Veterans share views of war in Iraq

November 09, 2003|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

There was no equivocation when Vietnam War veteran Joe Morgan was asked if he supports the U.S. war against Iraq.

"One hundred percent," said Morgan, 56, who served nearly 21/2 years in Vietnam with the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division. "Because I feel that when you have animals like Hussein running countries, killing people, destroying lives, destroying the economy, not giving any concern or respect to their own people - people like that have to be eliminated."

Morgan lives in Ephrata, Pa., and works at Mack Trucks north of Hagerstown. He was one of a handful of veterans asked for their opinions of the current war at Morris Frock Post 42 of the American Legion in Hagerstown last week as Veterans Day approached.

The war started when the United States began bombing Iraq in March. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein ignored President Bush's 48-hour ultimatum to leave the country.


"I think it was the right thing to do," said Terry Eichelberger, 64, of Hagerstown. "In fact, I think they should have done it 10 years earlier, and they stopped."

Eichelberger served in the U.S. Navy, aboard ships in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, during the Vietnam War.

"I'm for what we're doing," said Bill Long, 71, of Hagerstown, who was part of the Army's 201st Field Artillery Battalion. "Having served in the Korean War, (I saw how) we had to back out. ... I think it's time we quit backing out and do what we're supposed to do."

The Bush administration's original justification for war was that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and posed a threat to U.S. security.

Long said he doesn't mind the lack of proof backing Bush's assertion.

"I feel that there may be some intelligence that's not 100 percent," he said. "But war's not 100 percent. You can only go with what intelligence you got. I think what's happened, getting rid of Saddam, is far more important than worrying about potential WMDs."

President disputed

Conversely, Raymond Patterson, 77, of Hagerstown, said time proved Bush wrong.

"That was a lie," he said. "In fact, I read in the paper what they said in April or March and what they say now. He's dissolving. Like I said, he had to come out and say that there wasn't any weapons of mass destruction.

"I think they cooked the intelligence to make it in their favor."

Patterson spent about six months with the Army in occupied Germany just after World War II ended.

Of the war in Iraq, he said, "I was against it from the beginning. ... I think the only reason they were interested in that was because of oil. And, second, because it's close to Israel, within Scud range. ...

"And, I think the third reason was ... Bush can only rule against terrorism. He has to be a warlord, in other words. Before9/11, he was nothing. But, he pushes this terrorism all the time."

Morgan said such criticism of Bush is typical - and unfounded.

"Since he took office, he's had nothing but misfortune falling upon him, and everybody's blaming - between9/11, the fall of the stock market and everything else - on that man ...," he said. "Overall, I have nothing but admiration and respect for our commander in chief."

Morgan feels the war against Iraq is justified.

"I don't think that we need to sit and say that we were hunting for nuclear weapons, or things like that," he said. "Just looking at the destruction and decimation of the country ... and we had to have some sort of retaliation for9/11."

The Bush administration hinted at links between Saddam Hussein and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but later backed away from those insinuations. Bush said in September that there was no evidence of a connection.

Still, polls have shown that many Americans believe there was a link.

"That man hated the United States that much, the freedom we had, that somewhere along the line, he had his hands in that," Morgan said.

"I don't think (Iraqis) could have ever done anything to the people in the United States, but I still think that (Hussein) gave money to terrorism and I think he harbored terrorists," Eichelberger said. "(Those reasons) are good enough, as far as I'm concerned."

Terrorism connection

"It's not necessary to look for the weapons of mass destruction," said Jean Paul Colas, 44, of Hagerstown, a chef at the American Legion post. "The fact is the terrorists was involved in Iraq. So, it's not a question of looking for that. This is about (stopping) the terrorism. ...

"Saddam Hussein, seems to me, may very well be involved in that. It seems to me he knows what's going on."

Colas said he served with the French military police at a base on St. Martin in the French West Indies in the 1970s.

Although France openly objected to Bush's reasoning for war and didn't support it, Colas said he does. He wants the U.S. to stay and stabilize Iraq.

"I just want to make sure that everything is done correctly," he said. "There's just no way - we can't leave it in half.

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