Vets: Protest ‘Sending the wrong message’ | VailDaily.com
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Vets: Protest ‘Sending the wrong message’

Tamara Miller
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY ” Tom Kirk wishes we weren’t in Iraq either.

But now that we are, it’s the U.S. government’s responsibility to make sure Iraq has as stable, functioning government before withdrawing the troops, Kirk said.

Kirk, a Vail resident, spent 28 years as an Air Force fighter pilot. He saw combat in the Korean War and did two tours in the Vietnam War. He was prisoner-of-war in Vietnam.

He sees a lot of similarities between the Iraq war and the Vietnam war. In both cases, the war became unpopular with Americans and became a focus of political debate between opposing parties. In both cases, Kirk said, he respected the right of war protesters to demonstrate.

“I feel that this is the United States and we have a total right to assembly and to protest,” he said.

But he feels that groups like the Eagle County for Justice and Peace are being short-sighted when they demand that American troops be withdrawn immediately. In fact, he thinks the Bush administration should put more troops in Iraq.

Leaving now would make the country vulnerable to neighboring Iran, another Middle Eastern country known to harbor terrorists, he said.

“Protests like that send the wrong message to Congress and to the poor soldiers fighting the war,” Kirk said.

Instead, Americans should be protesting the U.S. government for not planning better for the war.

“Once the dialogue stops and you go to war, let’s win it,” Kirk said. “Let’s not go in there and do it halfway and half support the troops and half support our mission.”

Most members of the military don’t have a problem with protesters, said Buddy Sims, a veteran of the wars in Vietnam and Iraq.

“That’s American and that’s the great thing about our society, if you don’t like what’s going on, you can protest,” he said.

While many war protesters say they support the troops, but don’t support the war, Sims said, “You can’t divorce the mission from the troops.”

Sims attended a legislative hearing Wednesday in Denver to listen to testimony about the Iraq war before the state’s Veterans and Military Affairs committee. The committee voted 3-2 to endorse a resolution that opposes President Bush’s plans to send more troops to Iraq.

Sims said he was disappointed in the committee’s decision.

“What I see is this is going to affect the morale of all Colorado soldiers,” he said. “The troops morale is going to go right down the drain. Why should they be fighting?”

Sims hopes that the U.S. Congress won’t pass a similar resolution. If Congress wants to stop the war in Iraq, it should stop funding the war and bring troops home “the fastest way we can.”

Before entering the hearing, Sims said he saw a small group of anti-war protesters. Across the street from the protesters was a larger group of people demonstrating against the resolution.

In his mind, Sims said, that meant there are plenty of people who agree with him.

Staff Writer Tamara Miller can be reached at 748-2936, or tmiller@vaildaily.com.


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