Each month the Sun Advocate presents two views of the same subject as columnists Terry Willis and Tom McCourt see it.
The war in Iraq brings out strong feelings in most of us. We are divided in our thoughts on where this war should go. This divide crosses party lines and religious ideologies.
In my mind there is no good way to proceed. We are either stuck staying the course with no clear end in sight, or we begin to develop a plan to get out knowing that civil war will ensue in our absence.
My political views on war were shaped early as I grew up watching the nightly casualty count on the news. Mi Lia, Kent State and other events had an effect on how I view war. I was still young as these things unfolded, but by the time I reached high school, my sister's friends were facing the draft.
The war ended before I finished high school. I remember watching the fall of Saigon on the news. I hoped we never had to go back to war. So I enlisted. I joined the Navy to help promote peace. It may be an odd reason to enlist, but that is what I chose to do. So I am considered a Vietnam era vet.
I have watched as we have engaged in other conflicts. I understood why we went into Afghanistan after 9-11. But I felt lied to and betrayed as we went to war in Iraq. All said and done, I support our troops and know they are fighting for the right cause. They were just sent to the wrong place to do it.
No links were found to Al Qaida before we went into Iraq. They are there now. Sadam Hussein was a ruthless dictator who did not deserve to be in power, but he was the glue holding the country together; albeit by death, destruction and total intimidation. We have opened up a Pandora's Box that was waiting to happen by taking him out of power with no real plan to replace his power structure.
Our presence there is not the solution. Staying in Iraq is like building a house using duct tape. It may work for a short time, but the elements present will eventually deteriorate it. The only way to keep it together is to keep adding enormous amounts of tape. We have been doing that by pouring in greater and greater amounts of troops. Since we did not go in with a plan to deal with all of the warring factions we will have to find a way to leave in a way that gives the country the most hope for finding its own equilibrium.
That is not going to be easy. If we don't start to develop a plan, I foresee watching our exit with the fall of Baghdad in the background. I am not talking about a cut and run policy. I am talking about a strategic withdrawal. There will be continued instability and civil violence after we leave. The power void we have created cannot be fixed by shoving our way of life down the throats of people who don't want it.
I enjoy living in a democracy. It gives me many freedoms, including the liberty to write this opinion. Even in our own country, we have differing opinions on what it takes to be a free democracy. There are some that feel their religious tenets are what should govern our country. Should we overthrow them if they do not align with our ideals?
It saddens and scares me to know that there are people in this world who view our country as a huge bully to be brought to our knees. This war has not made me feel any safer. I actually feel less safe. We may not have had a new 9-11 type of attack, but the hatred felt towards our country is greater than ever. It is a shame because for the most part we are a great, wonderful, caring group of people.
Let's start by finding a way to withdraw from a country that needs to find its own way. Let's fight terrorism, but find a way to not provoke those who have not joined the cause against us. I don't mean to hide, cower, or cow tow to fringe groups. We need to stand up and be the example with respect and dignity to all others.
America has an army in Iraq. They are fighting to protect us from terrorists who have vowed to kill us all. The terrorists don't care that we are "a great, wonderful and caring group of people." They hate us because we are leaders in this world and we are rich, powerful, and non-Muslim. All the smiles, good will, and foreign aid in the world won't change that.
So far, the war in Iraq has accomplished the goals our nation intended: Mass murderer Sadam Hussein is in jail. No weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) were passed to the terrorists. We have not experienced another terrorist attack in this country since 9-11. Several terrorist leaders and thousands of terrorist fighters have been killed or captured in Iraq, including many non-Iraqis. Many terrorist training centers and sources of supply have been shut down. The Iraqi people have elected a new government. And the new Iraqi army is preparing to take over when our soldiers are able to leave. But, some questions linger.
There is no clear end in sight? That is true, but the same could be said about World War II in 1943.
We were lied to and betrayed when our soldiers went into Iraq? Not hardly. Our president vowed to take the fight to the terrorists and all who give them aid and comfort. We supported him in this. Congress too. Iraq was a friend to terrorists. Sadam was paying $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers, and even Bill Clinton is on record as saying he believed Iraq had stockpiles of chemical weapons. You will remember that WMDs in the hands of terrorists were our biggest fear following the attacks of 9-11.
There were no WMDs in Iraq? Yes there were. Sadam used them on his own people more than once, killing thousands. Where did they go? Into Syria probably. Let's pray they don't show up in New York or San Francisco.
We went into Iraq with no plan to replace Sadam? What were the Iraqi elections all about? Do you know that Iraq is the only Muslim country in the world to have a democratic government today? We are not "shoving our way of life down the throats of people who don't want it." We are letting them decide what they want for the first time in their lives. If it comes to civil war after we leave, we can't help that. Our intentions are noble and our actions honorable. The world can't say we didn't try. Fighting for another man's freedom is the best of reasons to go to war. Ask Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King.
Some of us feel less safe now than before 9-11? It's about time! We are in a war where civilians are the principle targets of our enemy. 9-11 was Pearl Harbor. This is World War III. The sooner we realize it and adapt to the reality, the better off we are going to be.
The world sees us as a bully? For protecting ourselves and answering an unprovoked attack that killed 3000 of us in our nation's largest city? Tell France and Spain to buzz-off. Who needs friends like them anyway? France is 20 percent Muslim. They'll be begging for our help again soon enough.
We don't want to "provoke" those who have not joined the fight against us? If some are offended because we fight our sworn enemies, so be it. Those with such sentiments are not our friends in the first place.
We are fighting the right war but in the wrong place? The terrorists are without borders. Islamic Jihad is worldwide. Where to fight them then, if not places like Iraq? Taking the fight to the Middle East has kept them out of New York and California so far.
To win the war on terror we must be united as a country. We've got to back our leaders and show unity, strength, and resolve. If you disagree with current policies, make it known in the next election. But remember, it wasn't our soldiers who lost the war in Vietnam. It was those who marched in the streets and threw eggs at the White House. Is that what we want again? I hope not. The War on Terror is different than Vietnam.
We have a great deal to lose this time.