Open Phones: The Iraq War Generation

Friday, March 22, 2013

A parade for Iraq War veterans was held in St. Louis in January. (Alan Campbell/flickr)

We're marking the 10th anniversary of the Iraq war by asking for comments from those of you young enough to have your view of war shaped by Iraq (as opposed to Vietnam). What lessons have you drawn about war, the US's role in the world, our leaders, and more? And how do you think it compares to the way your parents (Vietnam) and grandparents (WWII) talk about the lessons of war? Call 212-433-9692 or comment here.

→ Below: Gallup Poll Cited by Stephen Colbert on the Slate Gabfest about Iraq/Vietnam Opinions. Read the full survey here.


Comments [46]

Lodge Pfeffier from USA

F@ck these war criminals. Send them straight to hell!

Apr. 14 2013 10:49 AM
Bob from California

I wonder how old Colbert was when John Kennedy started the US down the path of war in Vietnam? Or where Colbert was when Lyndon Johnson was directing troop movements there. But Nixon is supposed to bear the burden? Uh huh.

Mar. 22 2013 08:00 PM
Olivia Koppell from New York City

Polls only go so far. How informed are these young people about the war? Do they know enough information to even make a judgement like that? How many know how and why we started to get involved after the French left? The Iraq war made clear how little we know, in real time, and how we, ordinary citizens, as well as officials and policy makers can be misled. The more important question is: can any war be judged "justified" if people aren't told the truth about motives, strategy, national security, ultimate goals and last but not least the cost in lives and treasure. That is whyI think this is a useless poll - oversimplified and misleading - as so many are.

Mar. 22 2013 01:32 PM

Will there be a segment on Tomas Young, the severely wounded Iraq veteran who was the subject of the film, "Body of War"? Young recently announced his decision to end his excruciatingly painful life and published a "final letter" to President George W. Bush and Vice President Cheney.

Democracy Now! did an entire, heart-wrenching show yesterday (Thursday, March 21) on this topic. Appearing alongside Tomas Young were his wife and Phil Donahue. (Donahue, along with Ellen Spiro, directed the documentary film "Body of War" that tells Young's story)

Mar. 22 2013 11:14 AM
Steve from Manhattan

The poll that Steven Colbert cited is not surprising. I'm a child of the Vietnam era -- a time when the media was still somewhat independent, and for the first time in history, were technologically able to bring the war into our living rooms. No one my age can forget that. Tet, My Lai, Haiphong, Laos, etc. Neither can I forget when my neighbors, the older siblings of my playmates, were drafted and left... Today, however, the media is largely owned by the corporate sector, and largely by the very corporations who form the military industrial complex. The media was hardly independent in Iraq -- they were imbedded, and those independent journalists not imbedded were only heard on "independent" or public media outlets. We in NY forget how Brian Lehrer/WNYC, Amy Goodman/WBAI, etc. are the exceptions - most of the country learns their history through Fox News. AND we learn from our school textbooks, written and published primarily in Texas by right wing interests funded by Koch Bros., ALEC, and other right wing outlets. Today's youth, unless living in an urban setting where public media is available, and unless investigating on their own, and being "taught" the history of Vietnam and the Iraq war and the USA by those who are truly invested in these and future wars.

Mar. 22 2013 11:09 AM
Ed from New Jersey

The US was attacked on 9/11 by Al Qaeda tghat was being protected by the government of Afghanistan. Our invasion of Afghanistan was right at the time. We went wrong trying to rebuild the country and make them into a democracy. The majority of the injuries and deaths to our troops happened during this period with little benefit to there people or ours. Iraq was wrong for us to undertake from the military, humanitarian and political stand point. Saddamm Hussein was terrible to the Kurdish and Shi'a that make up the majority of the country but that should not have been our problem to become involved in. What we lost because of the war was a country that provided a balance in the region in particular with Iran. BOTH political parties were wrong in how they handled the war.

Mar. 22 2013 10:54 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I went to anti-war protests in the lead-up to the invasion & after. I remember on the way to 1 demonstration, a veteran saw my anti-war sign (or buttons, or whatever I had at the time) & said angrily, "I fought for your right to protest!" I said, "I appreciate that, & now I'm going to exercise that right." I never understood the idea that we were supposed to be so grateful to the troops for protecting our freedoms that we shouldn't use those freedoms (leaving aside the question of whether that was really what they were fighting for). Somehow it seemed connected to the accusation by conservatives that opposing the war(s) meant being against the troops.

Mar. 22 2013 10:54 AM
Bob from Huntington

The U.S. has been taking a victory lap since WWII (which, arguably, the Russians had as much, if not more, to do with bringing about than we did). But when you stop to think about it, other than a severely over-matched Iraq, we haven't won a war since. (Oh, let's not forget our glorious victory in Grenada.)

We have deluded ourselves into thinking that we can bring a military solution to every global conflict. But our record to date doesn't support that view. With the 70th anniversary of D-Day approaching, you can be assured, though, that we will once again be collectively subscribing to the mythology that our military saved the world and will continue to do so, all evidence to the contrary.

Mar. 22 2013 10:45 AM


Mar. 22 2013 10:43 AM
Chris from Pennsylvania

I was 15 on 9/11, 27 now. I belong to a generation that came of age--voting age--during a time of intense mistrust of their government--whether or not that mistrust is justified.

The challenge for me is this: Is it better to protect the freedom of the individual by becoming hyper-conservative with regard to the power and reach of my government because I have learned that I cannot trust those in power? OR am I too young to give up hope that people are mostly good and will make choices that are mostly in line with my own morals?

In my heart I want a government that will provide appropriate safety nets for those in need, nationalized healthcare and first rate education but the events leading up to the Iraq war and the subsequent political rigmarole leave me feeling like I need to sacrifice those ideals because I cannot trust my government with any more power than it already has.


Mar. 22 2013 10:42 AM
Michael from NJ

Rand Paul will be ok because he will be challenging a war started under Obama.

Mar. 22 2013 10:42 AM

when they do these polls, do they check and see if the young person in question actually KNOWS what the Vietnam War is?

Mar. 22 2013 10:38 AM
fuva from harlemworld

There are so many reasons -- including prudent foreign policy and civic engagement -- that we need a mass armed forces and public service draft.

Mar. 22 2013 10:38 AM

Having swallowed the propaganda that was used to justify the invasion of Iraq, I was supportive at the very beginning. Before long, however, I started questioning and becoming increasingly disillusioned. By now, for some time already, I have opposed our military involvement in and rejected our policies and approach toward the entire region. I have also come to realize and be disturbed by the following facts:
- very few of the people who are responsible for wars ever actually fight in them
- most of those who enlist in our "volunteer" military have few, if any, other options (and usually NO other way to fund a college education)
- the many discrepancies between the arguments that are /given/ to justify wars and the facts and reality
- that contrary to what the (mostly "chickehawk") war-mongers would have you believe, opposition to this interventionist, aggressive foreign policy is by no means limited to the left or those who "hate America"; there are many conservatives who are antiwar (find many of them at The American Conservative: )

I now seriously question whether there has been a just war since World War II.

This complete awakening and reconsideration on my part all started with Iraq.

Mar. 22 2013 10:38 AM

People keep saying the "Vietnam and Iraq wars were a mistake." What was the mistake? The leaders who brought us to these wars made no mistake. It was intentional and Cheney is saying he would do it again today. What is the mistake? That people posting believed their elected officials were telling them the truth? That people posting once believed these wars were justified?

Mar. 22 2013 10:37 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

The larger point is, that we defeated the Communist empire, and we are defeating the international Jihad. Korea and Vietnam were large battles in the greater war against Communism, and while we lost some battles, we did, thankfully, win the war. As for the wars in the Middle East, the final verdict will come if the Jihadists give up and if and when the Middle East finally stabilizes. Too soon to know. It might take another generation, as it did with the anti-Communism wars.

Mar. 22 2013 10:36 AM

800 billion for the war was recieved by corporations that lobby the go ernment by the thousands and get elected to top positions of power. Follow the money

Mar. 22 2013 10:36 AM
Mark from Westchester

If it is true that half of the young people in this country do not realize that our invasion of Iraq, much less Vietnam, was a mistake, then such reveals a colossal shortcoming on the part of American media. Too busy beatifying servicemen and women, we took our eye off the moral ball that revealed otherwise that neither of those conflicts were ours to wage, that neither was worth one American life or dollar. The reduction of every narrative to that of one individual's travails, whether at Da Nang, Faluja, or holding a pair of grimy hands over a fire under some overpass short-changes a public with a proclivity to empathize with those caught in the maw of war, no matter how ill-advised the entire endeavor. We should never lose sight of how baseless were such invasions to American interests. Wake up, reporters. Don't get lost in the minutiae.

Mar. 22 2013 10:35 AM
Manuel from Bronx

My brother is a veteran of both wars. This weekend I will be traveling to see him because he has PTSD and needs our family. During that time I saw a huge resurgence of "patriotism" which at the time I remember thinking would die out and become a thirst for vengeance. I believe we really have to keep in our minds that as Americans we DO NOT experience war like other countries do.
What was the outcome of this war? I can say that for me, it was my disillusion and distrust of our own government and a huge impact on my family. What can we expect from those who have actually suffered first hand war?

Mar. 22 2013 10:35 AM
RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey

Bad way to ask the question - Was it a mistake? If you think we were lied to does that qualify as 'a mistake'? The same way a poll showing numbers that oppose Obamacare often lump together those who think it goes too far with the 30% who think it does not go far enough, i.e. want the public option.

As Gallup has asked this question, it is impossible to tease 'mistake' apart from 'lied to by our leadership'.

A cleaner question would have been 'Was it right for the U.S. to invade Iraq?" or "Knowing what we know now, should the U.S. have invaded Iraq?".

If we had it to do again, would we. Cheney would. Dubya would. I would not.

Mar. 22 2013 10:32 AM
John A

I went back to my religion, the active practice of it, because of the Bush-Cheney wars. There is some history of people speaking truth to power using such.

Mar. 22 2013 10:31 AM
Lori from Brooklyn

I was a college senior (in St. Louis) when we invaded Iraq, and my boyfriend of 4 years at the time, also a college undergrad (in New Orleans) about to graduate, had decided to enlist in the military. His motivation wasn't specifically about the war, but we had a lot of conversations about his opinion of the invasion, especially after I decided it was a bad idea. Politically, it was frustrating to stand by and watch how badly the operation was going. Personally, after our break-up the summer of 2003 (the military lifestyle was not for me), the war at times took on a feeling of loss. This experience taught me the nuance of supporting the men and women in the military (I respect his family's history in the military and his own decision to enlist), while passionately opposing the decision of the administration to wage this war. My biggest concern, both then and now, is the disproportionate nature of how the war impacts the troops on the ground and their families at home, versus the rest of Americans (both the politicians who make the call to go to war, and the voting -- and non-voting -- public).

Mar. 22 2013 10:31 AM
The Truth from Becky

No comments from the usual big mouth repubs in the fee....interesting. War is inevitable as long as humans populate the earth.

Mar. 22 2013 10:30 AM
Dennis Maher from Lake Luzerne

Both wars in Viet Nam and Iraq were a terrible mistake, even more for the Vietnamese and the Iraqis than for us. We should have treated 9/11 as a criminal act, not a war. We had cooperation from all the police and intelligence agencies in Europe and elsewhere until we invaded Iraq for questionable reasons.

Mar. 22 2013 10:28 AM
antonio from baySide

This war confirmed it's very easy for the ruling class to get what they want...And very hard for disent to percolate without peril to ones own career...
Look at Phil Donahue, where is he? He is not a tinFoiled hat personality, he was trying to get to the truth...
My perspective now is the US IS mostly selfish in it's foreign policy, mostly a hackey country, with very few dissenting voices...

Mar. 22 2013 10:28 AM
Yuriy from Brooklyn

One of the consequences of the Iraq War on my political views is a distrust for politicians. I believe the most important test of leadership for politicians is the circumstances under which they would send their own country to war. As a result of congress authorizing Bush to go to war in Iraq I can never support any of the politicians involved (especially Hilary Clinton and Chuck Schumer who voted for the war).

Mar. 22 2013 10:27 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I remember every war since Korea, and there were always those who claimed that every "foreign war" was a mistake. The fact is, that since 1941, the US has been the world policeman, and that means wars overseas. Pearl Harbor taught many AMericans that we can't wait till a war comes to American shores to react. 9/11 supposedly reinforced that idea, but as time goes by, isolationism rears its head again. It always does until the US is threatened yet again.

Mar. 22 2013 10:27 AM
Molly from Brooklyn

I am from Oregon. I was 17 when the towers went down. I was very skeptical of this war from the beginning, I never trusted Bush's reasons for going to war and I was concerned for the people I knew that were in the military and would be going into the military. I am very relieved that my father was retired from the Army by the time we moved to Oregon.

I hope Colbert is wrong about these statistics. I think a lot of my friends oppose and have always opposed this war.

Mar. 22 2013 10:27 AM
eric from park slope

On the LBJ tape that Colbert mentioned, Johnson was talking with Sen. Everett Dirksen, not Humphrey. It's actually kind of chilling. Reagan also sent members of his campaign team (Bill Casey?) to delay the release of the Iranian hostages. we have seen time and again that republican candidates and presidents will stop at nothing to get what they want. the Bush administration wanted war with Iraq and nothing was oing to stop him

Mar. 22 2013 10:26 AM
Carl Ian Schwartz from Paterson, New Jersey

I wonder whether the Gallup study had included Germans. We seem to have used their country's 1939 playbook in invading Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11. It was a campaign orchestrated by a group of right-wingers, subsidized as a "think tank" by U.S. taxpayers, who basically wanted to secure a supply of Iraqi oil and spun a convincing fiction to get us to do it. Just as the 1939 attack on Poland was premised by a fake Polish "attack" on the German radio tower at Dirschau, the allegations of weapons of mass destruction were false. But Americans were lulled into believing that (1) we were actively seeking Bin Laden in Afghanistan (which never reached fruition) and (2) that Saddam was our enemy.

The fact remains that earlier administrations--including Poppy Bush's--propped up Saddam as a counter to Iran.

The Bush/Cheney administration gave the lie to the official Project for the New American Century cover story that our invasion was to bring "democracy to the Arab Middle East" when Rumsfeld and Cheney pointedly denied our role would be nation-building.

In 1941 Germany invaded the U.S.S.R.--also for access to raw materials and purportedly for land for German settlers. However, that invasion boomeranged, resulting in national ruin and occupation. We avoided this sort of ruin, choosing instead to listen to demagogues to have our country rot from within because we "can't afford" to take care of our population--after blowing our fiscal wad in Iraq, for which the perpetrators take NO responsibility.

The Germans know where this sort of thing leads from their own experience. I wonder if Gallup ever bothered to poll them.

Mar. 22 2013 10:26 AM

I recently went back to school as a graduate student. In four years, I never saw a single anti-war protest, nor did I ever hear any undergraduates discussing our wars. It was as if they just did not care because it had no impact on their lives. Or maybe because they grew up with smart bomb POV cameras they just see it all as normal.

Mar. 22 2013 10:24 AM
RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey

LBJ lied us into Vietnam.

RMN lied us into staying another SIX years in Vietnam.

Reagan's team parlayed with IRAN to keep Americans hostage for an additional four months.

Bush's team claims to have been mistaken. They were wrong at the time and should not have acted so boldly. What else do you call that but hubris?

Half of us think that invading Iraq was the right thing to do. I can only think that those numbers are so high because the guilt associated with the magnitude of the error and how in the world would we make Iraqis whole?!

Mar. 22 2013 10:24 AM
Debbie Friedman from Queens

Almost 50, I am left with a profound sense of helplessness regarding the Iraq war. How could such a united, global anti-war movement fail?? What I felt deeply didn't matter in the end. The NY Times and Fox News prevailed in assisting Bush & co. in devastating a country, people and ultimately insuring that our safety will always be compromised.

I feel now that war is inevitable - at least toward people who are not deemed important: be it Iraqi, Afgani, Palestinian, Vietnamese, (add any non-white North American) etc. Sadly, I do not see myself going to any more protests.

Mar. 22 2013 10:24 AM
Mike from Brooklyn

I was a senior in High School when the Iraq war began- we we're protesting the Iraq war even in suburban Ohio. We knew then that war was based on lies, that the United States had a grander imperial objective in the Middle east. The lesson I learned is that the government is lying- democrat or republican, city or federal.
After watching Bush, and Cheney, and Colin Powell and a number of democrats lie about the Iraq war, lie about the threat that Iraq posed- I don't believe Obama about drone strikes, I don't believe Mike Bloomberg about anything, I don't believe the NYPD about Flatbush. The Iraq war shaped my world view in very profound ways.

Mar. 22 2013 10:22 AM

To the young woman who felt she couldn't protest the Iraq war because her brother was a soldier --- Why didn't your brother support YOU by not enlisting?

Mar. 22 2013 10:21 AM
Bob from Brooklyn

The only war I would support now is literally foreign warships in NY harbor shooting at us. All other actions are suspect.

Mar. 22 2013 10:21 AM
Sven from NYC

I was born in 1978. Iraq was my first war as an adult. Not that I served, mind you - like many Americans.

I was filled with the profound sense that the media's insistence on not calling out the shifting rationales presented by the White House over the course of more than a year basically represented a structural failure in construct that is American democracy. The Fourth Estate buckled, if you will.

Mar. 22 2013 10:21 AM
Ellen from Hastings on Hudson

At the beginning of the Iraq war I was a young newlywed in Brooklyn, who had lost friends in the trade center. 10 years later, I am a mother of two daughters and a son. Iraq was a huge mistake. Vietnam was a huge mistake. And what the last 10 years have given me is a palpable fear of a future reinstatement of the draft. I don't want to lose my son, or even my daughters, to some future mistake.

Mar. 22 2013 10:20 AM
Ferd Finster from Upper WestSide

War in Iraq? The liers war!

Until Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush and Powell are prosecuted for killing innocent civilians, soldiers, bankrupting the country, plunging the world into depression to wage a war based on lies and vendeta - until they are tried for these crimes and punished we will have no peace.

Anyone who thinks the Vietnam war was just is probably someone who was educated under "no child left behind". History and science are not tested. Not tested means that those subjects will not be taught with any depth. It has also led to a situation where critical thinking is not encouraged, in Texas it is forbidden to be taught. It's also led to the incredible idea that creationism is science.

We are doomed.

Mar. 22 2013 10:20 AM

As I was very young (13) when the Iraq war started it has definitely shaped my views as I have become older. The biggest way it influenced me was that since I was too young to take part in the protests when the war first began and the fact that there have not been large scale protests since, here are 23 feel resigned to the fact that the government can start a war and I can't really do anything about it. My dad however took part in protests during Vietnam and always tell me how he was in the street protesting all the time and he doesn't understand why I am not out protesting more often but personally through what I have seen with both Iraq and Occupy Wall Street I feel as though its not going to make a difference.

Mar. 22 2013 10:20 AM
JR from Manhattan

The only explanation is that they're either misinformed or don't have enough information or interest in getting it.
They're too busy looking at their smart phones or posting to FB.

Mar. 22 2013 10:18 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

The larger problem with the Iraq war, wasn't the decision to go to war but the naiveté, incompetence, and arrogance on what to do after wards:

No planning, no lessons learned from Vietnam, clueless on how the Iraqi body-politic worked.

Getting rid of the Iraqi army structure, in the so-called "de-bathification" was the biggest single blunder, led to a power vacuum, vulnerable Sunnis, vengeful Shia.

When you have draft-dodging, neo-cons running wars, bad things happen. Cheney made his millions though.

Mar. 22 2013 10:16 AM
Jf from Truthland

War is nothing but mass murder for corporate profit. Haliburrton, blackwater, lockheed, all weapons makers all mil

Mar. 22 2013 10:15 AM

(age 45) My take-away: A small group of politicians can fool congress, the media and the majority of US citizens into an illegal war which includes torture, rendition, the destruction of many of our civil liberties and heavily contributes to our present day economic situation.

Mar. 22 2013 10:10 AM
Bob from Brooklyn

I remember sitting in my apartment 10 years ago when the bombs started to drop on Baghdad and I thought, This is going to be a very short war.

Mar. 22 2013 10:01 AM
Bob from Brooklyn

My whole life was shaped by the wars since 9/11. When I came back to the city in 2002 after I graduated college the whole city was different. That was when the police were down in the subways checking bags, the media was going crazy calling every little disturbance a potential terrorist attack. People were living in fear all the time. I just remember feeling like the government was going overboard in our city and I hated it. I absolutely hated our response. So what did I do? I decided to join the military to help out. I figured if I could use my brain power and skills to help the war, and therefore 'win' it faster, then this whole security apparatus that was being created would also go away.

Boy, was I wrong.

Cut to now. After serving for years, after Iraq and now the end of Afghanistan, I will never support another war. This country has given up on itself. It's shocking to me that so many Americans are willing to give up the rights soldiers fight and die for. It's sad that we continue to advocate killing people around the world without evidence they are going to kill us here. Americans, quite frankly, are pussies. We have become a country of cowards who will allow the military to kill wantonly overseas, allow the police to kill wantonly here and allow those in power to control the masses for their own greedy and evil ends all for this mythical American version of 'freedom', which runs counter to what I think freedom actually is.

And I don't want to just beat up only on Americans about this. All kinds of groupthink are to blame for the horrors that have been unleashed. I blame tribalism, religion and all kinds of fake social BS that causes people to imprison, torture and murder others. I have given up on the species to do the right thing. Now, I am content to think independently, use the 1st amendment liberally, and not support any actions of the group that will trample on individual rights.

Mar. 22 2013 09:56 AM

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