"Gathering of Eagles" in Staunton
At noon today I attended a rally in support of our troops at the Augusta County Courthouse, and encountered a rather chilly atmosphere: blustery winds and temperatures near the freezing mark. Somehow, every time we have such a rally, the weather refuses to cooperate, but at least the bright sun today made for good photographs. This event commemorated the fourth anniversary of the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. More specifically, it was intended to support the Gathering of Eagles, a non-partisan movement that is guarding the Vietnam War memorial in Washington against malicious anti-war vandals.
Local rock musician Henley Folk, who recently returned from a recording trip to Nashville, sang the national anthem. Alex Davis then introduced each of the speakers and read the names of all the men and women from our area who are currently serving in the armed forces. The first speaker was Scott Sayre, mentioned in a prior post.
The next speaker was Rhonda Winfield, mother of fallen U.S. Marine Cpl. Jason Redifer and Justin Redifer, who is currently on active duty. Mrs. Winfield has appeared on a number of television programs, and is a very eloquent witness to the burden of sacrifice borne by our soldiers and their families. She is the author of When Johnny Doesn't Come Marching Home: A Mother's Story of the Price for Freedom. (See the book Web site.) Anyone who doubts that the war to liberate Iraq was worth it should read her book. Mrs. Winfield was also the featured speaker at another rally in support of the troops that was held in August 2005.
The third speaker was Sgt. Herb Harman, who returned from a one-year deployment to Iraq in January. Herb related his first-hand experiences of guarding the presidential palace in Baghdad, where he often saw Prime Minister Maliki and other high Iraqi officials. He got emotional when he described what it was like to be present at the birth of a new democracy, comparing the historical moment to the founding of our own country. He talked about how much the average Iraqi people he dealt with appreciate the efforts our troops are making to bring peace and stability to their country. It's that kind of determination that will ultimately tip the balance toward the good guys in this epochal, decades-long struggle.
Finally, there was a brief talk by a member of an organization that supports Virginia veterans and military families. I should have a brief video clip of this event ready by tomorrow.
While this was going on, the left-wing ANSWER Coalition (redirected link at pephost.org) was holding a rally at the Pentagon, enjoying a degree of freedom to dissent that is unimaginable in much of the rest of the world.
Is the surge policy working?
In the Outlook section of last Sunday's Washington Post, Robert Kagan argued that Bush's surge policy is in fact working. He also "wonder[ed] if The Post and other newspapers have a backup plan in case it does." That is a sly reference to the Bush administration's apparent lack of a Plan B. He noted some reasons to be encouraged:
The Interior Ministry has been purged of corrupt officials and of many suspected of torture and brutality. And cracks are appearing in the Shiite governing coalition -- a good sign, given that the rock-solid unity was both the product and cause of growing sectarian violence.
Well it's about time. To me, it is pointless to argue whether or not a policy that only began a couple months ago is already paying off; doing so only diverts attention from the long-term nature of this struggle. I have my doubts about the surge, and it's likely that the insurgents are simply lying low until the U.S. troop presence starts to go down again. This doesn't mean the surge campaign is futile, however. Indeed, it might just create the necessary breathing room for the Iraqi government and people to take charge of the situation again and get the country on the path toward stability. I certainly hope so.