- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 21, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) — The American soldier, who bears the duty of “living with and dying for a country’s most fateful decisions,” was named yesterday as Time magazine’s Person of the Year.

The choice represents the 1.4 million men and women who make up the U.S. military, which led the invasion of Iraq nine months ago and a week ago captured deposed dictator Saddam Hussein.

About 130,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, with others deployed in Afghanistan, South Korea and elsewhere.

The troops were singled out as the top newsmakers of the year because “the very messy aftermath of the war made it clear that the mission had changed, that the mission had not been completed and that this would be a story that would be with us for months, if not years, to come,” Time Managing Editor Jim Kelly said.

The selection echoes 1950, the year the Korean War began, when the magazine’s editors picked the American GI for the cover, writing that “it was not a role the American had sought, either as an individual or as a nation. The U.S. fighting-man was not civilization’s crusader, but destiny’s draftee.”

The 2003 Person of the Year package, on newsstands today, features an artillery-survey unit from the 1st Armored Division to tell the story of the American soldier.

The magazine glorifies the soldiers but not the Bush administration for putting them in Iraq, calling troops “the bright, sharp instrument of a blunt policy” and leaving it to scholars to debate “whether the Bush doctrine is the most muscular expression of national interest in a half-century.”

Guerrilla attacks against U.S. and allied forces stationed there have escalated since May 1, when the president declared an end to major combat. More coalition troops died in November than in any other month: 104, including 79 Americans.

“A force intensively trained for its mission finds itself improvising at every turn, required to exercise exquisite judgment in extreme circumstances,” the magazine said. “They complain less about the danger than the uncertainty — they are told they’re going home in two weeks, and then two months later they have not moved.”

The Pentagon has said it expects to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Iraq to just more than 100,000 by May.

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