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Struggling to Understand the Iraq War, 10 Years Later

Struggling to Understand the Iraq War, 10 Years Lateri
March 16, 2013 6:01 PM
Public opinion surveys in 2011, at the end of U.S. military involvement in Iraq, revealed a majority of Americans felt the U.S. invasion there was a mistake. War casualties had a major role in shaping Americans' feelings about the war, and now, 10 years after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein from power, those sentiments persist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, relatives and friends of those who were lost in the war continue to struggle to come to terms with the meaning of the conflict and its consequences.
Struggling to Understand the Iraq War, 10 Years Later
Kane Farabaugh

Public opinion surveys in 2011, at the end of U.S. military involvement in Iraq, revealed a majority of Americans felt the U.S. invasion there was a mistake.  War casualties had a major role in shaping Americans' feelings about the war, and now, 10 years after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein from power, those sentiments persist.

Relatives and friends of those who were lost in the war continue to struggle to come to terms with the meaning of the conflict and its consequences.

On a cold, wintry March afternoon, Iraq War veteran Harvey Kanter is fighting back tears as he fights through the snow to create a keepsake that reminds him of the friends he lost. “You don’t forget the names, and you don’t forget how it happened," he said.

U.S. Military Fatalities in Iraq, 2003 - 2012U.S. Military Fatalities in Iraq, 2003 - 2012
U.S. Military Fatalities in Iraq, 2003 - 2012
U.S. Military Fatalities in Iraq, 2003 - 2012
The names he won’t forget on the Mideast Conflicts Wall Memorial in Marseilles, Illinois, belong to three men Kanter served with in the U.S. Army at the height of the insurgency in Iraq - casualties of an unpopular conflict Kanter says is fading from America’s collective memory.

A poll conducted by the Huffington Post website and YouGov in January indicated 52 percent of Americans thought the 2003 invasion of Iraq was a mistake. 55 percent of those who responded said the war was not worth fighting.

“I never want to see somebody look at it and say, 'Hey, it was a mistake; it was worthless,' when you have all of those lives lost, said John Bartosiewicz. Two of his sons served in the military, but neither served in Iraq.   While he says he supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, he was also relieved when Americans left in 2011. “If they would have just pulled out without setting a goal, and reaching that goal, then I would have thought it was worthless, because all those lives were lost and you can’t put a value on that," he said.

U.S. Combat Troops in Iraq, 2003-2011U.S. Combat Troops in Iraq, 2003-2011
U.S. Combat Troops in Iraq, 2003-2011
U.S. Combat Troops in Iraq, 2003-2011
“During the war, a common phrase was, 'We don’t support the war but we support our troops.' And I think that’s very important, to remember that distinction," said University of Chicago researcher Matthew Schweitzer. who is the creator of the blog “Post War Watch” which analyzes the legacy of U.S. military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

He says U.S. public opinion shifted dramatically during the U.S. troop surge in Iraq in 2005. “It came too late to really sway people’s opinions after they saw thousands - hundreds of thousands - of Iraqis dying, and many U.S. soldiers dying for what seemed to be an unattainable goal.”

  • Smoke rises from the Iraqi Trade Ministry in Baghdad after it was hit by a missile during a U.S.-led attacks, March 20, 2003.
  • Smoke rises moments after the bright light at the right faded during U.S. strikes in downtown Baghdad in this image from television, March 20, 2003.
  • Then President George W. Bush makes a statement to reporters while Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld look on following a Cabinet meeting, March 20, 2003.
  • An explosion rocks Baghdad during air strikes March 21, 2003.
  • U.S. Marine Corp Assaultman Kirk Dalrymple watches as a statue of Iraq's President Saddam Hussein falls in central Baghdad, April 9, 2003.
  • Iraqi men run through a neighborhood with looted items, Baghdad, April 10, 2003.
  • Iraqis cheer a column of U.S. armored vehicles arriving in Bagdhad, April 10, 2003.
  • A detained Iraqi man with a plastic bag covering his head sits in garden of a house searched by U.S. soldiers during a night raid in Tikrit, Oct. 30, 2003.
  • Iraqi policemen guard the burning pipeline near Karbala, Feb. 23, 2004.
  • British Army troops are covered in flames from a gas bomb thrown during a protest in Basra, March 22, 2004.
  • Coffins of U.S. military personnel are prepared to be offloaded at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware in this undated photo released in 2004.
  • A still from Al Iraqiya television shows masked executioners putting a noose around former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's neck moments before his hanging in Baghdad, Dec. 30, 2006.
  • A man runs down a street warning people to flee shortly after a twin car bomb attack at Shorja market in Baghdad, Feb. 12, 2007.
  • A U.S. soldier guards an arrested man after a gunfight in central Baqouba, Iraq, March 29, 2007.
  • Demonstrators wave Iraqi flags during an anti-U.S. protest called by fiery cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in Najaf, marking the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, April 9, 2007.
  • Supporters of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr burn a banner representing the U.S. flag during a protest in Baghdad's Sadr City,July 3, 2009.
  • U.S. Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles drive through Camp Adder before departing Imam Ali Base near Nasiriyah, Iraq, Dec. 16, 2011.

“It’s hard to change anyone’s opinion about what is freedom, what is democracy, what is the price you pay for it," said Jerry Terando. His son Joshua paid the ultimate sacrifice, killed by a sniper’s bullet in 2005 in Iraq.  Jerry Terando is now among a majority of Americans who view the war unfavorably. “Regardless of what our fighting men do, all wars come back to politics. [If we have] A nation without the heart to win, or a government without the will, we’re just wasting our time.”

Joshua’s name is now etched on the marble of the Mideast Conflicts Wall Memorial, a permanent reminder of what the war cost Jerry Terando and his family. “I would do anything to have him alive again, but I’m proud of him for what he did and the sacrifice he made. And I only wish the rest of America could appreciate that and the sacrifice of all the others whose names are on that wall," he said. 


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