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Five Years Later

March 24, 2008
Weekly Columns

As we reflect on the past five years since the beginning of the conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is important to recognize the progress that has been made, as well as the enormous sacrifices that were required to make that progress possible.  While war is never popular or pleasant, we owe our military personnel an enormous debt of gratitude for the remarkable things they have accomplished over the past five years.

By removing the maniacal dictator Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and the truly barbaric Taliban in Afghanistan, we liberated millions of people from tyranny.  Basic human rights have been restored in both nations and increasingly stable governments have been chosen in democratic elections.  And while both nations are still dangerous places, sectarian violence is continuing to decline as Iraqi and Afghani forces take more and more responsibility for their own security.

Having visited Iraq seven times since the conflict began, I have personally witnessed the progress that we have made.  In addition to my own anecdotal evidence, the empirical data indicates that real and significant progress is being made.  Statistics from the Department of Defense reveal that causalities from ethno-sectarian violence have come down approximately 90 percent since June.  And in al-Anbar Province, a region once considered unwinnable because of such strong support for Al Qaeda fighters, the number of security incidents has fallen approximately 90 percent since January 2007. While the job is not finished, there is certainly progress being made on the ground.

Throughout this conflict I have been enormously proud of the members of the United States Armed Forces.  Not only have they removed and destroyed two totalitarian regimes, they have done so with minimal collateral damage to property and innocent civilians.  In addition, they have helped build infrastructure, crafted democratic institutions and trained their Iraqi counterparts to provide for their own national security.

Throughout this mission, few in America have sacrificed as much as the families in the Fourth District.  In fact, 11,928 soldiers have been deployed from Fort Sill alone.  Of those brave men and women, 70 were wounded in action and 19 gave the ultimate sacrifice with their lives.  In addition, 27 Oklahomans who are from this district have made the ultimate sacrifice in the performance of their missions in the War on Terror.  Our military personnel have exemplified extraordinary character and bravery and for that we should be eternally thankful. 

In the coming months, as more and more of our troops come home, I hope they return to a grateful nation that understands the sacrifices they made on our behalf.  After all, they are without question the best trained and most professional fighting force any nation has ever put forward.  They have shouldered the responsibility for keeping America and the world safe from terrorism and for that we are all appreciative.