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What America owes the troops

Now that the holiday season has arrived, many Americans will be preoccupied with festivities and celebrations. Meanwhile, more than 200,000 of our fellow citizens are serving overseas in the military, preoccupied with surviving. So what do we Americans owe these people?

First of all, the U.S. government owes them an effective war plan. After years of strategic chaos, the so-called "surge" in Iraq has finally allowed the military to carry the fight to the terrorists. The Iraqi civilian population saw this and began to cooperate with the good guys, Americans, by informing on the bad guys, terrorists. Thus, things are improving on the ground in Iraq.

The Democratic leadership, of course, opposed the surge. So while the Bush administration has made big errors in Iraq, the Democrats have now joined the mistake zone. Have they not?

In Afghanistan, more folly. Brave U.S. and NATO forces have the Taliban on the run, but unfortunately, they have a safe place to run to: Pakistan.

If the new budget passes, U.S. taxpayers will provide an astounding $785 million to the Musharraf government next year. And what do we get for all that cash? Taliban sanctuaries, that’s what. Completely unacceptable.

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The Bush administration owes it to our brave men and women in the Afghan theater to stop the nonsense. Either Pakistani armed forces cooperate with NATO to hunt down these terrorists, or no money. Period.

Back home, the United Service Organizations has sent very few famous people to visit the troops in Afghanistan. Again, completely unacceptable. As a few readers of this column have stated: More American celebrities have visited the tyrant Hugo Chavez in Venezuela than have gone to Afghanistan.

The yearly budget for the USO is a whopping $150 million, so money is not at issue; motivation is. Where is the modern-day Bob Hope? Where are American entertainment, sports and music celebrities when they are needed? Are you telling me famous people won’t go to Afghanistan and Iraq to say thanks to the troops?

USO Chief Executive Officer Ned Powell told me he hopes to improve this dismal situation, and all Americans should encourage him to do so. Our troops in the field need to know we appreciate their sacrifice, even if some disagree with the war on terror strategy.

You may remember that huge celebrities traveled with Bob Hope to entertain the troops in Vietnam, certainly a controversial war. People like John Wayne, Raquel Welch, Danny Kaye and Ann-Margret brought entertainment directly into combat zones, and Americans greatly respected that effort.

In the past year, only a few people like Toby Keith, Tom Arnold and myself have shown up in Afghanistan.

All loyal Americans should help the war on terror effort. We should give to military charities, hire vets and individually applaud their service.

Christmas is coming not only to America, but also to the battlefields overseas. Let’s all do what we can to help our troops.

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Veteran TV news anchor Bill O’Reilly is host of the Fox News show "The O’Reilly Factor." Respond at news@postbulletin.com.

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