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Living with two views of war

By Christina Killion Valdez

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

The past five years of fighting in Iraq have seen shifts in military strategy as well as public opinion back home. Yet some people remain steadfast in their views — both for and against the war.

"It’s a hard thing to explain that you support the people over there, but don’t support your own government for sending them," said Jeff Vilen, of Zumbro Falls. "I didn’t see any justification at the time and still don’t. The reasons for doing it were very flimsy. Some by that time had already been proven false."

Yet in 2003, Vilen’s son Erik, who was going to medical school, was called up to serve in Iraq with a Decorah, Iowa-based Army construction unit. "We were always very worried about him," Vilen said.

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Soon though, Vilen will be able to celebrate his son’s graduation from medical school. Yet at the same time the problems in Iraq continue to brew.

"This thing is a mess, just like Vietnam was," Vilen said. "Getting out of it will be just as difficult. Whoever is elected to office in November won’t be able to extricate us. I think we will still have troops there five years from now."

Rebecca Smith, of Rochester, also said she feels U.S. military personnel could be in Iraq for a while, but that’s something she supports.

"Anybody who thought we would be able to go in and be out in six months was fooling themselves," said Smith, co-chairwoman of Olmsted County Republican Party. "We removed their leader and took down their form of government. We have a responsibility to leave Iraq in a better situation than it was in when we went in."

That’s an opinion she’s held since first hearing the possibility that weapons of mass destruction were in the hands of an enemy of the United States.

"A lot of people come down on President Bush so hard on that, but it is his responsibility to keep the U.S. safe," she said.

And while she thinks the threat from Iraq has decreased considerably over the past five years, she also called the situation a "work in progress."

"It’s slow, but progress is being made," she said. "If we can finish what we started and leave it in a better situation than when we started, we will have accomplished a lot."

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