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January 14, 2007

Finishing the Job

By Jan A. Larson

When I was growing up in rural Nebraska, I was forced into involuntary servitude on my father's farm.  From the time I was old enough to contribute to, rather than hinder, my father and uncle's efforts on the farm, I was not asked if working for them was something I wanted to do.  I was simply told that certain things had to be done and I had to do them.  I didn't have a voice in the matter although I certainly did express objection from time to time.

Some of the jobs that I really didn't care for included chopping wild sunflowers out of the soybean fields (I still shudder at the sight of a wild sunflower), stringing miles of electric fence, slogging through muddy corn fields, chasing wayward cattle out of the neighbors' fields and herding them home, collecting the dead rats after hundreds of them had to be poisoned after they invaded the barn, and one of my "favorite" jobs - cleaning out the pig pen in that barn.

When it came time for my brother and I to clean out that pen, which was especially fun in 100-degree weather - we would pull on our thigh-high boots, grab shovels and get to work.  We would sweat like as if we were in a sauna while shoveling manure and battling the flies and stench.  There were lots of times when we wished we didn't have to do this and when we wanted to quit.  However, we couldn't quit - the job had to be done.

The Iraq war is, in some respects, similar to cleaning out a filthy pigpen.  It is dirty, hard, hazardous work but it must be done.  There are a lot of people that don't understand that.  This isn't a job that we can just quit because it is difficult and dirty.  To walk away from Iraq is to invite that nation to become a "pigpen" of chaos and terrorism and death.

To leave Iraq before the job is done would be a disaster that would enable Iran to become the dominant force in the Middle East and would further destabilize the region.  The threat to America would grow on two fronts - the obvious threat of terrorism would increase, as Iraq would become a haven for Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups and the not-so-obvious threat to the U. S. and world economies.

Like it or not, this nation is dependent on oil.  Maybe one day in the future, the distant future that is, our economy may not be dependent on foreign oil, but as of today and for the foreseeable future, it is.  The U. S. economy would be severely damaged if Iran seized effective control of the Middle East oil markets.  Thousands and thousands of jobs would be lost and we would wish for the days or $3 per gallon gasoline again.

The President is determined not to turn tail and run away in Iraq.  Whether his plan to boost the number of troops on the ground will succeed is yet to be determined, but until the Iraqi government is capable of maintaining security there is no doubt that Iraq would remain a pigpen.

The difference between my pigpen and Iraq is, of course, that there was a clear end to the manure in the barn at least until the next time it had to be cleaned.  In Iraq, the point at which we are "done" is not so obvious.  One thing is certain, if we quit before the job is done, that job is going to be a lot harder and a lot dirtier if we have to go back and finish it later.

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