I read with interest your opinion page and came to the conclusion that someone had to respond to the literary nonsense presented by both New York Times columnists Bob Herbert and Thomas Friedman.

They remind me of the retired lieutenant colonel who appeared the other night on The O'Reilly Factor. After his great dissertation on how the Iraq war should be conducted and criticism of those running it, he responded to a question about his combat experience. It just so happens to be none at all.

As a veteran of 20 years association with the Army including combat experience in Korea with the 865th A.A.A. A.W. Battalion at Kimpo A.F.B. and the 31st Infantry regiments during 1951 and 1952, I question this armchair soldier's qualifications to be speaking as an authority on the subject of military engagements and battle strategy. It was this same type of armchair leadership that left the 7th Division trapped in Chosin Reservoir in 40-degree weather all night. American Korean police action casualties were reported over 33,000.

I don't understand what would satisfy Herbert and Friedman. They sound like the men who complain about sending men into battle without the proper equipment or enough men while saying, "I actually voted for the appropriation before I voted against it."

Vietnam and Korea represent two major conflicts in which we did not achieve our objectives because we did not remain committed to the cause. We fought these wars to lose. If you don't fight to win, you fight to lose. There isn't a third choice in war.

The following e-mail was received by the 31st Infantry Association and reported in our monthly newsletter, Pro Patria Press, vol. 37 January, 2005.

John Spiszer, fourth commander in the 31st Battalion Infantry in Iraq states, "Wow it's hard to believe we have been in the new camp for six weeks and Thanksgiving is over and we are near to Christmas. Even better is that Ramadan and the fight for Fallujah is over and we are counting down to the Iraqi election on Jan. 30. Both those were/are watershed events for us here in Iraq. We were extremely busy during Ramadan and the Fallujah fight and we anticipate we will be busy again as the elections near.

"Your soldiers continue to do an outstanding job executing a difficult and demanding mission. They conduct patrols and raids, check sewage pumps, and visit schools. The new area here continues to be complicated and complex, requiring us to stretch our skills to do everything we can to maintain a safe and secure environment. This is the mission statement I have given to the battalion.

"Task force 4-31 Infantry conducts operations in the Kadhamiya areas to establish an environment allowing Iraqis to run their own affairs. That means we do whatever is requited from fighting to building to talking. Terrorists can't impact the Iraqi government or security force's efforts in Kadhamiya. We are blessed because we can actually see the results of our efforts on a daily basis as things get better.

Thanksgiving was tremendous. Unlike most days we received the same rations that most of the rest of the camps get and our cooks outdid themselves. I think our Thanksgiving feast was better than any I've had in my 21 years in the Army. They did a great job. We also got the banners that the company made with messages and handprints and they helped to decorate our walls. A special thanks also to NYC volunteer sponsors who continue to go above and beyond the call for soldiers in both A Vompany and H.H.C. All of you are outstanding and I hope that you get this and know how much your efforts are appreciated."

I hope both Friedman and Herbert get this. They are very talented writers whose descriptive skills could be better spent encouraging our troops instead of disparaging or second guessing their commanders.

ROBERT W. TRUMBULL

Seaside

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