Iraq was a dirty, dusty, garbage-strewn country with the major roads leading into Baghdad a concave twisted mess of asphalt. The streets were cluttered with high-rise concrete block apartments, darkened by iron bars when I visited in July of 2005.

There were stray dogs, feral cats and other small animals prowling Route Irish from the airport into the Green Zone, scrawny pets scratching through piles of rotting debris that were visible in almost every neighborhood.

Saddam Hussein, the dead dictator who is now roiling in Satan’s kitchen, cooked up a poison that salted his country’s lush greenery, despoiling the beautiful palm trees that once lined the streets, killing the spirit of the Iraqi people, denying them the freedom they yearned for.

Slowly, slowly, that picture is changing.

Neighborhoods are being rebuilt. Roads are repaired daily. Schools, sewers, bridges are blooming in once-desolate provinces around the capital and into the countryside. The lights go on and stay on for hours at a time, and the gasoline lines are beginning to grow shorter. Jobs are being created, and thousands of families are returning from their terrified exodus of a few years back.

The mission of our troops is to make sure that the tyranny once known by the people of Iraq (and Afghanistan) is never served up with sweet-sounding rhetoric and lethal assaults – to give the government of Iraq some breathing room while the political situation stabilizes.

And when that happens (it’s becoming clear even to the most anti-American Democrat left-wing politician), our country becomes safer. The undeniable success in Iraq achieved by American fighting forces and our allies needs to be supported and sustained. Al-Qaida in Iraq is virtually destroyed, and they can’t be allowed to re-generate into new terrorist cells.

Too bad some Americans don’t get it.

With their faces painted with symbols and slogans, holding signs with a plethora of different messages, the ranks of the anti-military and anti-war movement do their best to poison the soul of America, like Saddam did to the soil of Iraq.

Instead of thanking our troops, groups like Code Pink and will spend this Thanksgiving and Christmas and Hanukkah calling our troops “murderers” and “traitors” and “the real terrorists.” I put those words in quotes because those are the actual words used by the activists of the anti-war/anti-military left.

While these teenage troublemakers and their graying pony-tailed elders chant protests and go home to a warm house and a hot meal, they cannot be bothered to send a care package or a note of thanks or a Christmas card to the troops who they claim to support.

In Cambridge, Mass., the Boy Scouts were even ordered to remove collection boxes that gathered items for care packages for our troops.

Local city official Marsha Weinerman accused the Boy Scouts of being too “pro-war.” (Those of you who wish to accuse Ms. Weinerman of being too anti-American are invited to do so by e-mailing her at [email protected] – be sure to let her know that, unlike her, most Americans are determined to show our troops we love and support them during the holiday season.)

Perhaps Marsha Weinerman and the city officials of Cambridge would be more interested in checking out the current calendar of Code Pink, which lists efforts to shut down military recruiting centers with “Breastfeeding/Playgroup for Peace” and “Circus Acts: Juggling for Peace.” Here’s their calendar for subverting victory.

These same people at Code Pink vandalized the Marine Officer Recruiting Office in Berkeley several weeks ago, and their white-hot hatred for this nation is only surpassed by what appears to be a sociopathic hatred of themselves. These rabid mobs of vehemently anti-war groups stand against everything that makes up the social and economic fabric of the nation.

There’s another path to peace besides the surrender that these Vichy France worshippers don’t have the intellectual honesty or moral rigor to explore.

President Ronald Reagan showed that “Peace Through Strength” is the only real peace free people can enjoy. This is especially true in a world where dictators and tyrants like Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden are tolerated and even at times celebrated by people like Kofi Annan and the supposedly peace-loving United Nations.

It’s too easy to allow the veil of invisibility to drop, shielding our troops from public view during the next several weeks. All of us will be busy with our self-assigned holiday tasks and errands, running behind at times or forgetting to pick up a gift for a distant relative.

However difficult it might be, we nonetheless have to find the time to show our troops that we’re thinking about them, that we support them, and that we understand that they are serving overseas so we may enjoy peace and freedom here at home during the holidays.

To that end, I invite you to join patriotic Americans for the “Honoring Our Heroes at the Holidays Tour.” The website has complete details. We’ll be visiting 40-plus American cities for pro-troop events, collecting over 100,000 Christmas and Hanukkah cards along the way.

On Dec. 14, we’ll host “A Song for Their Service” – a special holiday concert with wounded warriors recovering from their injuries invited as our honored guests.

I will be leaving the embrace of my own family this Christmas to deliver these cards and letters to lonely soldiers, many of whom will receive nothing at all this holiday, and share their success stories. I will write about these men and women, who they are, who they love and why they fight – these ordinary people doing extraordinary things when our nation called upon them.

Reach across an ocean and give your hand to support our troops in solidarity.

If you’re not willing to honor the service of our troops and support their missions, then you always have the option of standing with the juggling breast feeders on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley and their counterparts in dozens of other American cities who will be trying to shut down our military recruiting offices.

Ironically, our troops are fighting to preserve and protect these people’s rights, too. It’s just that the Code Pink crowd can’t find within them even the shred of decency to say “thank you” – not even at a holiday like, say, Thanksgiving.

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