The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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February 16, 2007

‘These are the times that try men’s souls’

The situation in which we find ourselves in Iraq because of the war on terror defies my attempts at originality to describe.

I find myself in need of laying hold of aphorisms and clichés said by the truly Great Ones, and some not-so-great.

The first one that comes to mind is from Thomas Paine, an American Founding Father, written in 1776. It’s one I used in a previous column, one I keep returning too because of its sheer wisdom: “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”

A movement is afoot in Congress to remove funding from military stabilization operations in Iraq. The nonbinding resolution designed to disagree with the president’s military “surge” currently being debated in the House and Senate represents the first step in that direction.

The resolution is mute when it comes to offering an alternate plan ensuring victory and protecting our national interest in the region.

“Summer soldiers” and “sunshine patriots” are intent on prolonging the war on terror for two more generations by hastening a unilateral retreat from Baghdad without giving current operations a chance to work.

Emboldened politicians and pundits now behave as generals, claiming to be masters of the retrograde fighting maneuver and the pursuit of peace.

Another saying comes to mind, this one by that great Pennsylvanian, Benjamin Franklin: “There never was a good war, or a bad peace.”

Not knowing the original context of Franklin’s declaration, I am left to deal with its meaning at face value.

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