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For the first Taboo Talks of the semester, two speakers answered questions about issues such as insurgents, the reasons for going to war and the current state of Iraq.
Col. Jeffrey Stuart, an Army veteran who served in Iraq for 16 months, was one of the speakers. He oversaw prisoner-of-war and missing-in-action recovery in Iraq for six months before being switched to a chief-of-staff position.
Muhammad Al-Asadi, whose name has been changed for personal security, also answered questions at the event. He is from Iraq and worked as interpreter for the Iraq Ministry of the Interior. He moved to the United States and is now a student at Weber State University.
Two moderators asked the speakers questions and later let people in the audience ask questions as well. The first question was whether or not the speakers think the U.S. rushed into the war with Iraq.
“Any time the U.S. makes decisions, they make decisions based on the information that they have,” Stuart said. “When you look at what was going on in the country of Iraq, what did we as an American nation know about what was going, there were threats of nuclear warheads . . . so the answer is I have to trust that the intel that was provided to our key leaders was sufficient to justify the act of going to war.”
Josh Hunt, the diversity vice president at Weber State University, asked the speakers why the number of civilian casualties in Iraq was so high. The number of civilian casualties is around 110,000-120,000.
“I think it is normally by the insurgents,” Al-Asadi said. “Normally they are using civilians as a shield to protect themselves.They are working among the civilians.”
He said it can be hard for soldiers to control and to avoid mistakes in a war zone. Stuart added that the suicide bombers are a part of that number, and when the military is planning an operation, one of the biggest things discussed is how it will affect the people living there and try to minimize it as much as possible.
Stuart said one of things the military has been trying to do is clear out the insurgents from neighborhoods in Iraq. He said they had a problem the neighborhoods wouldn’t be able to keep control and the insurgents would come back.
“We don’t have so many American soldiers that we can go in, take control of an area and leave troops there and control it . . .” he said. “We spent enormous resources in training the Iraqi military force. We spent enormous resources in training the Iraqi police force so that, once the American forces came through and cleared out an area, we could turn it over to Iraq and let them manage it and control it.”
One of the last questions was what Iraq is like today, if it is safer than it was and if the people are happy.
“I think they are very happy today without the corruption,” Al-Asadi said. “In general, the corruption is not the problem. Our main problem in Iraq now is the government has failed to supplement very simple public service to the people.”
He said the people in Iraq can be without power for 12 hours per day.
“People will ask me, ‘What is the future of Iraq?’ and unfortunately, my two cents is it will take 5-7 years to see if everything that we did to support up and build that nation . . . it’s going to take that long to ensure that those principles, those concepts, that training, those organizations are deep-rooted enough . . .” Stuart said.
Wesley Whittington, the veterans student senator, said he went to the event to gain perspective from both someone from Iraq and a colonel.
“I was surprised that they were in agreement about everything,” Whittington said.