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Sun, Oct. 20

Prescott residents: Presence of U.S. in Iraq far from over<BR>

"Today the momentum is going the right way," said Prescott Valley resident David Herman, whose son Graham is a member of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division, which has been involved in heavy fighting since the war in Iraq began. He said he thinks the fighting will be over "pretty soon," but that military occupation in Iraq will last for an unknown period.

Tony Ebarb, a Prescott resident whose son George is aboard the USS Reuben James near Iraq, said that when the war started he did not like President Bush's policies on anything other than the war.

"There comes a time when patience is not a virtue," he said in March. "President Bush is thinking about the greater good of the world."

Approval of the way in which Bush has handled the conflict is not unanimous locally, however.

"I don't usually find the international policy of the U.S. acceptable," said South American citizen "John," who works at Prescott College. He asked that The Daily Courier not publish his real name because of his immigration status – he said he did not want to risk losing his visa after recent U.S. deportations of Middle Eastern men and women.

John's reactions are twofold to what the media call the fall of Hussein's regime – they may seem contrary, but in the end support a single feeling: He said that on one hand, he hopes the war is almost over, but on the other he hopes that it is a long and costly one for the U.S.

"On one side, I'm really concerned about the collateral damage, which is the innocent Iraqi civilians, and the amount killed by now," John said. "For every one American soldier killed, 10 or 20 or 50 Iraqis are dead. On the other hand, to discredit that policy of international politics, I hope it's a long and costly war.

"The U.S. has no right to assume the role of protector of the world," he said. "The U.S. is really protecting the high level of consumerism that only works in the U.S. and Western European countries."

Ebarb disagrees.

"America's finally realizing that we have to be the world's policemen. We're going to go worldwide and clean up the place," he said.

John said the Bush administration pretends that it has a moralistic interest in liberating the people of Iraq, but he believes otherwise.

"The U.S. chooses good tyrants and bad tyrants," he explained, saying historically, the U.S. does business with South American tyrants on a regular basis without questioning the tyrants' policies, simply because the tyrants cooperate with the U.S. Not so with Hussein, John pointed out.

Ebarb said John makes a valid point, but that simply "puts us on notice not to be that way."

Herman acknowledged the economic benefits of liberating Iraq – "I'm not going to dismiss that – it's better to do business with somebody who is friendly with the U.S.," he said, "but I don't think this is a war for economics."

"The rationale for this war is completely fabricated," John said.

Ebarb said creating a democratic society within Iraq will bring more people into the decision-making process, and create jobs and bring food to people.

"This preaching of 'we are good, fighting evil,'" John said, "is something I cannot accept."

He compared the U.S. conflict with Iraq to the U.S. conflict with Afghanistan. He noted that U.S. military forces still occupy Afghanistan, and that Iraq is two or three times larger. Therefore, the war is just beginning.

"Just getting rid of Saddam Hussein and liberating the people of Iraq is too simplified," he said. "There are certain hints of extension of conflict."

Ebarb claimed at the beginning of the war to have made a switch – "I am more of a hawk today and was more of a dove before" – he said after U.S. troops dropped the first bombs in the conflict on March 19.

Although he agrees with much of what President Bush has done thus far concerning Iraq, he also agrees with John on the prospective duration of the war. "We're not close to the end of military action," he said Wednesday. "I have uneasy feelings that we're being overconfident."

"It's a big process," Herman said. "I know that the 4th Infantry is supposed to come in and replace the 3rd once the fighting's over," which signifies that troops may be around for an extended period of time.

Like John, Ebarb compared Iraq to Afghanistan, and pointed out the extended length of time that U.S. troops have been in Afghanistan.

"And Baghdad is more complicated," he said.

He also acknowledged the horror of killing civilians, but said that thus far coalition troops "are being extremely careful with civilians," and that the sophisticated weapons the troops use help prevent even more civilian casualties.

However, Ebarb added that the most important thing about this conflict is creating a law-based society for the people of Iraq. "As a lawyer, an attorney and especially as an ex-judge," he said, the importance of such a society outweighs the negative impacts of a war.

"Laws that seem petty build and build and build until we have rights," he explained. "A law-based society is a beautiful thing. The U.S. is the only country in the world whose Constitution has stood the test of time … a law-based society takes care of a lot of the problems."

The three men agreed that the war is far from over, despite the media's announcements Wednesday that Hussein's regime had toppled.

Herman said he does not anticipate any major problems for coalition forces taking control of Iraq, and John said he is not surprised that at the "end" of Hussein's regime, coalition forces have not uncovered chemical weapons and weapons of mass destruc-tion.

And, Ebarb said, "It's not over until they step up to the table and sign a document saying, 'I surrender.'"

Contact the reporter at heller@prescottaz.com.

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