With her brother home from deployment, Meghan McCain on the horrors soldiers face there and her frustration at the president should he—as expected—send fewer than the 40,000 troops General Stanley McChrystal has requested.
The first time I watched my brother Jimmy deploy to Iraq, it was in a parking lot at Camp Pendleton. The whole experience was a lot quieter and more low-key than I had expected. It was literally a bunch of families waiting around, beginning at around five in the morning, for Greyhound buses to arrive. During most of that time, all anyone did was watch more soldiers filter in and then offer emotional goodbyes. I remember trying to remain calm and make small talk while I watched other families interact to see if I was doing anything wrong.
This country needs to send a message to both our own military and the rest of the world that we will complete the mission we originally started.
What was most surprising about the soldiers for me—and in this case, these were enlisted Marine platoons—was how young they all looked and how many of them already had families of their own. They were all fresh-faced and looked straight off the farm, seemingly way too young to be sent off overseas into combat. As the morning wore on, I remember having more and more anxiety, not knowing what to say to my mother or my brother. All I could muster up was that I loved him and to take care of himself.
As we were all standing around awkwardly with bagpipes playing—which, frankly, made the situation even more morose—a few of my brother's friends and fellow soldiers came over and started talking with our family. They were all very polite and nice and some even had smiles on their faces. I can remember meeting them and feeling better about my brother’s safety and that they would all protect one another.
They all, including my brother, looked too young to be holding M-4 assault rifles and giant packs, but their presence made me feel better. Seeing his fellow soldiers made me feel just a little more secure about my then-19-year-old brother’s safety overseas. This experience showed me what the faces of soldiers really look like, not just what we sometimes see on the news.
But over this Thanksgiving weekend, with my brother home safely, I heard him tell stories of the horrors of fellow soldiers getting injured overseas. When my brother told me these stories, I was more upset than I expected. Something about hearing it straight from my brother’s mouth made it all more real.
• Peter Beinart: Stop Talking About Leaving• Leslie H. Gelb: Secret Details of Obama’s Afghan Plan• Bruce Riedel: Taliban Leader Threatens ObamaLet me be frank—I am angry. I am angry and frustrated, in a way I haven’t been in a long time. During the election, I remember the biggest fear I had about an Obama presidency was his lack of experience in foreign policy and specifically with the military. (Even as recently as two weeks ago, he showed astonishing insensitivity and naïveté when he joked with soldiers in Korea, “you guys make a pretty good photo-op”).
As the fighting in Afghanistan continues to escalate, I can’t help but believe that soldiers are being left behind both by this administration and the media. The media has seemingly lost interest in these wars and doesn’t give them the proper coverage they deserve. On the same day CNN was producing news breaks about my cleavage in a Twitter picture, 14 soldiers had just died in Afghanistan. As Obama stalls and hesitates to make decisions, these soldiers in Afghanistan are not being given the support they need. General Stanley McChrystal and other military leaders have asked for an additional 40,000 troops to expand the fighting in Afghanistan. And this Tuesday, President Obama will lay out his plans for the region.
I am asking the American public to put the pressure on the president and this administration to provide the troops General McChrystal is asking for, because if the intelligence is denied, the consequences will be insurmountable. This country needs to send a message to both our own military and the rest of the world that we will complete the mission we started.
In the meantime, soldiers are being done a great disservice by not receiving the support they need. I don’t know what it is going to take to make the administration and the media wake up, but I hope President Obama fully supports our troops in his speech on Tuesday. Because in the meantime people continue to die, or have their legs blown off, or their bodies burned in a war in which they aren’t being given the opportunity to fight with all the required manpower.
As my father used to say during the election, “let them win.” President Obama, I am asking you to give this military full support and the troop numbers they are asking for. And anything less than 40,000 is a failure.
Let them win, Mr. President.
Meghan McCain is a columnist for The Daily Beast. Originally from Phoenix, she graduated from Columbia University in 2007. She is a New York Times bestselling children's author, previously wrote for Newsweek magazine, and created the Web site mccainblogette.com.