Sunday, September 21, 2003

A soldier returns from WMDs to BMWs

Listening to gripes about Iraq reminds me of the story about the sailor who dove into the sea to save a child who had fallen overboard. As he drags the boy to safety, the mother yells, "Where's his cap?"

We have rescued Iraq from drowning in its own blood, and the left in the media and on campuses and talk shows is yelling, "Where's the nuclear cap?"

Christopher Hitchens gets it. Sandwiched between supermodels waving their legs for Guess Jeans in the October Vanity Fair, he writes: "I don't doubt that, with more excavation and more analysis of captured blueprints, it will emerge that Saddam always intended to reconstitute his WMD program."

Hitchens went to Iraq and found that all the bad news we keep hearing is as off target as "Baghdad Bob." He found hope. Joy. Ecstatic celebrations. Enthusiastic welcomes and support for Americans who are "disinterring the evidence of modern barbarism."

All this comes as no surprise to Don White, who took a break from fixing BMWs and Volvos to take my phone call at Larry Daniels Auto Center. The Mariemont mechanic just got back in July after five months in Iraq as an Army Reservist.

He saw the country as a motor sergeant who repaired Humvees, APCs and other versions of the military Mercedes.

Some protests are to be expected, he said. "The fundamentalists don't want to see the country prosper. If Iraq prospers, it would create problems for Iran and Syria."

But those are outsiders or Saddam's Gestapo. The Iraqi people "love George W. Bush," White said. "Saddam was an incredibly horrible person."

White doesn't fit the recruiting poster picture of a soldier. He's 43. His own stepson, Brendon Gillham, 23, served in his platoon. And he's an associate pastor at The Living Church of Five Mile in Mount Orab. He led a Bible study every night in Iraq. As his unit convoyed within 30 miles of Baghdad, he had "the chance of a lifetime'' to see Babylon. His report: "Still in ruins."

The other night, I heard Peter Jennings droning on about "sticker shock" from the "huge financial burden" of the war in Iraq. Get real. The cost is less than one-half of 1 percent of GDP.

By comparison, World War I was 24 percent, World War II was 130 percent, Korea was 15 percent, Vietnam was 12 percent.

Don White measures the cost another way - time away from his loved ones.

I asked him if he would do it again. He paused. "That's a hard question," he said. But he finally answered, "Yes."

He would return to five months of portable toilets, 130-degree drinking water, daily danger and scarce showers for a reason that is simple and profound: "As much as I would hate it, I would do it again because we were doing something that needed to be done."

That's why Americans are heroes, not the oppressors we hear about from anti-war critics who just can't admit Bush did the right thing.

Today, White says, "I just thank the Lord for ice in my water."

Iraqis are also saying prayers of thanks for liberation from an evil madman.

And maybe more Americans should stop and thank God for soldiers like White, who took the war on terrorism to the terrorists - and gave us two years of peace and freedom from fear here in our nation.

We were rescued, too. So stop all the yelling about the cap.

E-mail or call 768-8301.

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