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Archive for Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Seeking peace

As U.S. forces police a violent Iraq, domestic voices debate wisdom of president’s proposed troop surge

February 20, 2007

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Sgt. John Guerra, 21, of Dallas, walks with his platoon from the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team during a patrol on Friday in the Shaab neighborhood of Baghdad. The soldiers are part of a surge of U.S. troops deployed to Baghdad as part of a plan to bring security to the city.

Sgt. John Guerra, 21, of Dallas, walks with his platoon from the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team during a patrol on Friday in the Shaab neighborhood of Baghdad. The soldiers are part of a surge of U.S. troops deployed to Baghdad as part of a plan to bring security to the city.

A soldier from Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade combat team stands guard during a patrol in the Shaab neighborhood in Baghdad. The soldiers are part of a surge of U.S. troops brought to Baghdad this month as part of a plan to bring security to the city.

A soldier from Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade combat team stands guard during a patrol in the Shaab neighborhood in Baghdad. The soldiers are part of a surge of U.S. troops brought to Baghdad this month as part of a plan to bring security to the city.









Did you know?

Timeline of key events in Iraq:¢ March 18, 2003: The war starts with the U.S. invasion of Iraq.¢ Dec. 13, 2003: Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein is captured by U.S. forces.¢ Dec. 30, 2006: Saddam is executed after being found guilty of killing Iraqis while president.

Deaths¢ Number of U.S. troops killed: More than 3,000 (about 2,500 of them in combat). By comparison, about 292,000 U.S. troops died in combat in World War II (1941-45).¢ Number of Iraqis killed: That number is next to impossible to know, but the United Nations said that more than 34,000 civilians died in 2006.

Other facts¢ No Fourth of July yet: Iraq's national holiday under Saddam Hussein was Revolution Day, celebrated on July 17. The new Iraqi government hasn't picked a new holiday.¢ 40 percent of Iraqis are 14 or younger.¢ Iraq is eight hours ahead of standard East Coast time. If it's 7 a.m. in Philadelphia, then it's 3 p.m. in Baghdad.

It's hard not to see the headlines or hear the news reports about violence in Iraq and additional U.S. troops being sent to that country more than 6,000 miles away. President Bush has given two major speeches about the war in recent weeks. It seems that everyone is talking - or arguing - about the war and what should be done next. When KidsPost asks readers about the biggest problems in the world, the war in Iraq is always at or near the top of the list. Here's an update on the situation based on Washington Post reports.

Q: Why are we sending more troops to Iraq?

A: Bush wants to send about 21,500 more U.S. troops to Iraq, mostly into the capital of Baghdad, where there has been a great deal of violence in the past year. He has said that these troops would work with the Iraqi army to try to stop Iraqis from fighting and killing each other. Some people say that Iraq has fallen into a civil war, in which two Muslim groups - the Shiites (pronounced SHE-ites), and the Sunnis (SOON-ees) - are fighting each other for control of the country.

The president says that if U.S. forces left Iraq now, the country could fall apart, which could cause problems for other countries in the region and for the United States.

"Every one of us wishes this war were over and won," Bush said last month in his State of the Union address. "Yet it would not be like us to leave our promises unkept, our friends abandoned and our own security at risk. ... It is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle. Let us find our resolve and turn events toward victory."

Q: Does everyone agree that this is a good idea?

A: Many people think it's time for the Iraqis to run their own country and for American troops to come home.

Last week, the House of Representatives passed a nonbinding resolution saying that the increase in troops is not a good idea. Nonbinding means it sends the president a message but does not force him to change his plan. The vote was 246 to 182, with 17 Republicans supporting the resolution. (In the Senate, a 56-to-34 vote fell four short of the 60 needed to advance the nonbinding measure).

The fact that Republicans - members of the president's own political party - voted against the president's plan is seen as significant.

Democrats and Republicans in Congress overwhelmingly gave Bush the authority to go to war against Iraq in 2003. But as the war has dragged on, Democrats have become more opposed to it. Republicans have tended to stay by the president's side, although in recent weeks some Republicans have come out against his Iraq policy.

The Bush administration says that if Iraqi fighters see that the U.S. government is divided, it will encourage them to increase their attacks, and more people will die.

Q: What do the American people say?

A: A recent poll by The Washington Post and ABC News reported that 70 percent of Americans oppose the way the president is handling the situation in Iraq. About 65 percent are against sending more troops.

Q: So why can't Congress stop the increase in troops?

A: The president is commander in chief of the U.S. Armed Forces, so he has the power to order troops into battle. Congress is in charge of approving the money for such operations. While there has been some talk of not funding the war, even antiwar Democrats say this would put the troops in more danger by cutting off needed supplies.

Q: We invaded Iraq to get rid of Saddam Hussein because he was an evil dictator. Now he's dead, so why are we still fighting there?

A: The vast majority of the Iraqi people want the same thing Americans want: for their families to be safe. But not everyone in Iraq wanted Saddam gone. While he was the ruler, the Sunnis - who make up about a third of the Iraqi population - were in power.

The new Iraqi government is controlled by the Shiites, who make up a majority of the Iraqi population but were treated badly during the decades Saddam was president.

Some Sunnis (sometimes called insurgents) are rebelling against the Shiite government, often launching violent attacks in which innocent Shiites are killed. But armed Shiites have also attacked innocent Sunnis. Part of what U.S. troops are trying to do is to stop the fighting between these groups.

The groups also sometimes target those troops in an attempt to force the Americans to leave the country. Bush has said that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his government need to control the violence.

Q: I'm hearing a lot about Iran lately. What's that all about?

A: Iran is a large country on Iraq's eastern border. The United States and other nations have expressed concern that Iran is developing nuclear weapons that it could use against other countries. Bush has said that Iranians have been giving Iraqi terrorists some of the explosives used in attacks on U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians.

But some people say that the United States should talk to Iraq's neighbors - Iran and Syria - about ways to calm the situation in Iraq.

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