Minnesotans reflect on three year anniversary of Iraq warby Annie Baxter, Minnesota Public Radio
When the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq began three years ago, the country rallied behind it. According to a Gallup Poll, nearly 70% of Americans thought the war was winnable when it started. But now, just over 20% of the public asserts such confidence. According to Gallup's numbers, about half the country thinks American troops should be brought home right away.
Here's what some Minnesotans are saying about the ongoing U.S. presence in Iraq.
Minneapolis, Minn. — War protesters made a strong showing this weekend in Minneapolis. At least a couple thousand people marched along Hennepin Avenue in the Uptown neighborhood, shouting anti war slogans and beating drums.
Some of the protesters were driven by pacifist positions. But not Chris Briscoe. He says, as a former marine, he doesn't oppose all military interventions. But he doesn't think the grounds for the Iraq war were legitimate.
"I was supportive of military action in Afghanistan when it was a direct action to the 9/11 attacks," he says. "But once it was re-purposed to the energy industry and the neo-con agenda, I was opposed to military action at that point."
A growing number of Americans are taking a position against the war, according to polls. But some supporters of the war like Will Brown of Eden Prairie are digging in their heals and staying firm in their convictions. Brown, who works in marketing, said he is skeptical of how polls are presented, so he doubts public support for the war is eroding so dramatically.
But even if the polls are right, Brown says public perceptions can be fickle and shouldn't distract from the military's purpose.
"I'd hate to see public policy shifted on a whim," Brown says. "I'd like to see us accomplish the mission, set up a government in Iraq, so that the people of Iraq can be self-supporting and enjoy the benefits of democracy in that region. Until we get to that point, I'd hate to see us pulling out prematurely and creating a power vacuum that could lead to more death and destruction through civil war in Iraq."
Rebeeca Iacono of St. Louis Park shares some of those views. She supported the initial military action and doesn't think there should be an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq. But she says in the absence of a clearly defined plan for achieving a democracy in Iraq, she's feeling increasingly ambivalent about the situation.
"I think that right now the biggest issue I'm seeing is the fact that we don't have a clear idea of what the progress is that's being made or what the plan is for what's going to happen next. And the fact that it's not clear to the American public what that plan is, is very difficult for us to then understand and what the idea for this new government will be," she says.
Bryan Pederson thinks it's the fault of the media that the progress being made isn't communicated often enough. He returned a few months ago from service in Iraq with the Minnesota National Guard. He now plans to change his major at the University of Minnesota from math to journalism so that he might someday help shape the view of conflicts like the one in Iraq. Pederson says the media only tells the horror stories of the Iraq war. He lists off a number of positive developments he witnessed.
"We're involved in new schools there. We're able to get kids clothing, also back-packs and books. They're being able to learn. We're building new roads, which is paving the way for the future over there. Especially the garbage and sewer system, that's getting redone. I mean, the country really took shape in the year I was there from January of 2005 to late November of 2005," he says.
While support for the Iraq war is waning, a recent Gallup poll does show that a majority of Americans continue to believe that Iraqis are better off now than they were when the U.S. invaded.
But for some war critics, that progress comes at too great a cost. More than 2,300 Americans have died in the conflict so far.
- Morning Edition, 03/20/2006, 7:50 a.m.