Veterans Day holds a special significance for us as the parents of a sergeant tank commander in the U.S. Army serving in Iraq.We could not be more proud of our son's service to his country, and we could not appreciate more the sacrifices being made by families with loved ones in Iraq. However, we could not be more outraged by the Bush administration's bungled handling of this war, or Sen. Susan Collins' continued support for it.
President Bush has had more than four and a half years to implement a successful policy, but under his leadership the situation in Iraq has gone from bad to worse to where we are now. We have American men and women dying while policing someone else's religious civil war.
Instead of accepting the reality of the situation on the ground and listening to the American people, the president continues to stand by a failed strategy and Sen. Collins follows him down this dangerous path, at times saying that she is against the war but refusing to support binding legislation to end it. She is the lone remaining member of our state's congressional delegation to endorse the president's failed policy.
In Maine and across the country, people are crying out for our leaders to change the course in Iraq and bring our troops home safely. Leading the charge are thousands of Americans who have served in Iraq or whose loved ones are serving in Iraq.
This is not a small group of activists calling for an end to the war; it is not the typical anti-war crowd. We have never been particularly political ourselves, but this issue goes beyond politics. Americans are firmly united around bringing our troops home, but President Bush and Sen. Collins stand in the way.
Sen. Collins won't even explain her position to her constituents, having turned down an invitation to a community town hall to discuss Iraq in Orono this summer. As constituents of Sen. Collins, and as the parents of a soldier serving in Iraq, we find it personally insulting that Sen. Collins won't answer questions from her constituents on the war in such forums.
We are sick and tired of lawmakers using the "support the troops" mantra as a reason to obstruct an end to the war. Our son is one of those troops - does anyone doubt that we support him? But leaving our son and 165,000 other sons and daughters in the middle of someone else's religious civil war is not support.
More than four years ago, President Bush stood on the deck of an aircraft carrier and declared "Mission accomplished." Now our son is in his second tour of duty in Iraq, which was extended shortly after he was deployed. As a parent, hearing about what goes on in Iraq while not knowing when your child will come home is hell. But the president's endless war policy will lead to nothing but more of the same unless Sen. Collins and her colleagues have the courage to stand up and put it to a stop. After more than four years of war, our military is stretched to the breaking point.
The administration doesn't show any signs of bringing the troops home any time soon. In fact, mere days before the nation marks Veterans Day, The Associated Press reports that 2007 has been the deadliest year yet for American troops since the war began.
At least 852 American troops have died in Iraq so far in 2007, according to the AP. The record death toll is due to President Bush's widely unpopular escalation policy known as the "troop surge," says a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad.
Our son and hundreds of thousands of other troops have fought heroically in Iraq. But they cannot win another country's civil war. They are caught in the cross hairs of a mess that the Iraqis will ultimately have to clean up and will require a political, not a military, solution.
The troops understand this. They have witnessed their friends and fellow Americans being sent home in body bags while the president tells everyone how much progress we're making in Iraq. The president has had his chance. In more than four years in Iraq, we've lost nearly 3,900 American troops and spent almost $500 billion. Deployments have been extended and our military has been stretched to its breaking point.
Last time we talked to our son, he asked us to make sure we vote next year for someone that would bring a responsible end to this war and bring him home safely. Rest assured we will.
Craig and Kathie Jamison Cote live in Franklin, Maine.
© 2007 The Bangor Daily News