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Local Veteran Reacts To Iraq Violence

Updated: Thursday, June 19 2014, 11:23 AM CDT
The United States left Iraq in 2011, after almost a decade of war.

Soldiers spent multiple tours there taking down a brutal dictator, Saddam Hussein, who it was once thought was harboring weapons of mass destruction.

Nearly 4,500 U.S. servicemen and women were killed in Iraq fighting to install a democracy and rebuild a country ravaged by sectarian violence.

Today, the future of the country is unknown.

"The first word that comes to mind is sadness. You look at the time and treasure and our most precious assets that we invested and the losses," said Jim Watson.

Former state representative Jim Watson spent eight months in the Anbar province of Iraq in 2008 after the surge. He worked with tribal leaders in one of the most dangerous areas of the country to help them form a representative government.

"You forget but these folks, 55, 60 years old had never elected a school board member so they had no institutional knowledge," said Watson.

But Watson says the Americans had won them over and they wanted to make democracy work. But, those working within the provinces, which act like states, knew the progress was fragile.

"Anbar is the Sunni province and the rest of Iraq is 2/3 Shia, and the central government was formed. There were a lot of mistakes made and there's plenty of blame to go around, but the way they formed the central government they didn't give the provinces much power. So there were no real clear separations of what a state or province could do on its own. So they were very dependent on the central government," said Watson.

And that central government can't provide necessities to its people which some experts believe make the issues less about sectarian allegiances and more about looking to leaders who can provide stability.

"The government hasn't been able to provide the things that the government expects people to provide like security, like education, like running water and safe electricity, and regular school days and all of the things people, all people want access to in Iraq," said Kristi Barnwell, Assistant Professor at UIS.

Watson also shared how when he was in Iraq they had to council the tribal leaders on making sure to include all people, because if they didn't the people would turn to the insurgents to provide for them, which some say is exactly what's happening in Iraq right now. Local Veteran Reacts To Iraq Violence


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