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Pulling Back in Iraq: Reflections

President Obama lays out plans to withdraw combat units from Iraq at month’s end. We get a boots-on-the-ground perspective on the sweep of the war.

In this June 29, 2010 photo, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Richard "Ross" Coffman, left, talks to a village sheik in al-Bailona, Ninevah province. (AP)

When President Obama took office, there were 144,000 troops in Iraq. By the end of August, there will be 50,000 left.

Yesterday, the President said combat missions are ending. As the U.S. pulls back – and eventually out – of Iraq, we’re reflecting on the meaning of that toil, sacrifice, service and bloodshed. What it means for regular Iraqis, and for the armed forces who gave much, and lost comrades.

Today, we hear two in-depth war accounts, from a soldier-author and a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.

Guests:

From Baghdad, we’re joined by Anthony Shadid, Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent for the New York Times. His latest book is “Night Draws Near: Iraq’s People in the Shadow of America’s War.”  

David Finkel, Pulitzer Prize-winning staff writer for the Washington Post. His book “The Good Soldiers,” chronicling a battalion that was part of the U.S. “surge” in Iraq, is now out in paperback. You can read an excerpt. You can watch some video, narrated by him, about his time in Iraq.

Matt Gallagher, former Army captain who served in Iraq from 2007 to 2009. His memoir of his days in Iraq is “Kaboom: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War.” You can read an excerpt.

More:

It’s worth listening back to our show this year on “The Hurt Locker,” where we spoke with real-life bomb squad members, and our segment with NPR’s Daniel Zwerdling on troops coping with brain injuries.

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  • michael

    leaving 50k troops there is not what one could call a exit, not to mention that there still poltical fighting there for P.M. and the problems with the U.S. not bribing the Sons of iraq, and the Kurds to the North.

    Can you ask you guest how many troops they think will go to Afghanistan under the radar? as well as how many private contractors will remain in Iraq as well? or that 95% of 9 billion missing may have went?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-10774002

    it’s worth having this man on your show some time(and a translator of course)

    Hassan Jumaa, President of Iraqi Federation of Oil Union

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YcZx9S-TJn4&feature=PlayList&p=E6881D03F7630649&index=0

  • informed American

    Obama’s foreign policy is just as misguided as his domestic poicy, look for things to only deteriorate on both fronts.

  • informed American

    policy not poicy

  • cory

    We might need to suffer a complete economic and social collapse before we abandon our worldwide “empire”. Leaving a presence like that mentioned above is not an exit.

    I also don’t believe it matters which party controls our government.

  • Gary

    I agree with Michael…so now that the is completed (again)… there will be investigations into the crimes, corruption and theft correct?

    Will the congress press for the prosecution of their sponsors, friends and family?

    This must be biggest money grabbing crime in history.

    I want to know what happened to those billions of dollars in US currency that were found under each of Saddam’s palaces. Surely the Military and the GAO has records to show where all that cash went to.

  • Brandstad

    The Iraq war is another failed promise by Obama. He is not doing enough to get out of Iraq and he has failed to do enough in his term to win the war prior to leaving.

  • http://www.filipinoboston.blogspot.com AKILEZ

    I think withdrawing the troops in Iraq is the right time. I don’t hear anymore “everyday” bombings in Iraq.
    compared 2 years ago almost everyday soldiers and civilians are killed.

    I think the Iraqi People has decided that the only way Defear terrorism is the help each other.

    I think they are doing a pretty good job in protecting their own land. I am not sure with the number of Iraqi soldiers but I estimate it should be 200,000 Iraqi troops.

    I hope the Iraqi people will succeed in developing their land in a peaceful way.

    I know they can do it. Good Luck to The People of Iraq

  • AKILEZ

    While the people of Iraq is trying to built a peaceful land.

    The American people are still debating if Obama was a failure on the war in Iraq.

    Inhereting a war WITH 1 1/2 year in office,saved the economy,passed health care for the Poor etc etc. what else could ask for?

    We are the people who never stop complaining about Anything never satisfied for what we have. Never even look back if we did something great for yourself and for others.

    It is ashame to see and feel people all over the world are like this – mankind is always unsatisfied.

  • Bob, U.S. expat, Nassau, Bahamas

    Two questions:
    (1) Why is the new U.S. embassy in Iraq our largest in the world?
    (2) The U.S. military, specifically the Marine Corps, always provided security for U.S. embassies and their personnel and contractors, until the Iraq invasion; why is that security now being provided by private companies — i.e, mercenaries — at many times the cost and effectiveness of using the U.S. military, including U.S. Special Forces?

  • Brandstad

    There should be an investigation into the Billions of dollars our military and rebuilding efforts in the Gulf have misplaced and have no record of spending. It was recently in the news that more money was missing…

  • jeffe

    To the uber right wingers anything Obama does wrong and bad for the country. Wow, why am I not surprised.
    I bet if he mentioned what he ate for breakfast that would start a frenzy of hate and a boycott of the cereal he eats.

    Of course they all conveniently forget the deception that got us into the war in the first place. How can forget the lies told to UN and the American people about WMD, and yellow cake. Not to mention the billions wasted on projects and contractors. Speaking of failing how about the fact that Bush prematurely pulled the troops out of Afghanistan because of Iraq and in doing so let Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda as well as most of the Taliban escape into Pakistan. The other thing I don’t get is how both of these wars were created and carried out by Bush.
    He is responsible for them. Obama like other presidents before him who inherit conflicts will bare the blunt of criticism for how this is played out. Bottom line Bush, Cheney and all of the Neoconservatives are the real culprits here.

    Now here we are 9 years later with nothing really resolved. Iraq has been ethnically cleansed and it’s anyone’s guess what will happen. Leaving behind 50,000 troops is hardly a complete withdraw in my view.

  • Brandstad

    NEW LOW FOR O: USATODAYGALLUP HAS OBAMA APPROVE AT 41%…

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/military/2010-08-02-afghan-poll_N.htm

  • http://z15.invisionfree.com/Augusta_Alternative/index.php?act=idx John Randolph Hardison Cain

    Bob at 9:21 AM and Brandstad at 9:23 AM raise excellent points. On NPR’s Morning Edition, Grant Green of the Commission on Wartime Contracting outlined how private contractors will take the place of U.S. military personnel withdrawn from Iraq.

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128946086

    And make no mistake about this: Substantial numbers of U.S. combat capable troops will remain in Iraq after August 31, 2010 AND U.S. combat capable troops and aircraft will remain in Iraq FAR BEYOND 2011. The Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, Gen. George Casey, has publicly stated that he expects the U.S. military to be fighting in Iraq and fighting in Afghanistan 10 years hence.

  • R

    I’m not quite sure how we are “withdrawing troops”. Several Mass. Guard troops are now being deployed and my brother and his Idaho Guard troop is also going back for a second time.

    I just don’t get it. Why can’t we just say “we’re shifting forces” from Iraq to Afghanistan

  • steve m

    Hubris launched the war and only a position of hubris would call it a success. Powell’s Pottery Barn admonition is the only thing that rings true for me: “You break it, you buy it.” Bush’s “2-billion dollar war” will end up costing trillions. A catastrophe for both the US and Iraq.

  • Andrew Johnston

    Ms Clayson, It would be much more accurate if you would stop saying “The Iraq War”. The US did not declare war on Iraq: it illegally Invaded a sovereign nation and Occupied it. The Iraqis then resisted that illegal occupation. All Iraq’s systems were in better condition before that invasion than they are today seven years later.

    The above makes it even more appalling that those who promoted that invasion should not be indicted for the damage they have caused to a great number of courageous servicemen and servicewoman.

  • Steve

    I empathize with the loss I’m hearing on today’s program. But I hear veterans say all the time that for the soldiers, war basically comes down to fighting for the guy next to you in the foxhole and getting them home. To me, admittedly a non-soldier, this is noble but doesn’t justify taking our young men and women into these conflicts in the first place. If the camaraderie is what soldiers take away, why not join a sports team … hike the Appalachian Trail with some friends … backpack across Europe.

    War is hell. No overarching goal is worth its long-lasting costs — from nations all the way down to individuals. We’re hearing that today in a painful way.

  • Nick

    I am still surprised that the public is still ignorant of PTSD: it is a chronic, emotionally/psychologically debilitating condition.

    ALL veterans, especially the latest, must be encouraged to seek out confidential + compassionate individual + group therapy.

    Contact your local Vets Center for info + to schedule an appointment to talk to a seasoned, (often a veteran themselves), compassionate social worker or therapist.

  • Jim in Austin, TX

    The Iraq war was based on a lie at worst, on a mistake at best. What a tragedy of the highest level. Such a loss and disruption of innocent life, and for what? A nation building exercise? We, the voters, were misled by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rove. Still today they refuse to step forward to take responsibility for such a poor decision.

  • Brent White

    Let us not forget the presence we had in the Persian (Arabian)Gulf prior to our invasion and occupation of Iraq. I was in the Gulf prior to the wars aboard a ship that replaced the USS Stark, which was hit and suffered great damage and loss of life when it was hit by an Iraqi missile. The U.S. response was to build up our presence there to essentailly fight the sea battle against Iran FOR Iraq. The ship that replace the ship aboard which I served was replaced by the USS Roberts which hit a mine that had been laid by Iran – it too suffered great damage and loss of life. While I was there, tanker ships that tagged along with our “U.S. flagged” convoy were hit by Irani missiles as they attempted to enter the Kuwaiti port. So the U.S. has had a presense in the region for a long time (since WW-2) and we will continue to have a presence AFTER we have withdrawn from Iraq … and we will continue to suffer casualties.

  • Lucas

    great show, great conversation. The tone was so simply honest and caring, non-partisan. It’s what’s missing from more discussions.

  • Steve T

    Circumstance: Solder fighting in Iraq, family at home evicted by the people who started this mess.

    I know how it feels when someone who will never face anything more dangerous then counting the enormous amounts of money they made selling war.

    while dodging every thing throne at you and making it back alive. Only to get hit between the eyes.

    Then you find out it was a lie to make a few rich, richer.

    How should any human feel. Who just wanted to live a normal peaceful life, to have it torn apart by someones greed.

    Whats to understand? There is no understanding the chaos and insanity that is WAR.

  • AKILEZ

    I AM FOR THE WAR IN IRAQ and I will support the war until it is over.

    Yes it was the country to invade it shouldn’t be Afghanistan but Saddam was 20 million times evil than Bin Laden. Kurds and Iraqi people had suffered so much from the Butcher of Baghdad.

    If we did not invade Iraq the Butcher will kill just to get money to pay for more arms and to invade Iraq’s neighbors.

    There was WMD but but we couldn’t find it. Rumsfield gave biological weapons to Saddam to fight the Iranian but the big question is WHERE ARE THEY NOW? they are still missing.

  • Steve V

    We are responsible for these wars. We voted people into office (who took us to war), did nothing to stop it, and to this day won’t face up to our responsibilities. The daily deaths of our troops have already found their way to the back pages of the newspapers and the end of the nightly news. When our involvement ends (however it does) in these wars people will forget (as they did regarding Vietnam) and years from now we will make the same mistakes all over again. We simply don’t learn from history and our mistakes. This folks is our destiny.

  • jeffe

    There was WMD but but we couldn’t find it. Rumsfield gave biological weapons to Saddam to fight the Iranian but the big question is WHERE ARE THEY NOW? they are still missing.
    Posted by AKILEZ,

    Were do you get this stuff from? We have been in Iraq for 9 years. There never were any WMD worth invading Iraq over.

  • peter nelson

    To the uber right wingers anything Obama does wrong and bad for the country. Wow, why am I not surprised.

    But I’m a left-winger and I’m just as fed-up with Obama.

    Leaving 50K combat ready troops in Iraq is not a withdrawal, it’s just s big a marketing gimmick as Bush’s declaration of victory in Iraq on the USS Abraham Lincoln.

    Obama lied about how open his administration would be; he lied about closing Guantanamo, and his Justice Department bashed our First Amendment rights in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project – argued by his Supremes nominee Elena Kagan!

    And the above are all things that he had discretion on! What else has he done? Even with huge majorities in the House and Senate, the financial-reform package was a watered-down nothing. And Obamacare will be erased when the GOP takes over after the November, if not sooner in the courts!

  • peter nelson

    If the camaraderie is what soldiers take away, why not join a sports team … hike the Appalachian Trail with some friends … backpack across Europe.

    War is hell. No overarching goal is worth its long-lasting costs — from nations all the way down to individuals. We’re hearing that today in a painful way.

    Yesterday on NPR (or some public broadcasting unit) there was a story about some soldier who finished his tour of duty in Afghanistan went home and went to college. And while he was in college he heard about a buddy in his unit getting killed in Afghanistan. So he felt guilty and volunteered to go back so now he’s back there dodging IED’s!

    And this was supposed to show dedication, patriotism or something like that. And I’m listening to this going, No! This is crazy! His reaction was totally irrational. Wanting to fight in a war because someone you know was killed is more like a kind of mental illness.

  • AKILEZ

    There is or was WMD in Iraq they used against the Kurds, Iraqis,Iranian and Gulf War 1.

    Jeffe you never know that Rumsfield gave Saddam WMD during the Iran-Iraq war.

    If there was probably Saddam already used all of them or
    Saddam those Chemical weapons to Iran.

    IT IS VERY HARD to ASSUME that there were no WMD in Iraq.

  • peter nelson

    So the U.S. has had a presense in the region for a long time (since WW-2) and we will continue to have a presence AFTER we have withdrawn from Iraq … and we will continue to suffer casualties.

    And the money and lives this costs us is part of the cost of oil. But it’s not factored into the PRICE of oil – it’s a separate subsidy we pay in taxes.

    If we removed that subsidy, or included the cost of the Iraq War and ongoing Persian Gulf presence in the price of every barrel of oil, alternative energy would be a lot more price-competitive and we could achieve energy independence so much sooner.

  • Joe Winn

    As David Finkel correctly points out at the top of your piece today (Iraq Drawdown — Reflections), the focus of the Iraq war is now turning to our returning service members, many of whom are afflicted with the signature wounds of the war: PTSD and tinnitus. Tinnitus alone accounts for the highest level of veterans disability payouts among returning service members. According to VA reports, some 900,000 disabled vets receive nearly $1 billion in annual disability payments. And that number is expected to rise, as Afghan insurgents place greater reliance on the most effective weapon in their arsenal. Yet government research dollars aimed at tinnitus treatment and cures remain inadequate. Some estimates place that figure around $20 million. Meanwhile, the Army recently spent an asthonishing $189 million in efforts to neutralize IEDs in the battlefield, while during the same period devoted only a pittance to funding tinnitus research in the lab. These priorities need to change, for the health of our vets, as well as for financial health of the U.S. Treasury.

  • AKILEZ

    Brent White is correct America will never LEAVE The Persian Gulf or Middle East. Especially when is Iran is being a Pain.

    Why America goes to war? Watch the Documentary of Robert McNamara’s Fod War. The docu will explain to you why we American always goes to war.

  • AKILEZ

    Peter Nelson calling our Soldiers CRAZY or mental illness is ver disrespectful to men and women of the armed forces of united states.

    We lost the Vietnam war for the same reason.

    Remember The American People helped the Vietnamese win the war in Indo-China.

  • Ted

    “If the camaraderie is what soldiers take away, why not join a sports team … hike the Appalachian Trail with some friends … backpack across Europe.”

    No offense, but serving in combat is nothing like those things. Nothing like anything else, really. I’d recommend reading Sebastian Junger’s book “War,” if you want to better understand the soldier’s mentality. Matt Gallagher’s “Kaboom” offers pretty good insight, as well.

  • AKILEZ

    Steve V:

    We are responsible for these wars. We voted people into office (who took us to war), did nothing to stop it, and to this day won’t face up to our responsibilities. The daily deaths of our troops have already found their way to the back pages of the newspapers and the end of the nightly news. When our involvement ends (however it does) in these wars people will forget (as they did regarding Vietnam) and years from now we will make the same mistakes all over again. We simply don’t learn from history and our mistakes. This folks is our destiny.

    TRUE AND REAL!!!

  • Scott T.

    For the bigger picture, please schedule Andrew Bacevich (former army colonel and now professor at Boston University)to talk about his new book: Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War. That’s where we are today, what the historian Harry Elmer Barnes predicted would be a state of “perpetual war.”

    Leaving behind 50,000 combat troops hardly amounts to leaving. The U.S. is as addicted to war as it is to drugs, oil, and debt.

  • Jim in Omaha

    We invaded Iraq based on lies. Pure and simple.

    Our troops were tasked with winning a conflict with no military solution.

    We spent one million dollars per deployed troop, almost none of which went to the soldier or soldier’s family.

    We staffed our Iraq occupation authority with incompetent ideologues and war profiteers.

    Now we are simply replacing our soldiers with armed private contractors, at greater expense and lesser responsibility and control.

    Our strategy has strengthened our real enemies, destroyed our country’s credibility, made our inability to accomplish important tasks obvious to all, bankrupted our country, killed countless people and will debilitate even more for decades to come.

    None of those responsible have been held to account for their incompetence, deceit or corruption.

    And from what I hear “informed americans” saying, it’s all the fault of Obama and those darn liberals.

  • GlMarie

    It was republican lies and deceit that got us into Iraq and whatever blood that has been spilled there by American and coalition forces is on the hands of the Bush administration. The Obama Administration always said that it would bring out COMBAT troops, not ALL troops. Getting 90,000 troops IS an accomplishment. Recent NPR story acknowledged that Guantanamo population is steadily being reduced by sending them to other nations, in spite of Republican Senators who are blocking their removal to federal prisons. The Obama haters will always refuse to give his administration credit for anthing it is doing in the best interest of the American people and blame it for everything they think is wrong, while ignoring the mess and damage done by the Bush administration that Obama is still cleaning up.

  • AKILEZ

    The Mission of the American Forces is the FREE THE IRAQI PEOPLE FROM EVIL, FREE THEM FROM THE BUTCHER OF BAHGDAD,

    Did anyone ever think about that? TO SAVE HUMAN LIVES FROM BEING DESTROYED. IF YOU WATCH DURING 80s and 90s when Saddam was butchering Kurdish men,women and children.

    Did you see a Kurdish Mother when she was Crying whileholding her baby on her arms and was Yelling Where is America, Where are the American people!!!!

    The video was filmed by an Air Force personnel while he was dropping food and water in Northen Iraq.

    This not about Money or Oil it is about Human Being who needed Our help.

    Yes the war will Cost money and burden to the American people but did you ever think HOW MUCH HUMAN LIVES OUR SOLDIERS SAVED FOR THE PAST 9 YEARS.

    I have a picture of an American soldier running away from an exploded car with a baby boy on his arms. Saw his tears running on the boys face. Tears of soldier who cleanse the bloody face of an Iraqi soldier.

    IF YOU ONLY THINK ABOUT MONEY. that is not an excuse to stop helping those poor people.

  • Brett

    I am not inclined to criticize the on air personalities of any radio program (of course, Limbaugh, Hannity, and their ilk notwithstanding); it is a tough job trying to moderate and facilitate a discussion having different personalities in remote studios wearing headphones, and trying to appear as if they are having a coffee table conversation together (I worked in radio many years ago in college, spinning records, as well as sending/receiving remote signals to and from sporting events—and that was difficult enough).

    But listening to Clayson is like listening to Greta Van Susteren (sans the poor enunciation, the lazy articulation, as it were). Aside from her insipid presence that results in a show ending up being sort of lackluster, there is an ostensible viewpoint in her approach that subtly informs all questions and manner of handling guest speakers.

    It is amazing how many leading questions are handed to guests. It is also amazing how her attempt to subtly control the tenor and tone of the show often leaves the listener either feeling that listening in was a waste of time—that the hour yielded no insights or genuine examination—or that she has come across as being biased, and not a facilitator at all.

    Listening to this program this morning was more akin to listening to a Memorial Day tribute. Granted, hearing the stories of military personnel who have been on the ground in Iraq is moving; their bravery and personal sacrifices are never to be forgotten. It is so important to keep such perspectives in the foreground, particularly as we assess whether our invasion of Iraq has had any true redeeming value, to get to the obvious question: “was our invasion worth it?” (One she asked only in the final three minutes, and only after the final caller very sensitively opened the door to the question.)

    Perhaps there was some attempt on Clayson’s part to juxtapose elements of the story this morning, but most of Clayson’s questions and lead-ins to the discussion created a focus, taking a snapsot that the US is leaving Iraq in disarray, that soldiers sacrifices have been in vain, that leaving Iraq now seems a mistake which will foster less stability in Iraq and emphasize even more futility in soldiers’ sacrifices, and so on. In a sense, Clayson was attempting to ask listeners and guests to see the topic through that lens.

    As true as some aspects of the angle on which she was attempting to keep the discussion were, e.g., leaving Iraq in disarray, soldiers sacrifices being in vain, etc., only in the last five minutes did the focus shift into a some semblance of balancing ideas, i.e., let us remember what the Iraq invasion was predicated on to begin with (the final caller). Why have we sacrificed so many of our young men and women for murky and shifting objectives in Iraq? And, if we our going to engage in war, financially bankrupt our country, and ruin the lives of so many (Iraqis, as well as young US men and women who have given their lives, limbs and mental health to fight over there), shouldn’t the US’s objectives be more reasonably defined when we decide to undertake such an engagement? Clayson made no genuine attempt to examine these aspects of the topic.

    Unfortunately, I often miss this show’s two hours in the morning (particularly in my busy season), but today I was available to listen in real time. I decided to forgo the second hour, (as interesting as the topic’s potential discussion seemed to portend); I just couldn’t take another hour of Ms. Clayson.

  • Brett

    There was no mention on the show of how many private contractors (bankrolled by the Pentagon) there will be staying on in Iraq?!?!

  • AKILEZ

    Those soldiers who died in Iraq and Afghanistan did not die in vein. Did not got killed for nothing but they die for something to free an oppress people. To make their lives more livable.

  • Brett

    If one considers the Iraqi people more free now than they were before we invaded their country, one would have to make a much more eloquent attempt to define what freedom means to them! ;-)

  • Junky

    I listen to this program on my way to work most mornings, and it’s usually a one-sided affair with, as someone has pointed out, leading and often inane questions intended to direct the conversation to a particular viewpoint, invariably a left-of-center one. Today’s program is a perfect example. Why was no one there to make these obvious points:
    * We won the war
    * By any reasonable historical standard, the undertaking has been a triumph, all the more so given the history of the immediate region involved.
    * Combat operations have been effectively over for 18 months. Obama’s declaration is meaningless except as political theater.
    * Leaving soldiers in Iraq does not connote failure or imply further combat operations. To this day we have sizable deployments in Japan, Korea, and throughout Europe.
    * It is beneficial for the wider region and indeed the world to have a nascent democracy, however imperfect or as yet dysfunctional, where there was once a militant police state.
    I appreciate the service of our veterans, and financially support nonprofits devoted to their care. This program has been overly morose and pessimistic, though. Really, if this program wants to be taken seriously among the broader listening audience, the producers will have to do a better job of engaging people with a variety of perspectives. And sorry, having on several people who generally believe the same thing doesn’t count.

  • AKILEZ

    The Filipinos learned that Freedom was not Free.

    I think the Iraqi people are learning the same thing what the Filipinos learned during the Marcos regime.

    That in order to be Free it will take a million march, a million lives and a million death to open the cage of freedom and democracy.

  • peter nelson

    Peter Nelson calling our Soldiers CRAZY or mental illness is ver disrespectful to men and women of the armed forces of united states.

    Feel free to explain what’s rational about what the soldier in the story did.

    Remember The American People helped the Vietnamese win the war in Indo-China.

    You seem to be overlooking a small detail . . .

  • peter nelson

    The Mission of the American Forces is the FREE THE IRAQI PEOPLE FROM EVIL, FREE THEM FROM THE BUTCHER OF BAHGDAD,

    Why is is OUR obligation to do that? Any anyway, by that logic there’s probably a dozen countries we should invade.

    The US has no business being in Iraq and never did. We should get out completely and immediately. The mess in Iraq is of their own doing – the violence, bombing, corruption, etc, is all done by Iraqis and it will only stop when THEY decide it will stop.

  • Brett

    Junky,
    So, you feel as though Clayson lead the discussion this morning toward a “left-of-center” viewpoint? I suppose, considering you think we have “won the war” is an obvious point, you would have such a perspective. If you listened to Clayson with any regularity you might come to a different conclusion, as I have: she is just a tad right of center and often steers the conversation away from any real examination of the topic. I feel Clayson would be better suited to hosting a show in a local market.

  • peter nelson

    Those soldiers who died in Iraq and Afghanistan did not die in vein. Did not got killed for nothing but they die for something to free an oppress people. To make their lives more livable.

    The soldiers in Iraq died because they were sent there for political reasons based on a set of lies and propaganda told by the Bush Administration. For all the thousands of American dead and 10′s (100′s?) of US wounded, Iraq is STILL a corrupt, violent hell-hole with no light at the end of the tunnel (and nothing to light the tunnel with because the electricity doesn’t even stay on!). Furthermore, our presence in Iraq has been a virtual recruiting poster for terrorists, and the money we’ve spent there could have prevented our fiscal crisis. If that’s not dying in vain I don’t what is!

    I know it’s a horrible thing for American families to face, but the Bush administration wasted thousands of American lives. And the Obama administration is not putting a close to it soon enough!

  • Ray

    Freedom for Iraqis means not being hung upside down, having your genitals mutilated and being dropped into a wood chipper.

  • AKILEZ

    Just like what I wrote Peter Nelson that a Kurdish woman holding her baby “When she was begging for the Americans to help her people”
    If you so the video you won’t have second thoughts in sending troops to Iraq. The video was taken before the invasion of Iraq. When the Kurds were leaving Iraq from getting butchered and when they reach the Turkish border the Turks also started killing them.

    Well it is TOO LATE TO Argue about leaving Iraq. American forces has been there for almost 10 years. It is useless to argue about it now.

    We should be concentrating on how can we achieve a muslim democratic government in Iraq not to think about troop withdrawal which is already going to happen soon

    The Arguement is totally different now. Yes it was not our business but What if Saddam invaded another country in the middle east like Kuwait.

  • Brett

    “our presence in Iraq has been a virtual recruiting poster for terrorists, and the money we’ve spent there could have prevented our fiscal crisis. If that’s not dying in vain I don’t what is!”

    That is the most sensible thing I’ve heard all morning.

  • Charotte

    Back in the spring of 1981, I drew blood in the morning at the Gainesville, FL, VA Hospital before crossing the street to attend classes at the University of Florida. One morning I was drinking a cup of coffee in the hospital cafeteria when I overheard a doctor discussing a difficult case. The patient had been going through a house to make sure that it was clear of enemy soldiers. Hearing footsteps running behind him, our GI whirled around and then grabbed and slit two throats in succession. Zip zip — battlefield reaction — didn’t even need to think about it. Only then did our GI realize that he had just killed two brothers about age 14.

    It destroyed the man. This incident didn’t happen in Vietnam; it happened in Germany in 1945. The veteran was still having horrible nightmares. They got worse every spring — even 36 springs after the event.

    To my mind, any society worth its salt sticks by it veterans. That means 36 years, 50 years, and 100 years if need be. But you don’t turn your back on those you sent to be maimed or die. And the maiming takes all forms.

    That is, of course, if that society is worth its salt and care more about treating its war veterans that protecting its crooked veteran bankers.

  • AKILEZ

    A Filipino soldier grabbed a shoulder of a news reporter and said to that reporter ” I just killed my own brother driving that tank” reporter asked was your brother with Reform Armed Movement(RAM0?

    brother said: Yes he was with the bad side.

    The Filipino soldier walked away after the interview.

  • Brett

    I felt as though Clayson was trying to nudge the sentiment toward how the “in vain” part would be magnified if the US were to leave now by painting a picture using commentators to describe the violence in Baghdad “after Obama’s announcement” and by juxtaposing that with soldiers’ testimonials of personal loss and sacrifice. She didn’t succeed, but…

  • peter nelson

    * By any reasonable historical standard, the undertaking has been a triumph, all the more so given the history of the immediate region involved.

    It’s been a complete disaster. We’ve spent trillions of dollars, lost thousands of lives, returned 10′s of thousands of wounded veterans home (yesterday the AP said that about 1/3 of Iraq veterans may qualify for disability payments), and for what? Iraq hasn’t been able to form a government since their election, and now Iyad Allawi is trying to form an alliance with Moqtada al-Sadr! Meannwhile sectarian violence is an everyday occurrence; the Kurds are off doing their own thing, and 7 years on electricity is still only on for a few hours at a time in huge swaths of the country, and almost everybody is on the take!

    You can’t grade this on a curve (“given the history of the immediate region involved”). The Americans who are dead are not “dead” based on a grading curve; they are really dead; the trillions of dollars spent are REAL trillions, not funny money whose value can be adjusted because it was spent in “the region involved”.

  • Junky

    Brett–
    As I wrote, I listen to On Point almost every weekday. My critique applies to Tom Ashbrook, the program’s regular host, and to a lesser extent Ms. Clayson, who is on less often. Today’s program just happens to illustrate my larger point, which I’ve made in this forum on numerous occasions …

  • AKILEZ

    For me the American soldiers did accomplished something for the Iraqi people.

    They save the People of Iraq from Evil.
    Yes almost 5,000 US soldiers died but those soldiers did not die in vain. They are the world’s heroes.

    As you know not only Americans soldiers are serving for the USA but also Filipino-American and other nationatilty who served for the almighty star spangled banner.

  • Jim in Omaha

    Re: Junky’s view of the world:

    How many scores of people killed in car and other street bombings are acceptable in your definition of victory? And did I miss the surrender to end the war? The last one I recall our military achieving was about 65 years ago this month.

    How many thousands of security personnel are required to guard our state department officials in the countries you use as examples?

    Is a “nascent democracy” one where for months after an election they still can’t agree who won? And haven’t we had one for years in Iran, a country I suppose you hold up as a shining example for the future of the Mideast.

    And with regard your claim to financially support non-profits devoted to the care of veterans, why the hell does an entity other than the one that sent them in harms way have to be involved? Oh, I know why, it’s because all those who “support the troops” don’t want to pay taxes sufficient to actually do that. They figure that a bumper sticker or magnetic ribbon is more than enough to show their support. Kind of like a non-custodial parent refusing to pay child support but bragging on their bumper sticker that their kid is on the honor roll.

  • Brett

    Junky,
    Then I would have to disagree that Clayson’s presence is indicative of a “one-sided affair” that “directs the conversation…invariably [to] a left-of-center…” view. But as I said, your perspective is probably based on a neoconservative view. Maybe to a neocon, Clayson does have a left-of-center view? She may attempt to direct the conversation toward a viewpoint, but it does not appear to be left-of-center.

    You must have used a different sobriquet than “Junky” if you’ve commented on this forum on numerous occasions, or you haven’t commented for a long time…

    Thank you for taking the time to respond.

  • Brett

    “Today’s program just happens to illustrate my larger point, which I’ve made in this forum on numerous occasions …” -Junky

    So, “Junky,” your larger point being that you listen the show and it is a lefty affair, no matter who hosts or which quests are on? If this is your point, you either don’t listen to the show or you are just engaging in liberal bashing for the sake of it.

  • peter nelson

    policy not poicy

    I disagree – I think we should get the “l” out!

  • peter nelson

    Well yes, of course the entire adventure has been a “complete disaster” and a “virtual recruitment poster for terrorists” and blah, blah, blah “Bush propaganda”,… And in the same vein, Peter Nelson has a great many intelligent things to say on the subject…

    Well, I can document everything I’ve claimed, sectarian violence, corruption, US military casualties, civilian casualties, money spent, money not accounted-for, estimates of future VA costs, electricity reliability, and intelligence assessments on the effects of the Iraq war on terrorist recruiting. (and BTW, did you see last week’s comments by the former head of MI5 (2002-2007) on that matter?).

  • gracie

    Junky, Brett,

    Regardless of your political leanings, you both criticized Ms. Clayson for leading the conversation in a specific direction. I completely disagree. I don’t what you were listening to, but I was listening to soldiers and journalists recount their first-hand experiences in Iraq. This show was not about Ms. Clayton, but her guests and their experiences. If anyone nudged the conversation in a certain direction it was her guests and her callers. Sure, this isn’t Fox news, but how can you say the host was influencing the direction of the discussion when she was listening respectuflly–like the rest of us–to horrific war stories!

  • Junky

    I freely concede that the things you’ve described have occurred to varying degrees. The issue is not documenting their incidence, but rather assigning each the proper significance after accounting for broader context. Military casualties happen in war. Ours have been light by historical standards. Deaths as a result of sectarian violence must be weighed against those that took place annually under the deposed regime, and thus would have likely continued to occur indefinitely sans the invasion. (In fact, it could be plausibly argued that the lethality of that police state would have grown even graver under Saddam’s sadistic sons.) The state of the infrastructure is irrelevant as a standalone data point. In point of fact it has improved markedly since our involvement. And intelligence assessment have been far from uniform on the question of terrorist recruitment. I’ll agree with you on one point: the allocation of funds should be closely monitored

  • jeffe

    Peter I’m fed up with president Obama as well. However that’s not the same as the constant rantings of some of the people who post here.

    AKILEZ you seemed to have forgotten that the UN had inspectors in Iraq for years and they never found anything either.

    You say we freed the Iraqis from tyranny? Well that depends on who you ask.

    An Iraq car bomb in the city of Kut and a checkpoint attack in Baghdad left 25 people dead on Tuesday, as a wave of attacks continued amid the US combat troop withdrawal from Iraq.

    http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2010/0803/Iraq-car-bomb-checkpoint-attack-leaves-25-dead

  • jeffe

    Junky I dare to go to Iraq and repeat this:The state of the infrastructure is irrelevant as a standalone data point. If your living without electricity and water I beg to differ.

    The other issue is you make some pretty absolute conclusions. You do not know if Saddam or his son’s would have still been in power now. He was weak 10 years ago and it’s also quite possible that he could have been overthrown in a military coup or a Shiite uprising backed by Iran.

    It’s interesting that not one person has said one thing about the hundreds of thousands or more Iraqi’s who died in the war.

    It’s all about “us”.

  • Junky

    You’ve roundly missed the point: Water and electricity shortages were a fact of life in Iraq long before the invasion. One cannot point to their existence now as some sort of indicator of the war’s success or failure. Numerous comments in this forum have addressed Iraqi deaths.

  • jeffe

    Really? I missed the your point which seems to be neocon.
    War should be the last resort. This war was started on false evidence and political posturing.

    Electricity and water was in much better shape before the war. Iraq is not better of and we have wasted billions on infrastructure projects with not much to show for the expense. While here at home we could have put a lot of people to work with some good infrastructure projects.

    Of course according to you infrastructure projects don’t count in the scheme of things.

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    Akilez writes:

    “They save the People of Iraq from Evil.
    Yes almost 5,000 US soldiers died but those soldiers did not die in vain. They are the world’s heroes.
    As you know not only Americans soldiers are serving for the USA but also Filipino-American and other nationatilty who served for the almighty star spangled banner.”

    That’s an almost perfect example of mindless jingoism. Presuming that American soldiers acting under imperialistic auspices are the “world’s” heroes is an unfathomably huge presumption. Nearly 5000 soldiers dead and many thousands more wounded or destroyed … if their deaths are not in vain, then what of the 100,000 or more Iraqis who have died as well? So Saddam was evil. We didn’t attack him at the time of his probable height of horror–the gassing of the Kurds in the late eighties. No, he was our ally then.

    There’s evil everywhere in the world. I don’t see us talking about invading North Korea anytime soon. What’s pathetic about US military adventures lately is how we always pick puny targets that supposedly will fall quickly and easily, and then get stuck in the morass.

    Misguided, mistaken, misled–that’s our military. And no, Obama’s doing no better than Bush.

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    It’s time to end military adventurism, cut the military and armament budgets, and concentrate on making America the great nation that it could be but never has been.

  • peter nelson

    The state of the infrastructure is irrelevant as a standalone data point. In point of fact it has improved markedly since our involvement.

    Actually, no. Both the London Times and NPR report that Bahgdad had 24 hour electricity during Saddam’s regime.

    It’s also completely irrelevant that the casualty rate is lower than other wars, because the relevant comparison is not to other wars, it’s to not having a war! We had no reason to invade Iraq, nor do we have any reason to stay.

    George Bush is personally responsible for getting the US into a war that has cost us thousands of US lives and cost the taxpayers trilions of dollars. He shouls spend the rest of his days on earth going door to door and personally apologizing to the families who lost children in this idiotic war.

  • junky

    This is getting ridiculous. Iraq is larger than Baghdad. That city had 24-hour electricity because much of the rest of the country, particularly Shiite areas, had little to none! This was a deliberate political calculation.
    And for little Jeffe, you’re going to have to expand your playbook. Neocon? How original. How deeply injurious.

  • Sven West

    I am an Iraq veteran, OIF 1 (2003-2004). I manned a 50. caliber gun-truck and am disappointed by the majority of the comments I am reading. I want to say that the service members who fought this war deserve a better life after the war than the one they had before the war. Or at the least the tools to make a better life, i.e. the new GI Bill. This has largly come from our government
    However, I see very few listeners posting comments addressing the home coming and post-war issues service members face. By in large this serves to reinforce an opinion I and my comrades share. That the majority of the American citizenship is more concerned with positing their political opinions than enabling a better life for the men and women who fought this war and will live with its heartache for the rest of their lives.

  • Bush’s fault

    Peter Nelson needs to go back to 8th grade civics and read the chapter on the limitations of the executive branch…”W” is no more personally responsible for the Iraq war than is Chris Dodd, Barney Frank, Al Gore, or Hillary Clinton.

  • michael

    “if their deaths are not in vain, then what of the 100,000 or more Iraqis who have died as well”

    throw in 2 million displaced in iraq and 3 million outside of iraq as well. Even under santions and before our invasion it was pretty well known that electricity was not a problem for many Iraqis and even after 9 plus years after our invasion will billions upon billions spent majority of Iraqis don’t even have the basic electricity needs and water.

    Jane’s show could have easily been a commercial on why not to leave iraq until (lol) the mission is done.

    As well the Bench Marks (remember those?) the ones the surge for supposed to accomplish) have not been anything close to accomplish

    Back in 07
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6294694.stm

    Many of the ones considered SATISFACTORY are nothing close to being true.

  • peter nelson

    Peter Nelson needs to go back to 8th grade civics and read the chapter on the limitations of the executive branch…”W” is no more personally responsible for the Iraq war than is Chris Dodd, Barney Frank, Al Gore, or Hillary Clinton.

    He was the Commander in Chief who ordered US forces to invade Iraq. Remember, there was no declaration of war just a joint resolution by Congress authorizing the President to do what “he determines to be necessary and appropriate”. So the decision falls entirely on him.

  • peter nelson

    By in large this serves to reinforce an opinion I and my comrades share. That the majority of the American citizenship is more concerned with positing their political opinions than enabling a better life for the men and women who fought this war and will live with its heartache for the rest of their lives.

    What makes you think they are mutually exclusive?

    This IS, after all, a discussion forum for posting (or positing) political opinions. But you have absolutely no basis for your suggestion that any of us do not support enabling a better life for the men and women who fought this war. I think you owe us all an apology.

  • http://victorials.wordpress.com Victoria Larkin

    what a sad waste of innocence, of young life…

  • Brett

    gracie,
    frankly, Junky’s perspective makes more sense than yours! He/she may have been interpreting what he/she was hearing through a neocon filter, and I may have been interpreting what I was hearing through a liberal filter, and we both were giving our impressions of what we were perceiving, but you didn’t seem to be listening at all to most of the show. I listened to the show again this evening and most of it was Clayson asking political questions of her guests (what their opinions were of Obama’s announcement and what their impressions were of how the Iraqis feel about American troops leaving, etc.).

    Aside from Clayson’s presence lacking any dynamic (she is pretty stiff and sort of generic sounding with a flat intonation), I’ll concede that my impression of her political leaning is just a perception that I am developing over time. I may be wrong about that part of her approach, although I did type up a transcript of what was said as the show unfolded, and there did seem that she had in mind how she wanted the show to go and kept moving it along in a very direct way; her questions of her guests seemed all prepared ahead of time, and answers she didn’t particularly like prompted her to change direction, while answers she wanted prompted her to dwell on those answers, which is a very biased approach. Just because Clayson didn’t talk over people doesn’t mean she didn’t over steer the proceedings.

    No matter whether Junky’s perceptions are more or less accurate than mine, He/she seemed to be picking up on some of the same interview and conversational cues, while all you heard were “horrific war stories,” which were a very small part of the show. And, considering all of Clayson’s questions, as well as her characterizations of other’s answers, she was doing a lot more than simply “listening,” as you perceived.

    All of the guests seemed to play their roles properly: Shadid was the reporter in the field giving impressions; Finkel was the Pulitzer Prize winning writer appearing just after his book has come out in paperback and doing his part as an advocate of services for returning soldiers; and Gallagher was the returning veteran giving his informed opinions and appearing just after his memoir has come out. While each gave opinions, their opinions seemed balanced. It was Clayson’s framing of those opinions that seemed to give them a slant.

  • Brett

    Sven West,
    Thank you for your service, and sorry if your decision to fight in Iraq has caused you a heartache that will last the rest of your life. I think that you and your returning comrades should get all of the benefits and services you need and deserve for the rest of your lives. It is presumptuous, however, for you to think people don’t care. And I should also remind you that you weren’t drafted, that you signed up. Did you not know what you were getting into?

  • Sundog

    Guest hosts should insist that their names be mentioned in the web page for the show. I don’t remember your name, but ma’am you did a fine job.

    If I knew that On Point were going to do a show on this topic every three months until those 20-year-olds are in their 90s, I’d sleep better at night.

    Thank you Matt.

  • Sundog

    One topic that should have been brought up is the practice of subjecting only enrolled military & guard to the draft via stop loss.

  • Michael drew

    I second Brett’s response to Mr. West, whom I nevertheless thank for his service. It is distressing to hear people serving in our armed services think American citizens ought simply to shut up, not express opinions about war and peace, and just provide benefits to veterans for their service in elective wars, ones which many of us opposed starting. This is not to say we oppose providing those benefits: from my experience those who opposed the Iraq invasion are just as strong and often stronger in their support for generous veterans’ benefits than many who supported that particular decision. But it is to say that to be told we ought to both provide those benefits AND not express our opinions about whether our DEMOCRACY should have engaged in particular conflicts (and, as an extension, whether we should engage in others), or to suggest that to express opinions on such matters IMPLIES we do not support generous care for those who may fight in them, is a noxious, destructive suggestion. Our men and women under arms need their fellow citizens, in addition to providing them with lifelong care after service, above all to make wise decisions about when and where to ask them to fight and for what reasons, and that can only be accomplished via unrestrained, forthright discussions in forums like this one, including about the lessons we might learn from past such decisions.

    Mr. West, we will provide you and your comrades with generous care for the rest of your life so long as I have any say about it. In exchange, all I ask is that you do not disparage us for or discourage us from engaging in open discussion about when and where and for what reasons to send those who will follow you into our armed services, who are literally the children of this country getting ready to go back to school this month, to fight in future conflicts, for their sake if for no other.

    Again, thank you for your service.
    Michael Drew
    Madison, Wis.

  • joshua

    This guy says as a soldier he will invade any country for any reason no matter what if he is told to do so–the nazis did the same thing. Look Butcher–you have a moral obligation and a legal imperative to question and refuse inhumne immoral unlawful orders. The war was alie–it was clear by the whole world except american thugs.

    it extremely hard to have sympathy for soldiers who went over their in the beginning–who went for blood lust and macho revenge.

    i was in the service before 911–and i would have flatly refused to invade Iraq or Afghanistan. i would have spoke out. We acted like Nazis. In fact the people pulling the strings have ties to nazis. that is a fact.

  • Jess W

    It is disappointing to hear over and over how difficult re-entry is for veterans. I know there have been great strides by many people to change this. With time, I think things will continue to change for the better. I would like to share some information about an amazing therapy program called Horses for Heroes. This is a therapeutic horse interaction and riding program for veterans of any war. Most veterans can participate on some level even if they have injuries or limitations, including amputations and paralysis. Some may be able to ride while others may benefit from brushing and interacting with the horses on the ground. Horses can be an amazing therapy tool, whether you’re brushing or riding them. Here is a link to the Horses for Heroes and the national association (NARHA) of equine assisted activities and therapies (EAAT). Using this page you can find a center near you. http://narha.org/resources-education/resources/narha-horses-for-heroes
    We are in the process of starting a Horses for Heroes program where I teach EAAT in Tewksbury Massachusetts. Here is a link to our center: http://www.t-h-e-farm.org/ Be on the look out for information about our Horses for Heroes program called, Healing with Horses.

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