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June 14, 2014

Rebels will seize Baghdad, Valley veterans predict

— NORTHUMBERLAND — Baghdad, the Iraqi capital liberated by U.S. forces from the grip of a dictator who used chemical weapons against his own people, is likely to fall into the hands of al-Qaida-linked rebels, Valley veterans said Saturday night.

Eleven years after Saddam Hussein’s regime — and his statue in Firdos Square — were toppled, the march toward freedom and democracy in this Middle Eastern country has suddenly and quickly about-faced, with insurgents taking the cities of Mosul and Tikrit in the past month.

That leaves many wondering what U.S. troops had been fighting for during the nine years of occupation, including those gathered Saturday night at American Legion Post 44 in Northumberland.

“I’m not really happy about it,” said Paul Ruane, commander of Legion Post 44, who served in the Coast Guard from 1959 to 1963. “All the money and men and women we lost over there, it seems like it was for nothing.”

Ruane doesn’t know what President Barack Obama intends to do about the crisis, but he doesn’t want to see any more American lives lost in Iraq.

Nearly 4,500 American military personnel died in the Middle Eastern country between 2003 and 2012.

“I don’t know if there will ever be peace over there,” Ruane said.

Richard Simpson, a member of the Navy Reserve during the Vietnam War, was also dismayed at what’s unfolding in the Middle East.

“I’m very unhappy with what’s going on. When you get into these things, you either do them right or don’t do them,” he added, saying that a lot of people anticipated these chain of events to occur.

Like Ruane, Simpson noted that the people of the Middle East have been at war with one another for ages.

“It’s not going to change,” Simpson said.

In the country’s current state, it “sure looks like” the capital of Baghdad will eventually fall.

Harry Gavason, retired master sergeant with 26 years in the Air Force, echoed Ruane and Simpson’s sentiments.

“It’s terrible. It was a waste of money, a waste of lives,” he said of America’s involvement in Iraq. “All those years, that money could have been used here, helping our country.”

Gavason, who served from 1957 to 1983, is one of five brothers who served in the military. In that time, he and his family have become familiar with what happens during — and after — a war, he said.

“It’s sickening … that president over there (Iraq’s Hassan Rouhani), all he did was line his pocket,” Gavason said. “The same thing will happen when we pull out of Afghanistan.”

Ultimately, “America can’t be the guardian of the world,” Gavison said. “Baghdad will fall “in due time.”

 Obama has stated that he does not want to send troops back to Iraq but may authorize airstrikes to be conducted.

 

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