Ten years after the start of the war in Iraq, Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman — who twice served in the region — says he wants to ensure that the United States never engages in a similar conflict.
The Marine Corps veteran twice left his promising political career to go to Iraq, once when he was a member of the Colorado Legislature during the Persian Gulf War in 1990 and again in 2005 when he was Colorado state treasurer.
Now as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and serving on the House Armed Services Committee, Coffman tells Newsmax, “I'm committed to making sure that our country never goes down this path again.
“We can achieve our security objectives by supporting factions within a given region that share our goals as opposed to nation building operations where we invade, pacify, and administer whole countries.”
Wednesday marks the 10-year anniversary of the start of combat operations in Iraq.
Coffman, whose district covers a broad swathe of Colorado east of Denver, is one of 53 percent of Americans who believe their country "made a mistake sending troops to fight in Iraq," according to a recently released Gallup poll. Forty-two percent think that it was the right thing to do.
The March 7-10 results mark the first time Gallup has asked this question since the full withdrawal of American troops in December 2011. Majorities or near-majorities have viewed the conflict as a mistake continuously since August 2005, but the current 53 percent is down from the high point of 63% in April 2008.
Sixty-six percent of respondents who identify as or lean Republican say the U.S. did not make a mistake in sending troops to fight in Iraq, while 30 percent express the contrary view. In contrast, 73 percent of Democratic leaners or identifiers see the military campaign as a mistake.
“Regardless of how you feel about Operation Iraqi Freedom or any other conflict, it is important to remember all those who risked their lives to valiantly serve our country,” said U.S. Rep. Kerry Bentivolio.
The freshman Michigan Republican is a veteran of the Iraq war as well.
“We must welcome our returning veterans as they join us in civilian life and continue to support the families of our soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice,” Bentivolio said.
Roughly 4,500 troops were killed in the conflict, which was initially to destroy alleged weapons or mass destruction and remove Saddam Hussein from power. The former dictator is believed to have murdered an estimated 300,000 Iraqis during his presidency, which began in 1979.
The war was popular when President George W. Bush first announced that the United States would send troops in, which was a little more than a year after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Overwhelming majorities in both the House and Senate voted to authorize the use of force at the time.
Its popularity was perhaps at its highest when Bush landed on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln under the banner “Mission Accomplished” in 2003 to announce the end of major combat operations. The conflict then became much more difficult until the “surge” of 30,000 additional troops in 2007 to pacify Baghdad.
“As we observe the 10th anniversary of the start of the U.S. Combat Operations in Iraq, I extend my deepest gratitude to the brave men and women of our Armed Forces who steadfastly defended our nation and remained committed to the mission, in some cases making the ultimate sacrifice,” said U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, an Indiana Republican and a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
“It is with humility that we honor the dedication and valor of our service members, including the inherent sacrifices of their devoted families,” she said.
Coffman says that he didn’t view his service as political and that he is proud of the time he spent in the region with fellow members of the military.
“I resigned from public office in 2005 and volunteered to return to the Marine Corps for an assignment in Iraq not because I believed that invading the country was the right thing to do,” he said, “but because I strongly felt that once the decision had been made that we had an obligation to bring the war to a just conclusion.
“I can't say enough about the courage, the determination, and the extraordinary sacrifices of all of the young men and women I met during my tour of duty over there.”
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