“It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into”

Jonathan Swift
"The Democrats have moved to the right, and the right has moved into a mental hospital." - Bill Maher
"The city is crowded my friends are away and I'm on my own
It's too hot to handle so I gotta get up and go

It's a cruel ... cruel summer"

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Captain Nolan Comes To Town

At Sunday's Democratic Party Ice Cream Social at Memorial Park, among the hundred or so guests was a family who arrived late because, they said, they were just passing by, noticed the signs and decided to visit. What an interesting visit it turned out to be.

Captain Patrick Nolan and his family are from Dallas, but were visiting family in Amarillo last weekend. Captain Nolan, a company commander in the 1st Armored Division who had been in Iraq (in Anbar province, to be exact) in 2006, described for about 2 dozen folks both positive and negative aspects of his deployment, and of the strategic situation overall. He noted that the Army in Iraq has had some real accomplishments in the time since Saddam's capture. Those include spreading electrical supply around the country, while during Saddam's rule, almost all the production had been for Baghdad. Another, he noted, was the cultivation of many of the Sunni tribal chiefs who until 2006 had been either directly part of or at least condoned the insurgency. That, he said, was at least as responsible for the reduction in violence there as the increase in troop strength.

On the negative side, however, Captain Nolan said that in his experience, those same tribal chiefs were no more reconciled to living democratically with a Shiite majority than they had been before the so-called "surge". It is not surprising, he noted, that Senator McCain, who says explicitly that the "surge" has "worked", is not eager to begin troop reductions in spite of this "success". McCain even acknowledges that if the American troop presence were removed, Iraq could "go right back to where it was". So, what the good Senator seems to be saying is that we have achieved "success" in the same way as someone marooned in a boat in the middle of the ocean, with no food, no water, no sail and no working engine can claim "success" because they were able to stop the leaking by standing on the hole in the hull. We are succeeding beyond bin Laden's wildest dreams.

Capt. Nolan, a thinking-man's soldier, is a Democrat. He noted that while Republicans talk a good game regarding national defense, "there are more service veterans among Congressional Democrats than among Republicans, and there always have been." He described his personal success in getting his buddies in Iraq to rethink their support for Republicans. And he encouraged those of us in the Panhandle to take heart from that "one heart, one mind at a time" approach. He also recounted the history of Dallas county, which, over the past 20 years, has gone from a staunchly Republican stronghold to a county in which Democrats won every important election in 2006. Those of us who talk to others can see these same changes happening locally. We just have to keep fighting, keep encouraging turnout, and then use the increased support to encourage more candidates to step up and run.

Thanks, Captain, for the visit and the pep talk. We hope to see you again soon.