All the way from Iraq two active duty military officers, backed by thousands of fellow soldiers, delivered a well-needed message to Congress: support their mission and stop calling for retreat.
To do this, Lt. Jason Nichols and Staff Sergeant Dave Thul, from their respective posts in Baghdad and Al Asad, coordinated an online petition that so far has been signed by 2,843 Active Duty, Reserve and National Guard military personnel members.
Yesterday it was received by Republican members of the House and Senate. The petition, called “Appeal for Courage,” reads:
As an American currently serving my nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to fully support our mission in Iraq and halt any calls for retreat. I also respectfully urge my political leaders to actively oppose media efforts which embolden my enemy while demoralizing American support at home. The War in Iraq is a necessary and just effort to bring freedom to the Middle East and protect America from further attack.
Appeal for Courage was drafted in compliance with Department of Defense Directives. Nichols and Thul sent an open letter to Congress the morning their petition was received on Capitol Hill. In the letter, the two soldiers asked Congress to give them “full support in finishing the mission you assigned us.”
“Patience and resolve will result in a stable democratic country in the Middle East. Early withdrawal will result in a stronger enemy, a weaker America, and a demoralized U.S. Armed forces,” it continued. “Building a new democracy takes time, and we are making steady progress. We need your support to finish the job.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R.-S.C.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R.-Ohio) accepted the petition at the Veterans of Foreign War Headquarters in Washington, D.C. They, along with four other Republican members, asked their congressional colleagues opposed to the war to heed the petition.
“Just for a moment, ask yourself what would they see in Iraq that would compel them to go back there three and four times?” Graham said. “What is it that makes them want to go back and take on that risk that is ever present in Iraq and Afghanistan? This petition says it better than I could ever hope to say.”
Today, the House is expected to vote on a bill that would only fund Iraq operations for 93 days. A White House spokesman said President Bush would veto it if it came to his desk. President Bush has already vetoed one Iraq spending bill because it contained timeline for withdrawal.
“What we see in the House is that the Majority party is holding up the emergency troop funding and holding it captive, while promulgating a bill that they know will be vetoed,” said Rep. Eric Cantor (R.-Va.). “The Democrats are talking about funding our troops on a two-month basis. I just got out of a meeting with Secretary [of Defense Robert] Gates who said that this bill we will be voting on the floor will hurt the readiness of our troops and hurt their ability to head up the Pentagon and execute the mission in Iraq.”
Gates told media earlier that day if the two-month supplemental went into effect, “I would have to shut down significant elements of the Department of Defense in August and September.”
“You cannot just give lip services to our troops," Boehner said. “You cannot say on one hand ‘We support the troops’ and then on the other hand ‘the war in Iraq is lost.’ It’s time to get a clean bill to the President’s desk that really supports the troops.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recently came under fire for telling the press the war in Iraq “is lost.”
Sen. Jon Kyl (R.-Ariz.) is also supporting the petition. “They supply the boots on the ground,” Kyl said. “All they need is the support from us back home. That is the least we can do.”
Other Republican members who came to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Headquarters to accept the petition were Sen. Jim DeMint (R.-S.C.), Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R.-Ga.) and Rep. Adam Putnam (R.-Fla.)
No Democrats were present.