Published July 08, 2006
WASHINGTON – Hello, I'm Jim Webb, the Democratic candidate for the United States Senate in Virginia.
The July 4th holiday reminds us that we are a nation that was created by people of vision and courage, who were willing to risk their lives for the principles of liberty. It causes us to remember that we are defined not by any single ethnicity or by our geography, but by the powerful ideas of democracy, independence of spirit, and tolerance. Whether we have been a part of the American dream for two years or for two hundred, these are the principles that guide us. And we have been blessed throughout our history to have strong men and women who have been willing to defend those principles when their country called them.
My family has answered that call as citizen soldiers in almost every war our country has fought. Along the way we've run small farms, worked in ammunition plants, on the railroad, built ships, driven trucks, repaired TVs, worked on computers, written books, even made a few movies. But when our country called, like so many who have made this nation great, we answered. My father was an Air Force pilot in World War Two and the Berlin Airlift, and later became a pioneer in the Atlas and Thor missile programs. My brother served as a Marine helicopter pilot. It was my honor to serve as an infantry Marine in Vietnam. And my son now also serves as an infantry Marine.
Like so many other Americans, my family has willingly served in popular wars, controversial wars, and downright unpopular wars. That's just how our country works. We know that military service in America is not so much political as it is patriotic. Our young servicemen and women believe in the greatness of their country. They know that ours is a system where the political process controls the military, and decides when and where it will be used. And when they step forward to serve, they trust their leaders to use them wisely.
When our political leaders do not act wisely, our military people pay the price. I've been involved with the military all of my life — as a Marine, a novelist, a journalist, in Beirut when the Marines were there in 1983, and in Afghanistan two years ago, as an Assistant Secretary of Defense and as Secretary of the Navy. I've seen things work well, and I've seen things work badly. And through it all, I have believed strongly that when things aren't working well, it is the responsibility of our leaders to admit it, and to fix the problem. Some say that speaking out against a war is disloyal to the troops. Whoever says that should consider what it's like to be a troop, wishing someone would speak the truth.
As the occupation of Iraq has continued to drag on, some of our most distinguished retired generals, as well as many members of Congress with strong loyalties to our military, have suggested different approaches for America to remove itself from this quagmire. Rather than weighing these suggestions fairly as Americans, this Administration constantly chooses to play politics, dismissing well-intentioned concern with such trivial phrases as "cut and run." I'm reminded of another time, with a leader who truly understood war. In 1952 General Dwight Eisenhower, who had led us to victory in Europe in World War Two, strongly condemned the conduct of the Korean War as "an appalling failure." He claimed that "the old Administration cannot be expected to repair what it failed to prevent." And he gave his pledge to "review and examine every course of action open to us with one goal in view: to bring the Korean War to an early and honorable end." And you know what? When he was elected President, he fixed the problem.
We need this kind of leadership today. I'm running for the Senate in the hope that I might bring a fresh voice, and an experienced set of eyes, onto the problems of this country. We need to redirect the efforts of our national security posture. We need to bring the Iraq War to an early and honorable end. We need to begin bringing our troops home soon, as the first step toward a complete military pullout from that country. We must do this in order to free up our dedicated military people to fight the war we need to win - the war against international terrorism - and so that we can have the mobility to confront the other strategic challenges, such as the threat of an emerging China.
If I am elected, I will work toward those goals. And those who are serving our country will have no greater friend.
I'm Jim Webb, from Virginia. Thanks for listening.