Lee Iacocca wrote recently that “leaders are made, not born. Leadership is formed in times of crisis”. Even in the military where subordination to rank and respect for chain of command are hammered and drilled until they are second nature in every GI the truth of Iacocca’s statement reveals itself in times of combat. Under fire, in the heat of battle, when the life expectancy of a Marine assaultman is counted in seconds, the real leaders, regardless of age or rank, shake free from subordinance and take command if only for those crucial, intense, life threatening moments.
The occupation of Iraq has brought a state of crisis to this country and anyone who attended the meeting of Coos County Commissioners and State assembly members in Coquille last Friday, April 20 would have heard the heavy financial toll upon Coos County. Loss of federal timber subsidies were the ongoing theme of the two hour meeting and the cutbacks and lay offs that have been required as a result of these missing funds. While no one addressed why these subsidies have stopped the reasons can be attributed directly to the county’s $48,000,000 share in the misadventure in Iraq.
Little leadership was exhibited at this meeting, certainly not from District 1’s Rep Wayne Krieger or Senator Jeff Kruse who contributed almost no commentary and asked zero questions. However, in the state senate right now Oregon Homeward Bound Act of 2007 (HJM9) passed recently in the house and two sadly watered down versions proposed in the senate are set for vote as early as May 1.
HJM9 is a bipartisan effort denouncing the escalation in Iraq and calling for the redeployment of US troops by August 2007. Recently I testified at the public hearings for this memorial and had the pleasure of hearing Rep Brian Boquist speaking in support of HJM9. Boquist, an Iraq veteran himself and whose son is currently serving gave thoughtful, concise, fact based testimony of leadership failings that compromise the safety and welfare of our troops that mimic John, my Marine son’s experiences.
I have heard the argument from District 1 representatives that the Iraq quagmire will not be solved in Salem but I disagree. Oregon is not alone in throwing up its hands in disgust and debating resolutions to notify Congress that local governments are fed up with the mismanagement of state guard troops, resources and money by federal leadership. The states are paying the price and many, Vermont, Illinois, Colorado, Washington and Oregon, to name a few are stepping up in this time of crisis and becoming leaders.
According to Newsweek, less than 6 million people in the US even know anyone who has served in Iraq much less have family members over there. The human cost of this war is being borne by a miniscule percentage of this country and I suspect this explains why so few people really stand up and fight for the troops by demanding Congress enact a real solution, diplomatic and political for extricating our men and women from Iraq. Now, as the economic cost comes home to roost, I can hope that the increased support and enthusiasm we witness during our weekly protests will translate into public action where the human cost has not.
Yesterday, we heard Congressional testimony from Pat Tillman’s family and Jessica Lynch about the lies spun to Americans of events in Iraq. Two years after his Marine son died in Fallujah a good friend of mine, Carlos Arredonda discovered the truth about how his son, Alex, died. Spread too thin because the troops have been undermanned and underequipped from day one of the invasion, Alex was stuck on a rooftop, for hours without ammunition. Unable to defend himself because of mismanagement that trickles down from the highest levels, Alex was mortally wounded while just down the road in Ramadi, my son fought under similar conditions.
During firefights in Ramadi, John, a corporal, gave orders without regard to rank and these orders were followed because the situation warranted it. For this same reason action at the state level is necessary because, as the November, 2006 elections demonstrated, the people have lost confidence in federal leadership and have to take matters into their own hands.
Those few of us unfortunate enough to have family trapped by repeated deployments and extended deployments in Iraq are pushing hard to give courage and enlightenment to our elected officials in the hopes that a leader will emerge in this time of crisis. Regrettably, in District 1, at least, there is little hope for leadership without intense public pressure. My son fought in Iraq believing he was fighting for people like Kruse and Krieger and he is permanently disabled because of it. If they were leaders they would fight for him as well.