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Following the Invasion

After five years, four Tucsonans continue to disagree about the Iraq war


Since the Iraq war began in 2003, four Tucsonans have been talking to the Tucson Weekly each year about the conflict. Their viewpoints are widely divergent--but this year, two people with differing opinions both mentioned Vietnam.

Caroline Isaacs, of the American Friends Service Committee, has been an outspoken opponent of the war from the start. She says the lesson that should be learned from Iraq is the same one taught in Southeast Asia more than three decades ago.

"You should learn the history and culture of a region before you invade it," Isaacs says.

Former Marine Bill Heuisler has always supported the Iraq war. He, too, suggests lessons to learn were shown by Vietnam.

"If you're going to lose one drop of blood," Heuisler declares, "you go in full-bore and get it done. That's what we're doing now and should have done in 2003."

Heuisler cites the lack of any terrorist attacks in the United States since the invasion as one of several positive results of the Iraq war.

"Al-Qaida in Iraq is in full flight," Heuisler says. "But if we leave, it would be an unmitigated disaster for the country and our troops. If we left, it would be like saying the guys bled for nothing. But they didn't die for nothing."

UA political science professor and former Tucson Mayor Tom Volgy questioned the war to begin with. Now, he comments: "The long-term consequences of the war are not good for us. I don't know who could have benefited from this war. The only ones to do so are the Iranians."

Pointing out that George W. Bush has to fly secretly into Baghdad for a visit, while Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently took a much-publicized motorcade into the city from the airport, Volgy calls that the "ultimate insanity."

Both Volgy and Chris Demchak, a UA associate professor of public administration and policy, favor a three-way partition of Iraq. Volgy adds that a quick American military withdrawal from the country should follow.

Offering her viewpoint, Demchak writes in an e-mail: "The Iraqis themselves are moving to split up, and the U.S. should accept the solution from those who have to live with it. We need to do our best to make that easier."

Having pushed for a partition since the war began, Demchak believes one of the advantages of a partition would be to make Iranian goals for Iraq harder to accomplish.

"Better if Iran is fighting across several states than controlling, by proxy, one big one," she suggests.

Heuisler has a different take on things. He thinks it is time for the United States to get some return on its Iraqi investment.

"The idea of allowing the price of oil to spiral higher when we control one of the largest-producing areas in the world (in Iraq) is comical," Heuisler says. "We've spent our blood, so we might as well get their oil."

Heuisler also calls the creation of a democracy in Iraq "one of the greatest foreign-policy achievements since World War II."

Isaacs disagrees and believes the U.S. needs to put more into Iraq's infrastructure.

"It's a very difficult balancing act, because we made a mess and left two countries (Iraq and Afghanistan) in complete disarray," she says. "We should put our resources more into restoring the basic services of those countries, and do the best we can to restore their standards of living while allowing democracy to take its own course."

Volgy also expresses concern about the future of Afghanistan and how it is testing the NATO alliance. Then he reflects on his comments about the Iraq war over the last five years.

"I predicted (in 2003) that no sane president would go through with an invasion," he says, "and I was wrong about that. I was right about most other things, except the difficulties we face in Afghanistan."

For her part, Demchak states: "The key lesson (of the Iraq war) is that our leaders did not do their homework. ... The unnecessary, costly, damaging war in Iraq will be the enduring symbol of this administration's overall record in profound ignorance and miscalculation, unmerited arrogance and unprecedented secrecy."

Reflecting on the situation in Iraq today, Demchak says: "We have left an artificially cobbled together, relatively young nation without even the state capacity to govern its own capital well, along with no functioning hospitals, schools or museums.

"Those who started this mess persist in asserting that somehow, (with) our unreasonable demands, the lives and life-long health of our troops, and our exhausted treasury, that we will make it all better by keeping (on) this ill-chosen path," Demchak says.

Heuisler acknowledges that the United States at first didn't do anti-insurgency efforts well in Iraq. Despite that, he calls the overall military success in Afghanistan and Iraq "historical events."

"Militarily conquering two countries in less than a month each hasn't been done since Alexander the Great," Heuisler says. "We haven't been hit since, so we must be doing something right."

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