- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 19, 2005

In his online combat chronicles, the former commander of 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, Lt. Col. Steven D. Russell, wrote: “The sun bores into our vehicles, our clothing, and eventually us, compensated by our profuse sweating that soaks our uniforms literally from shoulder blades to kneecaps. Our equipment absorbs even more sweat as it pinches and encases us like an exoskeleton, transforming us into stinky, sour, salty and drenched creatures of combat.” Soldiers in Iraq know the heat of battle in all of its manifestations.

Here in Ohio and elsewhere around the country, temperatures are above 80 for the first time and some folks are already moaning. In Iraq at this time of the year daytime temperatures average 100-plus. The “lows” are in the 80s. Soldiers in Iraq, as Lt. Col. Russell so powerfully described, are operating in an open-air oven. “The sun,” he continued, “also bores into the metal of our weapons and sometimes our rifles are so hot to the touch that we must wear gloves to remain comfortable.”

Some recent articles and certain polls suggest that U.S. military strategy in Iraq is not succeeding; that Americans are growing impatient with the progress of our operations there; that we ought to start getting out now. Granted, the articles voice the opinions of agenda-driven journalists, or the usual suspects, the perfect 20/20 hindsight, anti-administration, Rumsfeld-hating, war plan-carping clique. And polls are just polls — snapshots. But there is, over time, a cumulative effect, and they are increasing the propaganda heat. We must not allow it to melt our resolve.

Terrorists in Iraq have recently increased the tempo of their killings. The timing coincides with hotter and hotter temperatures that exacerbate the frustration and anger levels of Iraqis who do not enjoy around-the-clock access to air-conditioning or electricity. And of course all terror attacks are trumpeted throughout our daily news cycles, ratcheting up the psychological heat on us all.

If our troops in Iraq can stand the heat, if as Lt. Col. Russell wrote, “The sun does not penetrate or lessen our morale or our (fighting) ability,” and if the Iraqis can continue to live and work and move ahead on their road to democracy amidst the heat and deadly peril, then surely we can do the same. Surely Americans can muster the fortitude to maintain their support for our troops and for the war effort only two years into it, recalling if they need to that clear September day four years ago and the immediate aftermath. And we might also remember that the bulwark of our republic, the Constitution, was crafted in the heat of a Philadelphia summer; that the fate of this republic is at stake in the global war on terror, a war we must win.

Let us then stand the heat and welcome the heat; let it be a force that forges a nationalbodyarmorof strengthenedwill,indomitable resolve and perseverance as we move into the crucial summer months here and in Iraq.

John B. Dwyer is a military historian, author and Vietnam veteran.


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