It Has Not Been Easy for Iraqis to Reach This Day

By Joe Roche:

“We in this country are by destiny rather than by choice the watchmen on the walls of world freedom.” John F. Kennedy did not live to speak these words from his speech, prepared to give the day he was assassinated. Yet, today, his unspoken conviction is with us in Iraq.It has not been easy for Iraqis to reach this day. Decades of tyranny, a culture traumatized by a long legacy of repression and war, but like the Germans and Japanese after 1945 who had similar legacies, the Iraqis chose democracy.

I feel a personal kinship to my Iraqi friends, and not only because of the sacrifice my fellow American soldiers endured for Iraq. I had some personal tragedies over the past few years in my private life. This does not need elaboration except to say that the Iraqi will to survive numerous tragedies and to emerge anew today is something I feel inspired by.

I faced times of despair, as did Iraqis in their struggle, but the human spirit persevered. Iraqis, a God-fearing people, have given us all a lesson to appreciate God’s Will in our lives, which is for us to break away from bondage and move on from adversity through our free choice. In the face of threats, assassinations and other extreme dangers from terrorists, most of whom come from outside Iraq, they chose to move on with their lives today in self-determination.

Ronald Reagan said, “No arsenal or no weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women.” He knew this through the struggle of people all over the world against communist enslavement. Today I’m seeing this again in Iraq.

Set aside your political views this evening and behold this American moment in the world. From Illinois, the land of Abraham Lincoln, an African-American used Lincoln’s Bible to take the oath of office as our leader freely elected in a land that once had slavery. The lesson of America’s remarkable story to overcome adversity and throw away bondage is striking throughout the world.

There were advocates of slavery before the Civil War who said that Africans could not be educated, that they had a tribal culture and ethos that only was good for slavery, that their history and other physical and social attributes made them best suited to live in bondage. I’ve heard many of these same arguments from critics of Operation Iraqi Freedom who have said Arabs are incapable of democracy and self-determination. Yet, now, moving from Barack Obama’s inauguration to Iraq’s election, Reagan’s conviction again proves the correctness of America’s exceptional leadership and example.

I’m proud of the soldiers I’m with who have made so many amazing sacrifices to volunteer during this dangerous time and leave loved ones behind. I’m proud of Iraqis who have defied naysayers worldwide and chose to seize this day in freedom. I’m proud of the courage of Americans who stood strong against the pessimists, pushed the surge in 2007 in the face of a conventional wisdom that had declared the war lost, and our leaders who did like Lincoln and Reagan by remaining committed to an unpopular mission to defeat tyranny and reject legacies of despotism.

Yes, America is moving on, and through our national will we are largely looking away from even acknowledging our victory in Iraq. Whatever we are, we are not an arrogant people. We could celebrate this mission, but it is instead our generous sacrifice that stands as “the watchmen on the walls of world freedom.” We refrained from celebrating Reagan’s victory over Soviet communism, and now we are doing the same over George W. Bush’s victory over Al Qaeda and tyranny in the heart of the Arab world.

We have defeated Al Qaeda and the other enemies of Arab freedom, and joined with Iraqis to set up this birth of self-determination. We did this next to other tyrants in the heart of a region that has never known the dignity of individual liberty. In the face of the most fierce and cruel attacks thrown at Iraq, together we have prevailed.

This is noble, well done, courageous, and now we move on.

SGT Joe Roche
Operation Iraqi Freedom

This post was written by SGT Joe Roche, 100th BN, 442nd IN, Operation Iraqi Freedom. To send comments to the author, write him at [email protected].

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