A Military Parent's Reaction to Bush's Iraq Plan
LUKE BURBANK, host:
From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Luke Burbank.
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
I'm Alex Chadwick in Washington, D.C., where today, Luke, it is all about the hard sell.
BURBANK: And to a pretty tough crowd. You've got Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Robert Gates. They're up on Capitol Hill. They're talking up President Bush's new strategic plan in Iraq. Here's what Secretary Gates had to say:
Mr. ROBERT GATES (U.S. Secretary of Defense): The term surge has been used in relation to increasing U.S. troop levels. And an increase certainly will take place. But what is really going and what is going to take place is a surge across all lines of operations: military and nonmilitary, Iraqi and Coalition.
CHADWICK: So Luke, this message is just getting hammered from Democrats, also from some Republicans. Some very skeptical voices here. I talked with a Democratic Congressman Jim Moran a little bit before the program. We'll hear that conversation in a few minutes.
BURBANK: And of course we've also got John Dickerson with us. He's the chief political correspondent for the online magazine Slate. He's going to help us sort through some of the details of the president's plan and that reaction you were talking about earlier.
Actually, you know, let's play a little bit of tape here from Mr. Bush, that speech he made last night.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: The changes I've outlined tonight are aimed at insuring the survival of a young democracy that is fighting for its life in a part of the world of enormous importance to American security.
CHADWICK: First though, we return this morning to Marty Barrett. She is the high school principal in South Deerfield, Massachusetts, we spoke with at the beginning of yesterday's program before the president's speech. She has three sons who are soldiers. One is in Iraq now.
Marty, you watched the president's speech last night. What did you think?
Ms. MARTY BARRETT (High School Principal): Well, frankly, I was very disappointed in the speech.
CHADWICK: And why is that? You said yesterday that you wanted to hear specifics. There were some specifics there.
Ms. BARRETT: There were some specifics, but - and I must preface it by saying that I was very, very hopeful that the president had learned of a plan and was putting forth a plan that I felt would be successful. What I heard were increases in troop numbers, increases in length of staying time in Iraq, but no specific guidelines as to what they would be doing and any kind of measuring stick as to know when the mission was successful and when it would be completed.
CHADWICK: Your son who is back from Iraq, did you speak to him after the speech?
Ms. BARRETT: I did. I was curious what his impression of it was. He said that he thought it was very ambiguous and did not give enough detail as to what he thought would make it a successful plan.
CHADWICK: Well, what do you want to hear now? Where do we stand with this, do you think? You, a mother with a son still in Iraq.
Ms. BARRETT: I am concerned that we are going to be redeploying the same groups of people that we have been for the past three years. They will have higher numbers of deployments with shorter time in between time, that we are going to burn these young men and women out...
CHADWICK: So does this leave you more concerned about your son who is currently in Iraq?
Ms. BARRETT: This leaves me continually concerned. I think I'm going to do what other mothers of children who are deployed do, which is to continue to bake cookies and support our kids in any way they can and speak our minds when we're asked.
CHADWICK: Marty Barrett, high school principal in western Massachusetts, the mother of one son who is currently on active duty in Iraq and another who is on active duty and could be sent back there.
Marty, thank you again.
Ms. BARRETT: You're welcome.
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