Violence in Iraq shakes one-time war supporters
It may take more than a giant flagpole at Wal-Mart to renew support for the war in Iraq. On a recent rainy afternoon in Vail Village, even supporters of the Iraq war expressed doubts about the situation. “I supported it when it first started,” said Carol Warner, 53, who owns Kids Cottage in Eagle. “I think it was an emotional reaction. As it’s gone on I don’t think we should be there to the extent that we are.”After a 14-month occupation the U.S.-led coalition officially transferred power to the Iraqi interim government Monday. Yet in combination with the continuing violence, rising death tolls, the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal and missing weapons of mass destruction, the transfer aroused some wary responses. Several Eagle County locals and visitors said the situation has become unmanageable.”A nation can only choose violence or peace. We chose violence and that was wrong. Violence begets violence – it’s a natural law and it has no exceptions,” said Andrew Michael Fowler, 50, a musician from Ouray. “They took Saddam out and it didn’t stop the violence. You can’t keep peace with guns.”Oilily sales associate Kristina Leach, 27, says she dreads waking up to daily National Public Radio announcements of new killings in Iraq.”I love that they got Saddam Hussein, but with the number of people still being killed I think it’s turned into a mess,” Leach said. Regarding the transfer of power to the interim government, Leach said, “I think it’s a good thing, but I don’t think things will change when we leave as far as the insurgents and the bombings.”
Sept. 11 connectionsManager of the Alpine Standard, Chris Fleming, 31, said he no longer supports the war either. “It’s kind of a quagmire in my opinion. I did support it at the beginning, but now it seems like we’re there for the wrong reasons – like the WMDs we haven’t found,” Fleming said.Recent statements by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, better known as the 9/11 Commission, have said that there was no relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida. Because the Bush administration cited this alleged relationship as one justification for the war, 21-year-old James Keck says he supported the decision. Now, he feels differently.”I supported it at first because after 9/11 I felt really insecure and believed the finger pointing at Saddam Hussein being connected to al-Qaida,” Keck said. “My opinion has changed now that I know there was no connection, but we started it and now we have to finish it. “Now I’m asking what we’ve gotten ourselves into,” he said, “but we have to support it because of the troops.”Leach said she views the 9-11 Commission findings cynically. “After, I figured out it was all a bunch of lies – I just think Bush had to avenge his father and finish his daddy’s work from the first Gulf War,” she said.
One woman said her support for the war has not been affected by the 9/11 Commission findings or other issues surrounding the war. “I support it, definitely. We’re a powerful nation that can provide help. I’ve supported the war the entire time,” said Natalie Westergaard, 29, a manager at Ceramica in Vail Village. “I’m not an anti-Bush person like everyone else. He’s handled it in the way he thinks is right – and we voted for him. “He won fair and square,” she added. “We have to be supportive as a nation – as a whole – for the people who are there.”Troops remain popularWhile some may not agree with Westergaard’s tally of the 2000 elections, each person interviewed matched her support of the coalition forces stationed in Iraq. Several clarified the difference between supporting the troops and supporting the Bush administration’s decisions.”I support our troops, but I don’t know if I really support the decision to go over there,” Fleming said.
Fowler said he served in the Coast Guard during the Vietnam War. “Once you sign up you’re federal property. It’s not the troops that are the problem,” Fowler said. “The majority didn’t want a war, but Bush smoke-screened it enough that the people supported him. It’s not the troops’ fault.”Those for and against the war acknowledged a duty to remain in Iraq until the situation is safe for the Iraqis and the region.”I felt it was probably the right thing to do for the Iraqis, I still think it is. I think we’ve probably been there too long, but we have to finish it,” said Russell Brown, 69, visiting from Palm Coast, Fla. “I think we’ve done what we intended to do” he added, “but now that we’ve done it, who knows if it will work. The Iraqis have to get their own house in order now.”Fowler said he would like to see the government focus on domestic problems. “We should let the Iraqis choose what they want,” he said. “Obviously we have more pressing issues going unaddressed in our own country, like healthcare.”
Town weighs its long-term viability vs. small-town character