I've been asked by more than one Iraqi, "How long are you staying?" When I reply "At least a year," I'm told "A year is nothing in Iraq. It is a blink of the eye."
Local tradesmen are justifiably proud of their history and are fond of printing "Welcome to Iraq – More than 7,000 years of civilization" on hand-tooled leather goods. Time here is measured not in weeks and months, but in years and decades. How can we measure progress any differently?
What Iraqis have accomplished to date is remarkable. In just over three years they have elected provincial councils nationwide, elected and seated a National Assembly, appointed a cabinet, and implemented a Constitution from scratch. Sometimes we forget that the birth of America was equally, if not more, chaotic. The US Bill of Rights alone took more than four years of intense debate before it became the law of the land.
Politicians and thoughtful citizens alike decry US losses, and no one denies the fact that even a single American life is a high price to pay for the security of a foreign country half a world away. I've attended my fair share of "ramp ceremonies" where a thousand soldiers stand for hours at the position of attention well past midnight and salute a fallen comrade's casket being carried aboard a plane for the final journey home. With the possible exception of family, no one feels the loss any keener than a fellow squad or platoon mate.
The reasons America got involved in Iraq may be suspect. But US forces are here, parts of the country are still broken, and regional security may hang in the balance if we don't stay and help the Iraqis fix it. The effort is succeeding in the north, and it can in the rest of Iraq as well. America's forefathers had help from other nations when the United States was born. Allow us to continue to help Iraq be reborn.
Read the piece in its entirety, it isn't long but it goes directly to the heart of what our troops, who are in Iraq, think and feel and see.
Who better to tell you what is really happening than those that are there, fighting and risking their lives, every day?
RELATED: A Wapo piece with remarks from al-Maliki.