Another American Hero Speaks Out
By Brad Friedman on 5/2/2004, 2:35pm PT  

A remarkable statement yesterday as the Democratic Response to Bush's weekly Radio Address.

It's very short, I strongly suggest you read it, since it's very difficult to summarize the most telling statements.

It was written and delivered by Paul Rieckhoff, a National Guardsman who recently returned home from Iraq. Rieckhoff had been an investment banker on Wall Street for two years before volunteering for the National Guard. He "knew he would end up in Baghdad...and was ready for it".

While it's all notable, and movingly written, here's one or two key thoughts:

...when we got to Baghdad, we soon found out that the people who planned this war were not ready for us. There were not enough vehicles, not enough ammunition, not enough medical supplies, not enough water. Many days, we patrolled the streets of Baghdad in 120 degree heat with only one bottle of water per soldier. There was not enough body armor, leaving my men to dodge bullets with Vietnam-era flak vests. We had to write home and ask for batteries to be included in our care packages. Our soldiers deserved better.

When Baghdad fell, we soon found out that the people who planned this war were not ready for that day either....We waited for troops to fill the city and military police to line the streets. We waited for foreign aid to start streaming in by the truckload. We waited for interpreters to show up and supply lines to get fixed. We waited for more water. We waited and we waited and the attacks on my men continuedůand increased.

With too little support and too little planning, Iraq had become our problem to fix. We had nineteen-year-old kids from the heartland interpreting foreign policy, in Arabic. This is not what we were designed to do.

He said a year ago they'd heard of the "Mission Accomplished" banner, and had been told they'd be home in time for summer of '03, until they were told they'd be staying "indefinitely" just three days before they were to have gone home.

The image of Bush's Press Conference two weeks ago continues to pop into his mind:

After all the waiting, after all the mistakes we had experienced first hand over in Iraq, after another year of a policy that was not making the situation any better...He told us we were making progress. And he told us that, "We're carrying out a decision that has already been made and will not change."

Our troops are still waiting for more body armor. They are still waiting for better equipment. They are still waiting for a policy that brings in the rest of the world and relieves their burden. Our troops are still waiting for help.

...

In Iraq, I was responsible for the lives of 38 other Americans....And when we failed, it was my job as their leader to take responsibility for the decisions I made Ś no matter what the outcome.

My question for President Bush Ś who led the planning of this war so long ago Ś is this: When will you take responsibility for the decisions you've made in Iraq and realize that something is wrong with the way things are going?

Mr. President, our mission is not accomplished.

Next time you hear a Rightwinger give lip service to "supporting our Troops", or the Vice-President reprehensibly charging that John Kerry does not support them, feel free to point them to the statement of this courageous soldier.

As expected, before Rieckhoff even made his address, he was already being added, by the Republican Attack Machine to their growing list of "Liars". Which is very credible confirmation, these days, that the man is well worth listening to.