Military vets, journalists and civilians try to make sense of Iraq war

LOGAN—Military veterans, journalists and civilians whose lives were touched by the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq came together for the ninth anniversary of the start of the war to observe and try to make sense of its global legacy. Organized by USU journalism professor Matthew LaPlante and Army Maj. Matthew Badell, the Out of Iraq forum consisted of two panels of veterans and scholars, and an exhibit of the Iraq war photographs of Rick Egan, who covered the conflict for The Salt Lake Tribune. In the Taggart Student Center auditorium at USU, LaPlante introduced a panel of scholars and former State Department officials that would discuss the legacy of the Iraq War: Dr. Salin Guner, a Turkish-born USU international relations professor; Lyle Holmgren, an agricultural agent who worked in Iraq to improve agricultural practices; political science professor and former CIA operative Larry Boothe and former State Department Middle East expert Steve Sharp, who also teaches political science at USU. “By a show of hands, how many of you were born after 1990?” asked LaPlante, who himself served as an Air Force intelligence analyst in Iraq. As student audience members raised their hands, LaPlante informed them that the United States has been involved in, or on the precipice of, combat with the Middle East for their entire lives. U.S. military involvement in the Middle East has long been a controversial topic, and that was the focus of LaPlante’s first question to the panel: What is the most fundamental way that the Iraq war has altered the world’s geopolitical climate? Guner said she believes the Iraq war was “an unjust war,” explaining that this was how the international community views the U.S. invasion to topple Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. According to Guner, war in self-defense is a last resort. But the U.S. invasion of Iraq was preemptive, purportedly in search of weapons of mass destruction, which never existed. “When you engage in an unjust war it will haunt you afterwards,” Guner said. Boothe, the former CIA official, agreed that the war was preemptive, explaining how Iraq had been comprised of three separate provinces based on religion and culture since the Ottoman empire, until British colonialists united the three regions—“they hate each other.” This is the sources of many of the problems in the Middle East, Boothe said different peoples that don’t like each other, artificially “united” into a single state, fighting for power. Sharp, the former diplomat, said the Iraq war was “one of the most colossal blunders we have ever made.” The United States “spent trillions of dollars,” he said, “and if anything we are worse off.”

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