Spirit of America stays the course in this war

Daniel Henninger:


It is ironic that despite the years of our daily engagement in these places, the "information age" has brought us so little knowledge about the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. Psychologically, much of America has already cut and run from these two countries.

Some Americans, though, simply won't.


Spirit of America's experience in Iraq has followed the same rugged timeline of events as the war. Recall that in April 2004 it raised sufficient monies to rebuild TV stations in Al Anbar province, staffed by Iraqis, to counterbalance propaganda from the likes of al-Jazeera. Those TV stations were built. And they have been destroyed. A sewing center for Iraqi women was similarly destroyed.

This past year, the group got a request from the Army 451st Battalion to help restore the medical facilities at the Najaf Teaching Hospital. The Mahdi militia had occupied it for a time. Spirit of America sent seven cardiac monitors to the hospital's director, Safaa Hamedi. In October, gunmen killed Dr. Hamedi outside his home.

Still, requests from the Marines and Army continue to arrive at Spirit of America. An Army captain in Afghanistan's Parwan province asked for medical textbooks for local doctors. SoA sent bee serum to inoculate honey bees at a business in Iraq's Diyala region. Marine Lt. Jim Wilmott got camping equipment for 200 Iraqi Boy Scouts. At the request of U.S. Embassy personnel, SoA has sent clothing and school supplies for orphans in Baghdad and Basra. They've sent thousands of kids' backpacks and school supplies requested by soldiers around the country. With the SonoSite ultrasound company, SoA delivered handheld ultrasound machines to the primary hospital in Al Qaim, Iraq, near the Syrian border. "Before this," said Mr. Hake, "they were using seashells to listen to the sounds of a pregnant mother and baby; the Marines couldn't believe it."


"The thing Afghans fear most is that we're going to leave," Ms. Brugelln says. "Not only do they fear it, they predict it, because everyone has done it before. This fourth trip by our group was profoundly meaningful to them. In the face of all the instability, we showed up again. Bpeace won't be part of the downward spiral."

Could this determination be a variant of the much-mocked "stay the course"? It is at least an interesting irony that the people who have had their faces deepest in Iraq and Afghanistan the longest, as soldiers or volunteers like these, are the ones inclined to stick it out; while many here whose experience comes off the bloody front page every day are the ones looking for a way to--there is no other phrase--cut and run.

Groups such as the Spirit of America and the Business Council for Peace may yet be driven out. It is to this country's credit that early on, they voted with their feet to go in, and regret nothing.
These are the people that the anti war left want to betray, the ones who are doing the good deeds in Iraq and the Iraqis who need their help. These volunteers are very important to winning this war and their efforts have for too long been ignored by much of the media because they do not fit the storyline of those who want to lose.


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