (the only place where any sane, civilized Iraqis exist), consider that the "real" Iraq, and just keep an eye on the south for any built up al-Qaeda activity that can be wiped clean with GPS-guided magic.

I hate to say it, but the majority of these people don't deserve all the chances we've given them to have a country with a future. I think it was commendable to at least give them a shot, though.

This isn't my final word on this matter. But I'm definitely starting to lean that way. I'll elaborate more in future posts.

-Buck

Thank you for your post. It's not like white-black topic - more in the shades of grey. I have conflicting thoughts when it comes to the war in Iraq. In particular, extention of troops without warning. I want the job to be finished, but you are right - it needs to be done by Iraqis. I still believe that many Iraqis want to live in peace. Maybe I'm wrong. What about the other areas? Is Baghdad representative of all Iraq? (minus Kurds of course) It takes at least generation to change mentality. Corruption is the worst enemy.
I hope you will come home within 2 months. Stay safe.
Keeping Cpl. Jordan's family in my prayers.

Thanks for responding. There is a full-court press on right now on the troop level question. A WaPo mag coverstory today on Powell notes his preference for more, Batiste was all over the news advocating the same after his withering testimony on the Hill, and civilian think tankers are pushing hard for an increase as well. (Frederick Kagan/William Kristol, Weekly Standard). CNN's Michael Ware bemoaning the low troop levels has played repeatedly today. No substantive counter to their arguments is getting through in the MSM.

As the libs/media are using the troop level question as an axe against Rumsfeld, a more substantive, military, in-the-field perspective on it's pros and cons is called for. Unfortunately, no one with that expertise is being heard right now, including ret. General talking heads.

The only troop level truly at issue is the current level and zero which is what is coming if the new House reflects a new political reality and funding is pulled for the war in Iraq.

Buck thanks again for giving it to us straight-up whether it's the good, bad or ugly. Your entries are thought provoking, riveting, humorous (when meant to be) and downright excellent.

My continued prayers for you and again my sincere condolences on the loss of Cpl. Jordan.

Stay safe, and thank you as always.

Buck,

I always draw strength from your writings. You are a rare breed. Stay safe, complete the mission, look out for your men, and bring em all home soonest.

My son just returned from a 7-month tour in Anbar a changed but better man. If we as a nation can hang on for Victory and do what is needed to crush Islamic extremism, our sons and daughters will bring home from this battle the strength, determination, and fortitude to stand tall and make our nation great again.

I can see it happening -- you will be on the front ranks of that optimistic wave. You're there already.

I'll stand with you any day.

Proud Marine Dad

Buck, stopped back to your blog and was greeted first by the incredible picture - you are an artist with a camera as well as with words. This current post is classic Buck and I am so glad I came back again today. These are tough times in Iraq (and here at home as well!) I have redoubled my prayers for you Buck and your Strykers and another Sgt I send care parcels to from time to time as a Soldier's Angel.

I wish to convey to you, Buck, his other Stryker friends and Cpl Jordan's family my deepest sympathy in the loss of this wonderful young man, friend husband and son. We are the greatest nation on earth because we have such men as this serving our nation. God bless and keep you all as you strive to win in Iraq.

PS: Buck, your comment on the stand down of about 700 police after allegations of collusion with the death squads.

Excellent post, Buck Sargeant!

All-new GIVE WAR A CHANCE trailer is finally up. Click on 1st pic in "Video Archive" sidebar to view.

-Buck

Okay, having some technical difficulties. Someone let me know when they can actually view it so I don't have to waste time checking back over and over.

-Buck

just saw the trailer. Can't wait til you guys get home so you can finish the whole thing. Thanks so much for all that you guys are doing. I know it is hard but just know that we are all praying for you and waiting patiently (well most of the time) for the return of the 4-23.

Just watched the trailer. Thank you for bringing a smile to my face. It was absolutely beautiful...and the end made me lol!!

Cool trailer Buck. Can't wait for the whole deal.
Stay safe you guys and get the heck back here already!
Teresa :-)
St.Helens, OR

GIVE WAR A CHANCE II: All-new Updated Trailer

ABSOLUTELY AWESOME! Thank you and your guys for this.

The trailer is wonderful, moving, funny and yes, awesome. I can hardly wait to see the whole thing come spring 2007. You are a truly talented man, Buck and this trailer as a preview of the whole is a promise of even greater things to come for you and us!!. Meanwhile, may the Good Lord take care of you all.

Victory is so underrated by the liberal Democrats and their lapdogs in the news media. It's as if they actually enjoy the thought of America losing a war.

Same in the world of politics. The American people are fed a bunch of lies and nonsense by the media and soon they're prepared to vote in a bunch of Stalinst anti-Americans. It's so sad.

I dread the 2008 presidential election. That's when the libs will do and say anything to gain control of the White House. And there's on a McCain to stop them? I hope not. Perhaps John Cox will gain the attention he deserves from the voters. He's already airing TV spots in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. (see www.cox2008.com), but it'll be hard to defeat Clinton who has the funding, the adoration of the media clowns and name recognition.

Awesome! Just dang Awesome!!
Thank you all!!!

Here,here!Thank you does not seem to cut it.Your sacrifice and those around you,afford my family and I the peace and safety all Americans should cherish.Please be as safe and careful as you can,and thank your family and all military families for their sacrifice as well.
I will hoist a pint in your honor tonight,cheers.

Buck,

Outstanding movie trailer--cannot wait until spring. Great work, as always!

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"Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed." -- Abraham Lincoln