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Back To Iraq

by Geraldo Rivera | Feb 10, 2007

My dear mother called me yesterday, with some heartfelt advice. "Don't take any helicopters when you're in Iraq." For the last 37 years, Mom's watched baby brother Craig and I go off to war, (he's 52!) comforted by the fact that we've always come home in one piece. But on the verge of this latest trip to Iraq on Monday, she, like every other mother with someone over there is worried about the enemies new found ability to shoot our helicopters down. A couple of days ago, the insurgents posted raw video apparently showing one of our choppers being crippled and destroyed, apparently by a rocket although that's not certain.

The crash of the Marine Sea Knight on Wednesday was the sixth by a U.S. helicopter since January 20th, at least four of them shot down by the bad guys with a total loss of 27 of our troops or private security contractors.

What's so obviously scary to my mom and me is the fact that until a couple of weeks ago, helicopters were the safest way for us to travel in deadly Iraq; far safer than roads so easily booby trapped that the enemies new and improved explosives have claimed the vast majority of our more than 3,000 dead.

The adaptability of the insurgents and their beefed up capabilities add urgency to what the new U.S. commander warned about Saturday morning in Baghdad. General David Petraeus declaring that the country was in deep trouble if American and Iraqi forces don't take on the fight together.

"Failing that, Iraq will be doomed to continuing violence and civil strife, and surely that is a prospect that all must strive to avoid."

Petraeus is taking charge of the fight at a crucial time, just as the President has begun surging 21, 500 additional troops, most of them to Baghdad in an attempt to change the tide of war over there. And with three more GI's killed by an explosion Saturday morning, and with yet another suicide car bombing in the capital killing five civilians and wounding ten more who were just standing in line to buy bread at a bakery, I'm not sure even a general as brave and able as David Petraeus can reverse our grim fortunes.

And he doesn't have a lot of time to do it. The American people have voiced their opposition to the increasingly unpopular war, and both commentators and congressmen are calling for a phased withdrawal from Iraq, beginning no later than the end of the year. But if anyone can do it, Petraeus can. I've seen him in action, flawlessly guiding the Army's 101st Airborne Division during the 2003 US-led invasion. And even more impressively, later bringing relative peace and stability to the important northern city of Mosul on his second tour of duty over there. "Our job in the months ahead, supporting and working with the Iraqi forces, will be to improve security so the Iraqi government can resolve the tough issues it faces, and so the economy and basic services can be improved. These tasks are achievable. This mission is doable."

I don't know if the mission is doable. Iraq is a violent mess and no one can deny that. I also understand how deeply upset many of you are about reports our political leaders hyped the intelligence that led us to war. But even if we did start this fight under false pretenses, history cares much more about how wars end than how they begin. So let's give General Petraeus and the armed forces this chance to stabilize that war-torn country. My mom and I are.

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