A Bloody Mess

Tucson hawks and doves now agree that U.S. involvement in Iraq has gone wrong, but for different reasons

Numbers in the thousands keep popping up about the war in Iraq. More than a thousand days after it started, tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis have been killed and injured, along with nearly 20,000 American soldiers. At the same time, thousands times thousands times thousands of U.S. tax dollars have been spent.

Looking at the current situation, invasion supporter Bill Heuisler sounds much more pessimistic than he once did. Having commented annually along with a few other Tucsonans on the war since it began in 2003, last year (see "Thoughts on Iraq," March 24, 2005) Heuisler saw the future for the entire Middle East as "wonderful" because of what he perceived as an outbreak of democracy.

Concluding recently that he must have had a few beers before saying that, Heuisler is now reading No True Glory about the 2004 battle for Fallujah. The book, he says, has somewhat changed his perspective on the war since it was only after diplomacy failed that a military assault of the city was finally conducted.

"Bad decisions were made," Heuisler states about the fight for Fallujah, which he sees as a microcosm of the war in general. "We're tiptoeing too much, showing how moderate we are, and how happy we are of the Iraqi involvement with democracy."

Characterizing the American military achievements in Iraq as "very successful," Heuisler has strong opinions about the insurgency. Believing they just want to hold out until Americans get frustrated and decide to have their troops leave the country, the former Marine declares of the insurgents, "They can't beat the Marines, but they can their bosses in Washington, D.C.

"We're losing our will now because we're losing men to boobytraps," Heuisler continues. "And we're losing men to boobytraps because we want to be nice, and that's a shame."

If civil war breaks out in Iraq, Heuisler says, "The Sunnis are the problem. As a Marine, it wouldn't bother me to tell the men to stand down for awhile and let the Shiites take care of that problem. Then the question would be: How do we regain control of the situation? But one step at a time."

From her perspective, Caroline Isaacs of the American Friends Service somberly suggests the war has been unquestionably bad for the U.S. "We've already lost in Iraq, and lose more every day," she says.

Suggesting that those who insist the United States must stay the course until the mission is accomplished are using a specious argument, Isaacs thinks they are simply trying to distract the public from focusing on what is truly in America's interests. "Deepening the conflict is not in our interest," she states.

In 2005, Isaacs pointed out the economic factors she thought were behind the war. Sticking by that opinion, Isaacs now says of the American push for democracy in the Middle East and the outcome of the recent Palestinian election, which brought Hamas to power: "Sometimes when you give people democracy, they don't do what you want."

Having promoted a peaceful three-state solution for Iraq, Chris Demchak, UA professor of public administration and policy, believes that will probably be achieved not through diplomacy, but via civil war. She thinks the Kurds of northern Iraq will break with the nation, and the Sunnis and Shiites of the south will then fight it out over what remains.

"It will be extremely ugly," Demchak says of this struggle for supremacy, "a chaotic, bloody situation." Plus, Demchak adds, "The United States does bear responsibility for the people who get blown up" in this conflict.

"I have no happy notes about Iraq," Demchak says. "The U.S. has contributed to creating a large terrorist base there."

UA political science professor and former Democratic mayor of Tucson Tom Volgy is also extremely pessimistic about Iraq. Last year he stressed the importance of the delicate negotiations needed to form an Iraqi government that could hold the nation together, but Volgy now says, "The Iraqi government hasn't been very skillful at those negotiations."

Citing statistics on terrorist attacks worldwide, Volgy can't see how the United States is better off because of the war. Plus, he adds of other Middle Eastern issues, "Iran and Hamas are much more aggressive. Outside of Saddam Hussein being gone from power, there's not much good news from Iraq."

Calling civil war in the country the worst nightmare possible, Volgy believes it has already broken out. "I don't see how we can play a military role in that situation," Volgy says. "If we play a role in that, we could be there forever."

Volgy berates the Bush administration. "This government has done such a terrible job in identifying the mission," he says. "Whether it was weapons of mass destruction, or removing Saddam Hussein, or (something else), I have no idea what it is anymore."

Looking ahead, at this time next year, the battle for Iraq will have lasted longer than the American involvement in World War II. Thousands more people will have been killed in the interim, and contemplating the war's future, Volgy concludes, "Establishing stability and peace in Iraq may take decades, and must be accomplished by the Iraqis, not the United States."

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