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March 30, 2006

The Last Helicopter.

Fuzzy links to Commander Salamander's piece on Amir Taheri's "Last Helicopter" piece in the WSJ. I got something today in email that ties in to that.

I remember standing quietly behind my 5-times-wounded-in-the-war father the day the television was nothing but images of the last helicopter lifting from the US embassy in Saigon. Thankfully I've never seen that look on his face again.

I hope my son doesn't stand behind me sometime soon looking at my face as the last helicopter leaves Iraq or Afghanistan - at least not if it's going out like that.

In regards to the email I received, this paragraph from Taheri's piece stands out:

Even in Iraq the sentiment that the U.S. will not remain as committed as it has been under Mr. Bush is producing strange results. While Shiite politicians are rushing to Tehran to seek a reinsurance policy, some Sunni leaders are having second thoughts about their decision to join the democratization process. "What happens after Bush?" demands Salih al-Mutlak, a rising star of Iraqi Sunni leaders. The Iraqi Kurds have clearly decided to slow down all measures that would bind them closer to the Iraqi state. Again, they claim that they have to "take precautions in case the Americans run away."

How sad is that? It used to be that you could rely on us to be slow to the fight, but once we got there, we'd see it through.

Now they wonder.

And, well, they should wonder.

Recently, the official email system at Lackland Air Force Base disgorged a mass email:

-----Original Message-----
From: [snipped]
Sent: Thursday, March 16, 2006 7:52 AM
Subject: Foreigner Military Personnel Record Request

Dear Sir/Madam.

My full name is Nguyen [snipped]. I am Vietnamese. I was born in December 09th 1949 in Thua Thien Hue Province, Vietnam. From 1969 to 1975 I served in the pre-1975 regime's army. In 1973 I was selected to take the course about EOD (Explosive Object Disposal) under the US Government auspices. However, I just studied English at Lakeland Airforce Base in Texas about 6 months from around August 1973 to February 1974 then I came back to Vietnam. After 1975 I was interned in a re-education camp for 2 years and 9 months due to my pre-1975 association with US Government policies in Vietnam. Currently I am applying for the Humanitarian Resettlement Program. One of the eligibility categories is 1 year in re-education centers plus US training outside Vietnam. Unluckily, I threw all of my documents under the sea in an illegal border-crossing trip in 1981 because my boat was stopped and I was too frightened at that time. So, I am writing this letter with the hope that you can help me by providing the records of my training course at Lackland Airforce Base so that I can have evidence to be eligible for Humanitarian Resettlement Program.

Thank you for your time and consideration. Please receive from me my truly deep gratefulness.

I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely yours.

Nguyen [snipped]

People at Lackland are looking into the matter.

I wasn't a fan of OIF, I've admitted as much before. But I am committed to seeing it through. I believe we need to finish what we start. We can argue long and hard about how to go about it... but I hope my son isn't at work someday, getting an email like this, from some Kurd who threw his lot in with us.

And I'm bothered that people see us that way. But I can't argue with it much.

I hope Mr. Taheri is correct

But how valid is the assumption that Mr. Bush is an aberration and that his successor will "run away"? It was to find answers that this writer spent several days in the U.S., especially Washington and New York, meeting ordinary Americans and senior leaders, including potential presidential candidates from both parties. While Mr. Bush's approval ratings, now in free fall, and the increasingly bitter American debate on Iraq may lend some credence to the "helicopter" theory, I found no evidence that anyone in the American leadership elite supported a cut-and-run strategy.

The reason was that almost all realized that the 9/11 attacks have changed the way most Americans see the world and their own place in it. Running away from Saigon, the Iranian desert, Beirut, Safwan and Mogadishu was not hard to sell to the average American, because he was sure that the story would end there; the enemies left behind would not pursue their campaign within the U.S. itself. The enemies that America is now facing in the jihadist archipelago, however, are dedicated to the destruction of the U.S. as the world knows it today.

Those who have based their strategy on waiting Mr. Bush out may find to their cost that they have, once again, misread not only American politics but the realities of a world far more complex than it was even a decade ago. Mr. Bush may be a uniquely decisive, some might say reckless, leader. But a visitor to the U.S. soon finds out that he represents the American mood much more than the polls suggest.

This is bigger than President Bush, even if the Kossacks can't see it.