Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Commander in Chief Obama

Washington Times


Lincoln used to agonize over every letter to the families of those fallen during the Civil War. In the Art of War, the winning strategy is to know the cost of war before starting one, and avoid fighting it if possible. It is good portent for the Americans fighting in Afghanistan that President Obama is fully aware of the cost and continuously pay attention to it everyday.


In his first few weeks in office, sometime between celebratory bill signings and phone calls from foreign leaders, President Obama sat in the Oval Office for the most somber task of his presidency - penning letters to families of troops killed in combat.

Mr. Obama personalizes each letter, asking staffers to gather details about the service member, such as their hometown and where they were stationed, a White House aide said. The letters are sent to parents and spouses, and sometimes children of the fallen troops.

The president writes the notes by hand, then the letters are typed before he adds his signature.

Mr. Obama wrote the first few letters for troops who died in Iraq and Afghanistan while George W. Bush was president, and has written at least a dozen more since taking office.

The president told NBC News that the duty falls to him, though he did not initiate the wars and opposed the invasion of Iraq. In those moments of signing the letters, he said, "you realize every decision you make counts."

The president said on NBC News that the letters serve as a reminder - "that you've got hundreds of thousands of people - around the world who are putting themselves in harm's way and you are the commander in chief."

"Because this job is too big, too important, to just want to occupy space," he said. "And if I've spent the next four years, every day, making decisions based on that single criteria, is this going to help the American people achieve their dreams and keep them safe, then I'll be able to look at myself in the mirror and say, 'You know what, you did a good job.' "

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