[mosque]\”Is it worth it?\”
The question floats around nonchalantly, but after taking a good look at the consequences of putting countless lives on the line for the so-called \”liberation\” of another country\’s people, the question must be addressed.
Lew Dodak, former Michigan House Speaker and State Representative, posed the rhetorical question. Dodak, who as a young man growing up on a farm in Birch Run, Mich., was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1965 and spent a year fighting the Viet Cong in Pleiku, knows a thing or two about the cost of war. As part of the 25th Infantry Division, Dodak spent 234 consecutive days in combat, breaking an army record. When he returned to the states, frustrated with the war, he decided to get involved with politics. \”I didn\’t want my kids to go through what I went through,\” Dodak said. \”I know a lot of young people that died for nothing, in my opinion. I had a bitter feeling toward the experience, of how the politicians handled the situation.\”
Dodak is concerned about the current war in Iraq. Though accusations of Iraq being \”the new Vietnam\” have surfaced, he maintains their differences. \”We\’re in a situation worse than Vietnam, we can\’t get out of it,\” he said. \”The minute we leave, there\’s going to be civil war.\”
This month, the war we conceived in Iraq turns a troubled four years old and leaves many Americans wondering why the country cannot yet fend for itself. It is not simply defined as to who is right and who is wrong. The truth is we are at war. Beyond that, the lines get fuzzy. Who are we fighting? Iraq? Terrorism? The Shi\’as? Those who wish to stop our innate desire to dominate the eastern world? [vietnam]
The violence in Iraq and throughout the Middle East stems back generation upon generation. A simplified version has the competing Muslim groups, the Sunnis and Shi\’as, in a civil war. After the U.S. invasion in 2003, tensions have only grown as Iraqis feel they are undergoing occupation, colonialism and cultural assimilation. Iraqi insurgents, comprised of Baathists (Hussein\’s Party), Nationalists, Sunni Extremists and Shi\’a Militias, have turned Iraq into a hellish zone of warfare.
The war has taken its toll on both troops and civilians alike. The current American troop death toll has surpassed 3,000 and continues to climb daily. The British are now leaving, and with the miniscule amounts of troops other countries provide, it seems as if Americans\’ beloved allies are disintegrating. Reports of shot down helicopters and improvised explosive devices inundate American media to the point of emotional immunity. Seldom reported, and widely ranging is the death toll of Iraqi civilians. The numbers range from 30,000 to 655,000 depending on what news service you choose to believe. Concerning the latter figure, Rany Aburashed of MSU\’s Department of Neurology and Ophthalmology is particularly troubled, \”If the numbers don\’t reverberate to you, I think you have to reassess your heart, reassess your humanity, reassess what you value as a human because what\’s essentially happening is the blood of Americans has become worth a lot more than anyone else.\”
[nick]Sergeant Nicholas Gushen is part of the 101st Airborne Division. He spent his year-long tour in Eastern Baghdad. \”I lost buddies over there,\” Gushen said, \”and saw both Americans and Iraqis get killed.\” Having signed up for the Army during his senior year in high school, Gushen was prepared to be deployed to Iraq. Although \”getting shot at and explosions are scary,\” he kept a realistic approach. \”It is in the job description,\” Gushen said. \”I knew what I was getting into.\” Growing up in Flushing, Mich., the small town suburbanite found Iraq to be a bit of a culture shock. \”There is so much weird stuff that goes on over there, but you realize that the weird stuff is normal to them and a lot of the stuff that is normal to us is weird to them.\” Alternatively, he was surprised at how similar Iraqis were to Americans. \”When you kick in a door at three in the morning, you really catch people at their most normal times because their guard is down. Walking into a house during that time was sometimes like I was kicking in my neighbor\’s door. They seemed just like us and other times they seemed so far from us.\”
Although Gushen felt his presence was welcomed in the capital city, he did sense some fair American backlash. \”Their biggest problem was the fact that we have been there for four years and they are still sometimes without power and water,\” he said. \”That and the killing between Iraqis. It\’s all tough stuff. You stop one thing and another gets worse. You fix this problem but the media is now covering that one.\” As frustrating as trying to secure a foreign nation without the utmost support may be, Gushen is bound and determined to do his job and to do it well. \”I am a soldier in the United States Army. As a soldier, when the president tells me to go to war and do something, I do it. Bottom line.\”
Jeff Wiggins, a history senior and the Chairman of the MSU College Republicans, admits that President Bush made a serious mistake in the initial preparations of the war. Agreeing with former Secretary of State Colin Powell\’s recommendation, Wiggins believes that 400,000 troops should have been deployed instead of the 150,000 that former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld proposed.
With the eventual resignation of Powell, Rumsfeld and CIA Director George Tenet following the misconstrued invasion, and the faulty intelligence that held the American peoples\’ support coming to light, Bush has seen his administration and the entire political spectrum more or less collapse. Four years ago, skepticism from Republican Congress was in essence unheard of. Today, even a conservative Republican Senator like Chick Hagel (R-NE) has spoken out. As told to U.S. News, Hagel announced, \”Things aren\’t getting better, they\’re getting worse. The reality is that we\’re losing in Iraq.\”
These accusations are just the latest sting to the Bush legacy. Now with a Democratic Congress for the first time in Bush\’s two terms, there is wonder if anything can be accomplished collectively. Wiggins agrees that bipartisanship is a strong factor to waging a successful war, but does not see the Republicans and Democrats working well together as seen from the State of the Union Address, when \”President Bush said we all need to stand together for victory in Iraq, only half the place stood up, the rest of the room sat on their hands.\”
While not particularly a fan of politics, Gushen agrees that the system has become quite petty. \”If the government wants to point their fingers at each other then let them do it. Someone up there has an answer and it is a good one. If they would just listen and stop bickering this might be solved, but then again that\’s politics.\”[army]
\”He did have America\’s best interest at heart,\” Wiggins said, \”but he did not go in with the right amount of troops and he did not have an exit strategy, and I think that\’s why people are starting to realize that that was a bad mistake.\” A mistake that needs fixing. Bush proposed to send 21,500 more troops to Baghdad and other areas of centralized violence. This increase of about 15 percent of the current level of troops currently stationed in Iraq.
\”If the goal is to fully disarm Baghdad,\” said MSU alumni Fahran Bhatti, \”that 15 percent is not going to get the job done. There is nothing unique about [the new surge].\” The troop levels have undergone surges in the past with no significant gain in leverage against the insurgents.
However, Bush supporters like Charles Skinner are more optimistic. \”The new surge of troops is going to have a different objective.\” Skinner, the President of the Conservative Law Society and a MSU law school student, defends the president\’s plan to increase troop levels. \”An increase in security on the streets of Baghdad give the Iraq police forces time to fully integrate and gain confidence in performing operations to root out terrorists, sectarian militia and petty criminals on their own and then to hold those areas against re-infiltration of those groups.\”
Wiggins has an idea of why the insurgent attacks have seen such an increase over the span of the war. \”If Iraq is successful and they have democracy and they\’re U.S. backed, then you have two countries there. Israel, who already has firepower to wipe out anybody they wanted to and then you have Iraq,\” Wiggins said. \”So then you\’ll have these two countries with freely democratically elected officials working with the United States and that scares a lot of people.\”
[kids]Establishing a respectable foreign policy has been one of Bush\’s biggest obstacles. Getting involved with another country\’s civil war has not always led to victory. \”Vietnam taught us at a terrible cost, and this war is starting to,\” Dodak said.
With the ongoing war in Iraq still waging with nothing short of a tumultuous future in store, the possible solutions are endless. A political redrawing of Iraq split into three autonomous regions for the Sunni, Shi\’a and Kurds seems to make sense if their conflict wasn\’t so deeply woven. It\’s a dark possibility that the regions would be swallowed by the neighboring countries and more intense violence would erupt. \”I don\’t think the fighting will ever stop,\” Gushen said. \”As soon as the Shi\’a get their own land, Iran will move in and take over. As soon as the Sunnis get theirs then Syria and Saudi Arabia will argue who gets to make all the decisions there. The Kurds have problems in Iraq and in Turkey. I don\’t think a small amount of land in Iraq will make Turkey any better. I don\’t know if it will create a more hellish region, but I think it will create a more complicated region.\”
The possibility exists that complete withdrawal of U.S. forces would mean the collapse of Iraq as we have come to know it and complete chaos for years to come. A phased withdrawal might seem like an open invite for Iraq\’s breeding ground of terrorists with little resistance. So what should be done? What can be done? Should America \”stay the course\” as President Bush has attempted to convince us repeatedly until he himself could not believe in it? There seems to be a general consensus as to what is needed as far as a solution. \”I think we need to get out of Iraq as soon as possible,\” Wiggins said, \”in regards to the best of the Iraqi people.\” How we go about achieving this outcome is up in the air.
Only the future holds the outcome, whether all hell breaks lose and fighting continues until the last Iraqi is standing, or if the Iraqis can sustain a democratic government that they, as a united people, can believe in. And whether the sanctions being put in place upon and being ignored by Iran\’s uranium enrichment program will inevitably lead to the Apocalypse is yet to be determined. What happens in just two years from now when a new president will be sworn into the White House? Will the Bush Administration become a dark blot in the history books that teach America\’s future? How will this current war in Iraq, the war on terrorism, be perceived?
Whether it will be considered World War III is debatable. \”I don\’t really know,\” Gushen said. \”I mean, we are fighting a pretty damn big war right now: the global war on terror. Those are pretty big words. These wars started quickly. Some of the battles are well known, and some of the battles are not known at all. This could be it. I don\’t know. I guess we will know when it\’s over.\”
Hopefully we’ll know sooner or later whether or not it was worth it.
[mosque]\”Is it worth it?\”