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'It's turning into our Vietnam'
Yahoo News/USA Today
By Judy Keen, USA TODAY
January 27, 2006

Aaron McGonigal knows all about patriotism and fighting terrorism.

He was in the Illinois National Guard on Sept. 11, 2001. Soon after the attacks, he volunteered for active duty in the Army and ended up on a security force in Germany.

McGonigal, 25, now a sales manager for a medical-technology company here, doesn't believe the war in Iraq has anything to do with battling terrorism. He also doesn't think his opposition to the war makes him less patriotic.

"I don't think we should be there," he says. "It's turning into our Vietnam."

Like most Americans in the USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll Jan. 20-22, McGonigal disapproves of the way President Bush is handling Iraq. He believes the Iraqi people are better off without Saddam Hussein but worries that civil war or the rise of a new dictator is inevitable. "I don't think they want us to liberate them," he says. "Their population is split."

McGonigal says he believes that Bush "used Sept. 11 and Afghanistan as kind of a jump start" to justify the invasion of Iraq and doesn't buy Bush's assertion that Saddam's ouster has made the United States safer. "Never," he says.

McGonigal, who is single and no longer in the military, says it's time to bring U.S. troops home, but he warns that it can't happen instantly. "We can't just pull everyone out," he says. "That's unrealistic, and that will create more harm than we've already done. But I do think we need to phase out."

McGonigal voted for Democrat John Kerry in 2004, but he's registered without party affiliation. He thinks Kerry might have moved more quickly to bring troops home, but his anti-pathy for Bush stems from instinct, not politics.

"I have never really had a great deal of trust in Bush," he says. "I definitely don't like his attitude right now.

"We have spent too much time abroad and not enough time focusing on ... the problems that have arisen with the Hurricane Katrina disaster, issues with illegal workers," he says.

Among his co-workers and friends, the war is not a frequent topic of conversation. When it does come up, does anyone argue that it was the right thing to do? "I haven't heard anyone defend it in a long time," McGonigal says.

Vietnam destroyed our trust in government for a generation, Iraq will do the same for the next generation. The question will never be "not another Vietnam." It'll be "not another Iraq." The Bush legacy of failure at every turn on still on schedule. With each failure his base looks more and more pathetic. There's nothing wrong with walking away from failure.