[W]hat did 2,400 brave and now deceased Americans really sacrifice for in Iraq, along with thousands more who were wounded? And what were billions in treasure spent on? And what about the hundreds of collective years of service offered by our soldiers?
Our soldiers fought for the chance of a democracy; that fact is uncontestable. Before they came to Iraq, there was a fascist dictatorship. Now, after three elections, there is an indigenous democratic government for the first time in the history of the Middle East. True, thousands of Iraqis have died publicly in the resulting sectarian mess; but thousands were dying silently each year under Saddam — with no hope that their sacrifice would ever result in the first steps that we have already long passed.
Our soldiers also removed a great threat to the United States. Again, the crisis brewing over Iran reminds us of what Iraq would have reemerged as. Like Iran, Saddam reaped petroprofits, sponsored terror, and sought weapons of mass destruction. But unlike Iran, he had already attacked four of his neighbors, gassed thousands of his own, and violated every agreement he had ever signed. There would have been no nascent new democracy in Iran that might some day have undermined Saddam, and, again unlike Iran, no internal dissident movement that might have come to power through a revolution or peaceful evolution.
After Iraq, the reputation of bin Laden and radical Islam has not been enhanced as alleged, but has plummeted. For all the propaganda on al Jazeera, the chattering classes in the Arab coffeehouses still watch Americans fighting to give Arabs the vote, and radical Islamists in turn beheading men and women to stop it.
These are significant matters. We've lost 2,400 soldiers in this conflict; we'll lose more. The people of Iraq have lost many thousands to suicide bombers and other forms of terrorist attack, as well as to the horrible vagaries of combat in an urban zone, and they too will lose more - ask Israel - yet they continue to campaign and vote and start businesses and create newspapers and buy appliances and open clinics and exhibit an optimism missing from their nation for decades.
So in addition to the gratitude we formally offer the fallen soldiers of our history on Memorial Day, I want to add this remembrance of the accomplishments of the fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the hundred-thousand-plus fighting and building in theater and the hundreds-of-thousands-plus in supporting roles:
What you have done is near to a miracle, and you've done it essentially under radio silence, uphill through molasses, ignoring the "support" that calls for you to leave your job unfinished and the "respect" that decries you as ignorant children. Thank you for your service; thank you for your sacrifices; thank you for your Churchillian commitment.