Iraq Revisted

Locals comment on the war and the Bush Administration's declared desire to build democracies

Disgusted by the year-old war in Iraq, some Tucsonans summarize its fallout in numbers. Thousands of Iraqi civilians and 550 American soldiers killed. Tens of billions of dollars spent. Zero weapons of mass destruction found.

Supporters of the conflict, on the other hand, believe the most important issue is the potential for changing the course of history. Inserting a democracy into the autocratic Middle East is worth the sacrifice.

"The occupation is proceeding better than many expected," said Bill Heuisler, Republican candidate for Pima County Assessor and the only war supporter who responded for this article, before the latest suicide bombings in Iraq. Calling the U.S. military campaign one of the most brilliant ever, Heuisler thinks by this time next year, Iraq will be a nearly-democratic country.

Amazed at what he perceives as some Americans' hopes that the U.S. effort won't succeed, Heuisler says when he meets with the parents or families of soldiers serving in Iraq, they have expressions of insult or personal betrayal on their faces when talking about the war's opponents. For his part, he can only conclude the opposition is an anti-Bush thing.

"To try and achieve what in Turkey took 50 years (to accomplish) in two years is difficult," Heuisler admits. Despite that, he foresees a theocratic democracy soon emerging in the country, with the Kurds of northern Iraq participating in a federation system.

One year ago, the former Marine asked, "If you won't fight to take out one of the most brutal tyrants in the world, who will you fight? Pacifism gets too many people killed."

Now he heaps further disdain upon those against the war, thinking the eventual results will discredit them. Within 12 months, he says, "the naysayers will swallow their own bile," because of the democracy which has blossomed in Iraq.

Disagreeing with Heuisler's political conclusions, University of Arizona public administration and policy professor Chris Demchak thinks the U.S. goals for the war were overly ambitious. One of its lessons, she says, is "we can't run around willy-nilly building democracies." Another is Americans shouldn't confuse an entire religion with the actions of a few.

To end the war, Demchak believes the Bush administration is now pursuing a "declare victory and go home strategy." This, she thinks, will lead to things going even further downhill in Iraq, although not immediately.

Others agree with Demchak.

"At this point, everything the anti-war folks were saying has come true," indicates Caroline Isaacs, local program director for the American Friends Service. Just before the war, a spokeswoman for the group said, "There is no imminent threat to the United States (from Iraq)," and now Isaacs adds, "There were zero weapons of mass destruction, and we were lied to about that."

As for the future, Isaacs' opinion is the United States should commit funds to re-build the country, but turn the process of transition to self-rule over to the United Nations.

"The Bush administration has aims for Iraq which are not in the best interest of that country," she says. "They want to install a puppet government there."

Last year, University of Arizona political science professor and former Democratic mayor of Tucson Tom Volgy said the war made no sense to him, since there were dozens of countries in the world run by bad guys. Plus, he could only foresee bad consequences.

Believing the solitary good war news now is that Saddam Hussein is gone, Volgy sees extensive bad news.

"We've sacrificed a lot of lives for the reasons (for war) the administration said existed. But they didn't exist," he says.

"I'm also concerned about the aftermath," Volgy adds. "We're either stuck for a long time in Iraq, or they'll end up with a fundamentalist regime that will give us an awful lot of trouble."

Contributing to that litany of woes, Julia Clancy-Smith of the University's history department one year ago predicted enormous Iraqi civilian casualties from a war. Plus, she said the United States would pay a really big price. Those bills, in her view, are now coming due.

In addition to both nations' personal and financial costs, Clancy-Smith includes a moral price for the war. "We're using torture in Iraq and sending some prisoners to Israel to be tortured," she believes, while stressing, "Torture has no place in a democracy!"

As for her earlier predictions of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis being killed, she replies, "I thought the Iraqi army would resist." But even without that happening, she estimates 20,000 Iraq soldiers and civilians may have died.

Believing the Bush administration has made a mess of things from Afghanistan to the Middle East, Clancy-Smith continues, "But the guys in power (in Washington) don't care, because its great for a war economy."

In addition to the country's leaders, she blames both the national and local press for ignoring available information before the war about weapons of mass destruction. Calling this a massive failure, she also says of the Tucson situation, "The local media refused to give the voices of dissent coverage. The censorship was appalling."

Having recently returned from four months in France, Clancy-Smith offers, "It was nice to be in a country with freedom of the press." But she says of the European perspective of things, "The Bush administration is the most hated one in the history of the United States. The average person there fears, loathes and hates it."

As for the Arab and Islamic outlook on the war, Demchak concludes, "There has been little positive difference in the war on terrorism, yet we've made a long-term problem with Arab people. It was very easy for them to resent us (before the war), and it is easier today."

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