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Soldiers in Iraq Overwhelmingly Favor Withdrawal

Between the Lines Q&A
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release March 12, 2006
http://www.btlonline.org

Poll Finds U.S. Soldiers in Iraq Overwhelmingly Favor Withdrawal Within a Year

Interview with Kelly Dougherty, cofounder of Iraq Veterans Against the War, conducted by Scott Harris

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Two weeks after the bombing of one of Shiite Islam's most holy shrines in Iraq, sectarian violence continues to claim victims across the country. Although Iraq has not yet descended into all-out civil war, religious polarization is evident in the make up of the country's police, where credible allegations indicate these forces are engaged in death squad activity and torture.

Despite the increasing violence, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Peter Pace did his best to place a positive spin on the news from Iraq. On NBC's "Meet the Press" program March 5, Gen. Pace said that the war is going in the right direction, a view the majority of Americans strongly disagree with.

As the third anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq approaches, a new poll of American soldiers serving in Iraq reveals that most favor a rapid withdrawal from the embattled country. A Le Moyne College/Zogby International survey conducted Jan. 18 through Feb. 14, found 72 percent think the U.S. should exit the country within the next year, and more than one in four say the troops should leave immediately. Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Kelly Dougherty, co-founder of Iraq Veterans against the War, who served eight years in the Colorado Army National Guard as a medic and MP, including a year in Iraq and eight months in the Balkans. She analyzes the opinions held by American soldiers found in the Zogby poll.

KELLY DOUGHERTY: It's not surprising to me; it's kind of surprising that a poll like this was done and now it's out for everyone to see the results. But you look at 72 percent of the troops who want to come home within the next year, so that kind of really validates people who are saying, "We support the troops; we want to bring them home." And of course, the president and the administration say, "You can't support the troops if you don't support the war." Well, right now we're doing what the vast majority of what the troops want -- which is to try to bring them home. And also, I think it really correlates with the 74 percent of the troops surveyed who are there for their second, third, or fourth tour. So, these extended tours of duty and the stop-loss policy where soldiers aren't allowed to get out even after their voluntary contract has expired. I think over 50,000 troops have been affected by stop-loss so far. This is really having a bad effect not only on the individuals, but the military as a whole. I think it's really losing a lot of its ability to function.

BETWEEN THE LINES: One part of the poll I found puzzling -- and maybe I'll get your comment on this -- nearly nine of every 10, 85 percent, said the U.S. mission in Iraq is to "retaliate for Saddam's role in the 9/11 attack," while 77 percent said they believe the main or major reason for the war was to stop Saddam from protecting al Qaeda in Iraq. Now, I find that puzzling because certainly, I think, you, me and the audience are aware that Iraq really had no role whatsoever in the 9/11 attacks on the United States and really had no role in support of al Qaeda in that attack or any other attack. So, it's puzzling to me that the troops are citing Saddam's involvement in 9/11 and with al Qaeda as a reason why the United States is fighting in Iraq. What's your comment?

KELLY DOUGHERTY: Well, I think it just goes to show how well this administration and the military as a whole has gone to misinforming people and keeping them uneducated about what actually is going on. I was disappointed when I read that statistic. I was thinking, "Omigosh, there are still so many people who are completely misinformed." But, from my own experience, before we actually went over to Kuwait, I was talking to my commander, and I was saying, "Sir, I really don't that the war is right, I am having a lot of moral issues about participating in this." And he said, "I have a lot of questions, too. But, just remember that you signed a contract and a lot of people are relying on you."

But then later that night, as he addressed the larger audience of the platoon, he said if any war protester, anyone says, "'Why are you going over to Iraq? It's the wrong thing to do.' Just tell them to remember September 11, and tell them to remember when those two towers came down." So, I think just from my experience, there was intentional misinformation being given.

BETWEEN THE LINES: What kind of information do the troops on the ground in Iraq and in your own experience -- what's their sources of information about news regarding the war and what's happening back in the States, as far as policy debates about Iraq?

KELLY DOUGHERTY: Well, when I was in Iraq, the Armed Forces Network, which is the military channel, the news program that they showed was Fox News. So, right there -- right off the bat, of course -- soldiers in Iraq, if they watch the Armed Forces Network, they're not getting a good story. Polls have shown that people who watch Fox News are less informed and know less about what's actually going on than people who watch even regular corporate media like NBC or CBS. I know a lot of troops more and more are starting to rely on the Internet because it's becoming more available in Iraq. So, I couldn't say as a whole, but I'd say that soldiers who just rely on the Armed Forces Network are not finding out what's going on or getting a good picture of things.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Kelly, it seems now that the American people in several recent opinion polls as well as the troops on the ground in Iraq in this most recent poll of soldiers in the field agree that the U.S. should pull its troops out within the next year. Speaking for your organization, Iraq Veterans Against the War, what's the best timetable that you could put forward for withdrawal of troops from Iraq?

KELLY DOUGHERTY: Well, I think definitely the first step to any peace in Iraq is to immediately begin to withdraw the troops. First of all, I would wholeheartedly say that it's completely absurd to say that that's "cutting and running" or the "cowardly thing to do." It doesn't take bravery or strength to stick to a failed plan that's causing huge losses of life and property and is costing the country billions of dollars every month. That doesn't take courage; that just takes stubbornness and I think what a brave thing to do is to say, "Look, we are trying to do the right thing." Maybe we didn't do the right thing in the past, but we're trying to make it right now.

The Sunnis and the Shias that I've met -- the Iraqi people who I've met not in Iraq, but now as a civilian, they've all said to me that they want the U.S. occupation to leave their country today. And they're the ones that have to determine their future, so I think that in poll after poll, the Iraqi people overwhelmingly want us to leave. I mean, they're the ones who have already lost nearly or even more than 100,000 of their citizens.

Contact Iraq Veterans Against the War by calling (215) 241-7123 or visit their website at http://www.ivaw.net

Related links on our website at

http://www.btlonline.org/btl031706.html#2hed::

* "U.S. Troops in Iraq: 72% Say End War in 2006," Zogby International, Feb. 28, 2006.

************

Scott Harris is executive producer of Between The Lines, which can be heard on more than 40 radio stations and in RealAudio and MP3 on our website at http://www.btlonline.org. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines for the week ending March 17, 2006. This Between The Lines Q&A was compiled by Anna Manzo and Scott Harris.

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