After a year: Iraqi war goes on

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 19, 2004

Like most Americans, the citizens of West Alabama sensed the delayed urgency one year ago today.

Though no one knew the exact time, there was no need for a Las Vegas line on whether the United States would lead an attack on Saddam Hussein and Iraq. On March 19, 2003, the attack began, and the citizens of West Alabama felt the dreamlike reality of war.

Fathers, mothers, second cousins — they were all among the group of men and women from the Demopolis 167th Engineers who had been deployed to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom. For that matter, they had already been deployed for nearly two months.

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Today, some from this region still remain in Iraq. Others, thankfully, never received a call to board the Mideast-bound ship.

Though Saddam was captured and a transition to democracy seems imminent, the reality of Operation Iraqi Freedom is that U.S. countrymen still walk the dusty streets of the war-torn nation today. In the heat of a campaign wrought with allegations, President Bush stares down the gun of war critics every day. The war’s purpose and need have been debated on every local and national media outlet.

Regardless, U.S. troops still face a battle one year after the Iraq war began.

“I really did think we’d still be there today,” said Ret. Col. Tom Boggs. “I didn’t anticipate this to be a quick war. It was a continuation of the war on terrorism, and part of the President’s commitment to that war.”

For Boggs, the media’s “short attention span” and turned this war into something it never could have been.

“You know, the Middle East has never come together, and it won’t happen fast,” he said. “But you start listening to the media, and everybody starts talking about another Vietnam.”

Boggs remembers Vietnam. He was part of the military during the Carter Administration when the U.S. Armed Forces were regarded as little more than a “paper tiger.”

In that case, the politics of war — especially in the United States — become dangerous in light of the presidential election between Bush and John Kerry.

“If Kerry won, and he pulled us out of Iraq, we would lose the respect of the world,” Boggs said. “That’s one thing we have. We have respect. And sure, there may be some who hate us, but they do respect us.”

As for the U.S.-led war in Iraq, Boggs said he agrees with the tactical mission of the war on terrorism.

“The way we’ve gone about doing battle — the tactical side — I think we’ve done a good job,” he said. “In terms of the strategic side, I still have some concerns about that.”

Strategically, Boggs said he fears too many of the coalition forces will back out of this war just as Spain’s new prime ministers announced earlier this week. After a series of railway bombs took hundreds of lives in Spain, Prime Minister-elect Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero condemned America’s “Shock and Awe” campaign against Iraq one year ago, claiming it caused continued terror strikes.

“That’s my main concern,” Boggs said. “We can’t give into these terrorists. It’s not just going on in Iraq, either. It’s going on all over the world.”

As Boggs was clear to state, the war in Iraq is not about conquering Saddam anymore. And the death tolls haven’t risen because of Saddam’s regime.

“These are terrorists,” he said. “They’re the ones killing our soldiers, and we can’t give up.”