The war in Iraq: our past, present and future

By Jennifer Lassiter
STAR Staff

   The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 stirred something in all of us, and, now, our American pride shines brighter than it ever has. Signs of a changed nation are everywhere.
   To sport our patriotism we make, buy and sell "Power of Pride" bumper stickers, T-shirts and an enormous abundance of American flag paraphernalia. Underneath our red, white and blue camouflage we're the same people, same nation, only redefined.
   Sept. 11, 2001 not only alerted our people, but also our government, to the undeniable possibility of the existence of other terrorist groups and/or terrorist nations. In 2002, the president unified 22 agencies to create the Department of Homeland Security, which was chiefly designed to help secure our nation. With the terror alert heightened, the U.S. could not overlook the rumors of weapons of mass destruction in a nation with an unstable leader.
   When knowledge that was presented to U.S. intelligence that Saddam Hussein might possibly be harboring weapons of mass-destruction, President Bush and his administration felt the need to act quickly, and seize the opportunity to stop Saddam and his regime.
   On March 20, 2003, over a year ago, The U.S. and coalition forces launched it's first military attacks on Iraq to oust President Saddam Hussein. The supposed goal, which is now under serious scrutiny, of the attack was to undermine Iraq's ability to wage war on the U.S. and other countries using weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. selected targets solely of military importance, hoping to avoid Iraqi civilians.
   On April 9, 2003, a short 21 days later, American and coalition forces occupied Baghdad, signaling the end of Saddam's stronghold over the Iraqi people. Since Saddam has been removed from power, we have made it a top priority to give the Iraqi people their freedom.
   During the war in Iraq, and, now, in our current process to rebuild the country, we have depended on our military troops to defend our freedom.
   Many of them are from Carter County and surrounding areas. Our brave soldiers have worked hard to protect the country and their families.
   The 776th Maintenance Company of the U.S. Army National Guard from Elizabethton have deployed a total of 156 troops to Fort Campbell, Ky. As a maintenance company, they repair equipment for units that are stationed in Iraq. The 730th Quarter-Master Company from Johnson City has deployed 102. The Marine Reserves from Gray have deployed 180 since the war in Iraq started.
   The latest mobilization of the Tennessee Army and Air National Guard will bring the total number of troops serving on active duty to approximately 3,799.
   With an election right around the corner, Presidential candidates John Kerry and President Bush have a lot to debate. Both feel that the rebuilding process is a must, and that, at this point, we can't back out.
   Kerry's plan of action is to stabilize Iraq and establish a high commissioner for their government and rebuilding process. Kerry also feels we should push for NATO to become involved and take some of the burden off of the U.S.
   Currently, Bush and coalition forces have plans which involve three elements, according to Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. "The first element involves building capable Iraqi security force to achieve stability," he said.
   "The second element involves nurturing Iraq's capacity for representative self-government, with the aim of creating a local government. The third element of strategy involves the reconstruction of Iraq's infrastructure and the restoration of essential services that are providing better lives for the Iraqi's and putting people back to work," said the Secretary of Defense.
   A little over a month from now will be a turning point for the new Iraqi government. The UN will appoint executive officers: a president, two deputy presidents, a prime minister and a ministerial cabinet. The UN will also collaborate with the people and Ambassador Brahimi to select new officers.
   Moving forward in our strategy to defeat terrorism will be a continuing process no matter who is elected. The American troops, who are our friends family members, will get us there. Our troops rely on us, their hometown communities, for support in their efforts overseas.