After this morning and the story about the mass graves I wanted to talk a little bit about the other reason we are in Iraq and Afghanistan. We can argue about Weapons of Mass Destruction and whether Saddam Hussein was a threat( hint....he was) but that's not what's important for tonight. Tonight I wanted to talk about what the Iraqi and Afghan people went through for years under these regimes. I will keep this very PG rated, but it is much much worse then anything I will say here. As the United States, we are a world power. To take a quote from the movie Spiderman, "With great power comes great responsibility." That is a very true statement. Should we sit by and watch an entire country be brutalized? I say no every time. Freedom is not just a principle for Americans, it is an inherent right to every human bring. Every single person deserves to be treated like a human being no matter who they are, where they live, and no matter their sex, race, creed, or sexual preference. The same rights that we find in our Constitution and Bill of Rights are not just for us, but rather very universal freedoms, that anyone anywhere deserve, and that is something worth fighting for.
I remember being on patrol one day in Mosul, and stopping to talk to an elderly lady that I had gotten to know quite well. She had a number of daughters, grandaughters and grandsons, and I was curious why I had only met the grandchildren. They were a very modern family and the women were not kept secluded from society, but we had never met them. She told me that she meant no offense, but years before she had another daughter that was taken from the University, raped, tortured and then killed by Saddam Hussein's thugs. They found her body by the river a few days after she dissapeared and she was barely recognizable. So even thought she did not believe that we would do this, she basically said she was never taking that chance again. I thanked her for her candor, and then she asked me again if I was insulted. I told her no, and that I was very sorry, and I valued her friendship very much. We went and had tea and nothing more was said about it.
The worst part of that story is that it was not an isolated incident. I do not know how many times in Mosul we met families that had daughters that had been kidnapped and horrible things done to them before they were killed. I have been to Uday and Qusay's palace and seen the, "pleasure room" ; I thought I was going to be sick at the sight of it. Just the sheer thought that hundreds of young women were taken away, and terrible things done to, is just a horrible, horrible thought. That is just one of the reasons we are in Iraq. We are there to ensure that the Iraqi people are a free people and they never have to live through that horror again.
I also worked extensively with the Kurds when I was in Iraq. I cant say enough about them, they are just an all-around great people. One of the memories that is still very seared into the Kurdish collective memory is the use of gas against them by Saddam. I have spoken to many Kurds who had family that were gassed and killed, or themselves witnessed the destruction and murder from a distance. I have seen the photos and video, I have read the reports, and through my training I know what gas does to a person as it kills them. It is absolutely horrible. This was the destruction and torture that Saddam Hussein unleashed on his own people. This wasn't just Kurdish soldiers though. This was men, women, children, and animals. Saddam would kill everything in these mountain villages during these attacks, no mercy, and no remorse; moving on to do it to another village the next day. We are in Iraq to ensure that there is a representative government so that no minority group is ever oppressed like that again. That no group is ever tortured and killed like that again.
My last example is from my tour of duty in Afghanistan. Very simply put in Afghanistan under the Taliban if you were a women you never knew what your day held in store. You could be a very respected school teacher, wearing a complete Burka; but the wind might catch it the wrong way and next thing you knew you were being shot to death. You could be a widow and have no family and you sit on the street begging for money so you will survive another night, and a Taliban fighter comes up to you and shoots you. You could be a young man whose beard wasn't long enough so the Taliban came and killed you and took your wife for themselves. These aren't made up stories, or stories that I saw on the news; all of these are first hand accounts from people who witnessed it. Now under the new Government in Afghanistan all people are treated fairly. Women hold positions within the government and even minister level positions. One of the greatest honors I had in Afghanistan was being able to meet the Minister of Women's Affair's. She was an absolutely incredible lady. But this is why we are there, people that for so many years that only knew death and destruction and brutality now have a chance for a real life. They have a chance to enjoy freedoms that we sometimes have come to take for granted as they just exist.
We fight to defend our nation, but we also fight so that the citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan never have to go through this again. As many fathers and mothers have told me there, we are so glad that things have changed, and that our young sons and daughters will never know that pain. I am equally glad, all people deserve that, they all deserve to be treated like human beings. That is the other reason we are fighting.
God Bless America
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