The Democrats' new majority in both houses of Congress could spell an end to U.S. troop occupation in Iraq, but area veterans warned Monday against swift withdrawal.
Ed Linek, a U.S. Navy petty officer, third class, who served during the Korean War, captured the sentiment of veterans in Sterling and Ashburn. ÒWe should definitely be over there and get the job finished,Ó he said. ÒWe won the war; itÕs the pacification [effort] of the rest of that country that is the problem.Ó
He expressed concern that the Democrats' new control would result in a ÒrushÓ to bring the troops home. ÒItÕs a matter of standing together and finishing it up.Ó
Identifying himself as an independent voter, Linek said he was discouraged with the DemocratsÕ failure to support the war in Iraq and the troops fighting there.
FRANK OWENS, a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel during the Vietnam War, expressed concern about House Speaker-designate Nancy PelosiÕs endorsement of U.S. Rep. John P. MurthaÕs bid for House majority leader. Murtha opposes the war and might try to have the troops pulled out of Iraq too fast, he said.
Murtha has said he favors redeployment at the earliest practical date. Pelosi supports the strategy, because she says it is not a Ôcut our losses and runÕ plan.
Owens remained skeptical. ÒEverybody is opposed to war, but sometimes itÕs necessary,Ó he said. ÒI think someone needs to point out that not one American civilian has died in the United States since 9-11 because of terrorism.Ó
Owens said the deaths of the postal workers exposed to anthrax may have been caused by terrorists, but there is no conclusive evidence. The primary reason the United States went to war was to keep its citizens safe from terrorists such as Saddam Hussain, he said. The second was the mediaÕs push to establish Democracy in Iraq, he added.
ÒDo you really think our American soldiers were willing to go over during World War II just to help France and England? They went to keep the war away from their families. That was their primary objective.Ó
THE SITUATION IS comparable to Iraq, he said. Soldiers want to keep terrorists from invading their homeland.
Owens warned against pulling the troops out quickly, because it only would create a state of chaos in Iraq and we would lose an ally.
ÒIt is to our benefit to have a stable [Iraqi] country,Ó he said.
Ed Higginbotham, who was a U.S. Marine Corps lance corporal during the Vietnam War, said it would be wrong to withdraw too fast, but there should be a fairly quick timetable Òor else we end up with another Vietnam.Ó The Vietnam War was the longest war in U.S. history, lasting more than a decade and ending in 1975.
ÒWe do have a commitment there,Ó he said. ÒNow that the Democrats have a voice, there will be a realistic timetable. If the Republicans were still in control, it would be another Vietnam.Ó
Bill Hanger, a U.S. Army second lieutenant during the Korean War, said the troops should not return home until they complete their mission. He said that stance does not have anything to do with being a Democrat or a Republican. ÒIt has to do with being an America,Ó he said. ÒEver since World War I, our nation has been there to help others in their fights for Democracy and freedom.Ó
He referred specifically to World War I and II that were fought in Europe and the Korean and Vietnam wars in Asia. He charged that the Democrats used the war as an excuse to regain power, but he doesnÕt believe they are completely opposed to it. ÒI do think weÕll stay the course,Ó he said.
VIRGIL "DUSTY" MEADOR, who was a U.S. Army fire support sergeant in the Persian Gulf War, said the United States went to war too fast and it should not make the mistake of withdrawing in the same fashion.
ÒYouÕre going to have a bigger mess if you pull out now,Ó he said. Meador predicted that the Iranians and Syrians would enter IraqÕs civil war Òand who knows how many others.Ó
He said American votersÕ opposition to the war in Iraq was the key reason the Democrats had so many sweeping victories in last weekÕs election. ÒThe Republicans could have survived some of the other problems,Ó he added, referring to charges of corruption and immoral conduct among key congressional leaders.