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Five Years in Iraq

President, candidates, and the people weigh in on the anniversary of the war

By Karen Fanning | null null , null
U.S. Army soldiers on security patrol in Baqouba, Iraq, Thursday, March 15, 2007. (AP Photo/Sgt. Armando Monroig, US Army)
U.S. Army soldiers on security patrol in Baqouba, Iraq, Thursday, March 15, 2007. (AP Photo/Sgt. Armando Monroig, US Army)

The war in Iraq began five years ago, on March 19. President George W. Bush delivered a speech about the state of the war on the morning of the anniversary, while presidential contenders weighed in with their opinions about the ongoing conflict.

Bush acknowledged that American soldiers and their families have suffered from the war in Iraq. (Almost 4,000 soldiers have lost their lives, and thousands have been injured.) The U.S. would pay an even higher price if troops retreated from Iraq too early, he said.

"If we were to allow our enemies to prevail in Iraq, the violence that is now declining would accelerate, and Iraq could descend into chaos," he said. "Out of such chaos in Iraq, the terrorist movement could emerge emboldened with new recruits, new resources, and an even greater determination to dominate the region and harm America."

On the Ground in Iraq

President George W. Bush
President George W. Bush delivers a speech at the Pentagon on the fifth anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq, March 19, 2008. (Photo: Defense Deptartment/R. D. Ward)

Republican presidential hopeful Senator John McCain and Vice President Dick Cheney each made surprise visits to Baghdad earlier this week, just days before the fifth anniversary. The two delivered the same message as President Bush—that withdrawing American troops too soon would be a costly mistake.

The Vice President credited last year's surge in U.S. troops with the "phenomenal changes" he observed in Iraq since his last visit to the country 10 months ago. Although he acknowledged that the past five years have been "difficult and challenging," he warned against "quitting before the job is done."

"It would be a mistake now to be so eager to draw down the forces that we risk putting the outcome in jeopardy," Cheney said.

Senator McCain agreed that progress has been made but cautioned against bringing home troops too early.

"No one believes that if you just get the troops out as quickly as possible, there will be anything but chaos, genocide, and we will be back at much greater cost in American blood and treasure," he said. "And I'm not going to let that happen if I possibly can."

Democrats Speak

Back in the U.S., the war in Iraq was on the minds of Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama as they hit the campaign trail.

Clinton gave a major speech on the war on Tuesday at George Washington University in the nation's capital.

"Despite the evidence, President Bush is determined to continue his failed policy in Iraq until he leaves office," she said. "Senator McCain would gladly accept the torch and stay the course, keeping troops in Iraq for up to 100 years, if necessary."

Clinton also took aim at Obama. She accused the Illinois Senator of being a bystander in the fight to end the war until he launched his campaign for the presidency. Obama quickly responded to his Democratic rival's charges.

"The truth is, the judgment of Hillary Clinton and John McCain gave President Bush a blank check for war," he said. Both Clinton and McCain voted in favor of invading Iraq back in 2003.

Anniversary Protests

Anti-war protesters and pro-peace groups took to the streets to voice their opposition to the war on Wednesday. Large rallies were also held in New York, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

peace protest
Anti-war demonstrators gesture as they march in Hollywood, California, on March 15, 2008. (Photo: ©Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

United for Peace and Justice sponsored 600 events across the country, ranging from vigils and marches to visits with members of Congress and sit-ins. Moveon.org planned more than 850 candlelight vigils nationwide to try to focus national attention on the lives lost in Iraq since March 2003.

Leslie Cagan, the national coordinator for United for Peace and Justice, hopes all the protests will send a message to America's political leaders.

"This war needs to end, and it needs to end now," she says. "It's time to end this war and bring all the troops home. We don't want to be back here next year. We don't want there to be a sixth anniversary."

CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION

Read today’s story and answer the following question.

Whom do you agree with about the war in Iraq: John McCain and Dick Cheney, who say the U.S. should stay in Iraq for now or Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, who want to begin an almost-immediate withdrawal of troops?

Join a discussion of this question on our bulletin board.

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About the Author

Karen Fanning is a contributing writer for Scholastic News Online.

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