Community Columns

Rep. Radanovich: Give our military leaders more time

Five years after casting my vote to give President Bush the authority to use force against Saddam Hussein's oppressive regime, the United States is still engaged in daily combat operations in Iraq. I did not take this decision lightly; everyday I'm reminded of the consequences of my vote. Still, I stand by my decision.

There is no question; mistakes have been made with the management of this war. However, there is never an excuse to play politics with the lives of our troops. Their well being is paramount and should always be our greatest concern.

We need to allow our military leaders to continue developing strategies that strengthen Iraq's security, weaken Al Qaeda, and improve Iraqi Security Forces. Gen. David Petraeus's report to Congress told us the troop surge is achieving these exact goals.

There is good news coming out of Iraq. The strategic decisions made by our commanders are helping soldiers do their job more effectively and safely; in turn Iraq is becoming more secure. For the first time in over a year, the momentum is on our side.

Possibly the best news to come from the Petraeus report was the recommendation to begin a troop reduction to pre-surge levels. This recommendation is indicative of both the success of the surge and the confidence our commanders have in our troops. The troops are doing an incredible job in an unimaginable situation. There is nothing I want more in the world than to see every soldier stationed in Iraq come home, but they must come home when the time is right, and not a moment later.

Al Qaeda, as made evident by recent arrests in Germany, is still determined to terrorize and kill U.S. citizens. We cannot allow Iraq to become a breeding ground for Al Qaeda. I deeply believe our troops' presence in Iraq, the center of the war on terror, is keeping Americans safer at home, terrorists at bay, and freedom alive in parts of the world that would otherwise fall victim to terrorism-further threatening the United States. The troop surge has helped deal significant blows to Al Qaeda, and reaffirms the need for US troops in the region.

Furthermore, Iran has stated they are ready to take advantage of a power void that would be left following a large scale drawback of US troops before the appropriate time. The people of Iraq are desperately seeking a means and an inspiration to fight radical extremism-we are that inspiration.

We have lost many brave Americans in this war, several from the Central Valley. Each time I attend a memorial service for these fallen heroes I deeply sympathize with the family members. As a father, a husband and a son, I cannot imagine the loss that is being felt by bereaved loved ones left to go on. I am struck by the tears shed, the prayers spoken, and the grief expressed for the sons, daughters, mothers, and fathers who are no longer with us.

However, in the midst of this grief I am also struck by the pride and hope that emanates from the mourners. Pride in the job well done and a life that was given in the service of others while asking for nothing in return. Hope that this loss, while more tragic than we can imagine, was given to further the greater purpose of freedom-freedom for friends and family, neighbors and persons unknown both at home and around the world. I am truly taken aback by this overwhelming feeling that comes from loved ones during what must be their darkest hour. My deepest respect and gratitude go to those who have been engaged in the lobal war on terror. Thank you and God bless you.

George Radanovich, R-Mariposa, represents the 19th Congressional District.