Recent New York veterans are weighing in on President Barack Obama’s decision to launch air strikes on Islamic extremists in Iraq, and provide humanitarian aid to tens of thousands of inhabitants of the country who fled to remote mountains in the north, where they are now trapped.
State Senator Lee Zeldin served with the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq in 2006. He said divisions between religious groups in the country run deep, and that Iraq’s president has failed to bring together and maintain a coalition government.
Zeldin supports the president’s immediate actions, but believes the president needs to articulate a long-term plan in the region. “Any one air strike is not going to make all of Iraq’s problems go away,” Zeldin said. “What is going to hopefully make Iraq’s problems go away is for Iraq to have the right leadership in place.”
Zeldin said the U.S. military has been stretched thin, after more than a decade of involvement in conflicts overseas. During an address to the nation Thursday night, Obama said he would not put U.S. combat troops back on the ground in Iraq.
But for some veterans, any involvement in the country is perplexing. Paul Wasserman, who now lives in Brooklyn, served in the U.S. Army during the troop surge in Iraq, between 2007 and 2008. He said the president is now making risky decisions, with no clear objective.
“If we’re there to save those 40,000 people’s lives, then we’d have to go in there with quite some force and save them…and that’s not what we’re doing,” he said. “But we’re not abandoning them either. We’re just, you know, they’re randomly blowing some things up? It doesn’t make sense.”
Wasserman is opposed to any U.S. involvement in Iraq.