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Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Murphy, Himes Get Local Input on Iraq

By James Lomuscio

Despite it being a warm summer day, about 60 concerned citizens turned out late today for a Westport Town Hall forum to talk about the worsening situation in Iraq. Image
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (r) explains the sectarian divisions in Iraq as U.S. Rep. Jim Himes listens. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for

Democrats U.S. Sen. Christopher Murphy and U.S. Rep. Jim Himes hosted the session in Room 201. First Selectman Jim Marpe welcomed them.

The question on everyone’s mind was what the United States—which has lost almost 4,500 soldiers in iraq since 2003—should do as Sunni insurgents led by ISIS jihadist forces make territorial gains and seek to overrun Baghdad.

Westporter Gene Cederbaum said democracy was not something embraced by tribal nations.

“These are tribal nations, and they always have been, and for what reason are we trying to impose democracy?,” he asked.

“It hasn’t worked. I don’t believe it will ever work. Why do you think that we’ll ever succeed trying to change a tribal nation?”

Murphy, a freshman senator who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,  responded: “We can lead by example and show people there is a better way, but it ultimately has to be that society’s choice.”

Murphy added that over the past 15 years the United States “has been an imperfect example” on human rights, exemplified by torture and NSA eavesdropping. Image
There were plenty of questions tonight at the Town Hall forum on Iraq. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for

“It’s not inevitable that the Shiites and the Sunni will be at war with each other,” Murphy said. “I think it’s a good idea that the United States lead by example.”

Himes noted that people in these regions tend to get mixed messages when they see American leaders clash with the likes of Saddam Hussein while cozying up to Saudi monarchs.

Westporter Joseph Scordato of the Democratic Town Committee, asked. “What would be the problem with a split” among the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds in the region. 

Himes responded that it would be “too destabilizing” as boundary lines blur as refugees seek sanctuary across borders.

He added that ISIS “is really bad, so bad that even Al Qaeda kicked them out.” But he added that there are “only 10,000 of them and 400,000 in the Iraqi military.”

“They are very bad people, and make no mistake, they want to make an Islamic state in the region,” Himes said.

Concerned about possible U.S. military intervention in Iraq, one woman said she feared “we would be making the same mistakes.” Image
U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (l) and U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy explained the ISIS advance in Iraq.  (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for

“I fail to see why we need to be there and spend greater treasure and blood,” one man said. “You and the president have to do a better job explaining why we need to be there.”

Murphy, who had opposed military intervention in Syria, stressed that he and Himes were not pushing for intervention.

Another woman asked if not intervening would put the United States on the road to isolationism, ignoring humanitarian efforts to aid refugees.

Murphy countered that there are “other ways to influence the world” via humanitarian efforts.

“Think of what that $3 trillion spent on Afghanistan and Iraq could have done for humanitarian efforts,” he said.

“Do you not think it is America’s interest that Baghdad does not fall to a terrorist state?” asked another.

One young man, who said he had served in Afghanistan, said he was demoralized watching images of Iraqi soldiers tossing their uniforms away to join the opposition.

“If they’re not willing to fight for their country, there’s no reason why Americans should shed one drop of blood,” he said to a round of applause.

Murphy noted that the country has to weigh U.S. interests against intervention.

“The question is, would we do more damage if we send in an invading force?” Murphy said.


Posted 07/01/14 at 01:02 AM  Permalink


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