[Note: this is a short version of our Iraq anniversary story.]
WASHINGTON – The speech lasted four minutes,but the war launched after President George W. Bush addressed the world March 19,2003,has now spanned two years.
A military campaign to liberate Iraq “could be longer and more difficult than some predict,” Bush said in a statement that rings true today for people whose homeland is still a battlefield,who have lost loved ones there or who fought in Iraq.
Tanya Gilly said rebuilding her country will take time.
“There is a process that needs to take place,” said Gilly,30,a Kurd who grew up in Canada after fleeing Kirkuk more than 20 years ago. Some of her relatives were victims of the Baathist regime.
“We can't just tell them … forget about all of the torture,forget about knowing about your neighbor that was killed,just move on and rebuild the country,” said Gilly,director of democracy programs at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies here.
Iraqi casualties since the war began are estimated at 16,200 to 18,400,according to a private British Web site that surveys 40 media sources.
Despite fatalities from insurgent attacks,Gilly said Iraqi ethnic groups are slowly coming together.
“It's going to take time,” she said. “One of the things Saddam had done is he worked all of the groups against each other.”
Iraq still needs U.S. guidance,said Gilly,who has returned to Iraq twice since the war began. But she dismissed speculation that civil war could develop when U.S. and coalition forces do leave the country.
“There is no future without problems. But I definitely think the Iraqis are on the right path,” Gilly said.
A mother mourning the death of her youngest child is less optimistic about the outcome of the U.S.-led invasion.
“My son died for nothing. My son died in vain,” said Sue Niederer,55,a substitute teacher and anti-war activist from Pennington,N.J. She joined thousand of protesters in New York for the first anniversary of the war just a month after her son,Army Lt. Seth J. Dvorin,24,was killed in action.
Niederer was arrested six months ago after heckling Laura Bush at a rally while wearing a T-shirt that read “President Bush You Killed My Son.”
“My intentions are not to hurt anybody,but to just speak,” Niederer said. “To encourage other families … we must rally to get the troops home.”
Niederer helped found Gold Star Families for Peace,military families who lost loved ones in Iraq and urge the withdrawal of U.S. troops. On the second anniversary of the invasion,Niederer will accept an invitation to protest in Greece.
A January Gallup survey found 52 percent of Americans believed it was a mistake to send troops to Iraq,double the number recorded in a poll taken just after the invasion.
While protesters like Niederer are calling for the withdrawal of soldiers,the poll showed Americans are evenly divided on whether the United States should send more or keep the same number of troops in Iraq.
Lt. Col. Ray Liddy,41,a San Diego lawyer,said soldiers in Iraq are facing a different war than the troops who entered the country in 2003. He spent five months in Iraq as part of the initial ground attack.
“When I was there,we were on the offensive and the bad guys were running away,” said Liddy,a reservist with the 2nd Battalion 23rd Marine Division.
“When you stop and you become a static target,it's a completely different ballgame,” said Liddy,who joined the reserves at age 21. He comes from a traditional military family. His father,G. Gordon Liddy,a conservative radio host who served five years in prison for his role in the 1972 Watergate burglary,served in the Army.
A grim milestone was observed this month as U.S. deaths reached 1,500,a stark increase from the 573 deaths the Pentagon counted on the war's first anniversary.
Liddy said the United States should double efforts to train Iraqi troops.
“Our ability to get out of there is directly tied to getting the Iraqis back on their own two feet,” Liddy said. “Or else we're setting them up for disaster. The Iraqis have also paid a tremendous price. They have blood and sweat and tears in this also.”