Vets opinions on Iraq range from gung ho to get out
By Chuck Mueller
Like many veterans, 83-year-old Raymond Iddings hates war.
But on the second anniversary of the bombardment of Baghdad, Iddings sees real prospects for freedom in embattled Iraq.
“I think a lot of goodwill came out of this war,” the veteran of three wars said. “Freedom is breaking out all over. We’re seeing the birth of more democracies and free elections around the world.”
Iddings, who fought with the 3rd Army in Europe during World War II and continued to serve in the military during the wars in Korea and Vietnam, said today’s troops have benefited from the proud legacy left by aging warriors.
“Our young men and women in Iraq are better trained and better motivated than we were in World War II,” he said. “The accuracy of today’s weapons speaks to the years spent perfecting our firepower. And care given to our wounded reflects new life-saving medical skills.”
“I don’t think we belong in Iraq,” said Russell Desvignes, 85, a member of the renowned Tuskegee Airmen of World War II. “That whole country is not worth the life of one of our boys.”
And Donald Julius, 82, who served in the Naval Reserve civil engineering corps during World War II, said the United States should have pushed for total victory a decade ago in Iraq.
“We made a mistake not finishing the job then,” he said. “We should have stayed long enough to gain political control in Iraq and Afghanistan at that time.
“The job of self-government is much tougher there now since these countries have had years to create terror throughout the world and undermine our efforts to help them establish their own governments.”
Bill O’Connor, 73, an eight-year veteran who served in Korea from 1952 to 1954, does not support combat in Iraq.
“It was a mistake to go in, especially since there was never a post-war plan to get out,” he said.
“Iraq is another Korea and another Vietnam. We weren’t at either place to win unlike during World War II, when we went all out to defeat Germany and Japan.”
O’Connor advocates pulling out of Iraq as soon as possible, “if we can train the Iraqis to take care of themselves,” he said.
Another veteran, 91-year-old Mario Sacchelli, calls the Iraq occupation “a big mess.”
“The planning was terrible,” said the World War II veteran, who served as a medic aboard an Army transport ship off the coast of Alaska. “The thinking (in Washington, D.C.) two years ago was that it would be an easy war to win.
“But the Iraqis don’t want us there. We should get our troops out as soon as we can.”
Fred Frank, 78, who was a Navy gunner’s mate in the Pacific during World War II, has strong views about America’s role as the world’s policeman.
“We shouldn’t be in Iraq,” he said. “We’re sticking our nose into everything, trying to solve the world’s problems. But we can’t. We don’t have to save the world.”
Frank said the reasons for America’s involvement in World War II and Iraq have few parallels. “They are totally different,” he said. “Iraq is not worth American lives and the billions of dollars we’re spending there.”
Desvignes agrees. “I don’t see anything right coming out of this war in Iraq,” he said. “Iraq didn’t attack us, and we should have tracked down the terrorists who attacked us (on Sept. 11, 2001) before invading Iraq.”
He added, “I was in Hawaii when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. And I had quite a few Japanese friends in Hawaii, but I didn’t blame them for the attack there in 1941.”