By The Hill Staff - 02/01/05 12:00 AM EST
The violence that has plagued Iraq since Saddam Hussein was toppled and still threatens its progress toward democratic self-government in the wake of Sunday’s elections was not the fault of American mistakes but of insurgents who want the country to fail, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz told The Hill.
“The main point or problem is not American mistakes but a few SOB’s who don’t want the country to work,” Wolfowitz declared Friday night at a dinner for wounded Marines and soldiers. “It’s sad things have not gotten better than they could have, that’s the sad thing,” he added, referring to the country’s decrepit infrastructure.
Wolfowitz, a regular visitor at events for military personnel wounded in Iraq, proved prescient two days before millions of Iraqis braved bombs and death threats to vote in the country’s first free elections in 50 years. “It’s amazing how much support there is for elections,” he said. “It is sort of unbelievable.”
The dinner was held at a downtown steakhouse, which The Hill will not name because the owners insisted they did not want to profit from the young men’s wounds. Its employees donated their time, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Foundation and Wal-Mart paid for the dinner.
Wolfowitz worked the room, with a Corona beer in hand. Asked how he felt being in the company of the veterans, many of them badly wounded, Wolfowitz said, “It’s horrible to see what war does. The cost of war is tragic.” He later added that their service had been vital and noble.
With that, he was off shaking hands and posing for photos with soldiers and Marines dressed in blue jeans, sweatpants and T-shirts. Many had lost arms and legs or their sight. Others had injuries that were less visible. They walked into the restaurant’s back room hobbling, being guided or pushed in a wheelchair by a spouse or parent, or pushing themselves along on crutches.
One of the most severely wounded soldiers was Edward Wade, a skinny 27-year-old from Portland, Ore., and his wife, Sarah, a D.C. native and graduate of the National Cathedral School.
Wade, a former sergeant in the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, who had served in Afghanistan and Iraq, suffered a brain injury and lost his right arm when his Humvee ran over an improvised explosive device near Fallujah last Feb. 14.
Wade, who has been discharged from the Army, spent three months in a coma at an Army hospital in Germany and was not expected to survive. But he was flown to Walter Reed Army Hospital and then spent five months at a hospital in Richmond, Va., that specializes in brain injuries.
“They’ve quit trying to predict how he’ll fare,” said Sarah, who was attending the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill when she met her husband.
Last November, Ted and Sarah were married and, after spending two months in Chapel Hill, returned to Walter Reed on Dec. 1 because the local Veterans Affairs hospital was not equipped to deal with his injuries.
Wade’s days are now filled with physical, occupational and speech therapy, and his elbow contains a circuit board, which occasionally malfunctions, forcing him to move his arm into a desired position manually.
“He can absorb more than he can communicate, so he likes to read because it is not quite as frustrating for him,” she said.
But her husband’s struggle to recover from his injuries have taken a toll on her as well.
“I’m just exhausted, period,” she said. “I’ve been running on adrenaline for months, and it’s kicked off.”