BAGHDAD – Last night in the mess hall two Georgian officers sat down at the table opposite me. The one facing me was a bit disheveled; his uniform top was misbuttoned. It was the kind of mistake you could make if you were in a hurry. Both ate quickly and silently.
I wanted to say something, but what do you say at a time like this? And I thought, what did I say to my friends in New York on 9-11? I rose from my chair, walked over, and asked if they had spoken with their families. They had. And they were alright.
The tiny Republic of Georgia, which straddles the land bridge between the world’s largest lake and the largest inland sea, is home to five million people. Both in population and in size, it is smaller than the other Georgia most Americans know. And yet, that miniscule country has provided 2,000 soldiers to assist our mission in Iraq. Why?
The answer to that question is obvious when you look at a list of countries who have forces here. Among the thirty nations are all three Baltic Republics, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhistan, and the Ukraine–each one a former Soviet Republic–along with several former Soviet Bloc countries including Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Romania. These are all countries who knew oppression. They knew fear. And they knew death at the hands of dictators.
They knew one other thing too. They knew the power of America to transform a hopeless situation. They knew that America didn’t abandon them. Sure it took a while, but they knew that America would persevere. And that they would persevere. And that they would win. And they did win.
That’s why, when in the sixth year of this war, when much of the rest of the world has abandoned America, when even many Americans have abandoned America, they who know best the horror of oppression, and the strength of the American spirit, have not abandoned us here in Iraq.
Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Slovenia, and all the rest who have been allowed out out from behind the Iron Curtain are now looking at America to watch what we do for Georgia.