Demonstrators plan to mark war anniversary
March 18, 2006
Rob Bishop plans to be in church on Sunday, with U.S. troops and their families in his prayers.
The Republican congressman, who is seeking re-election, said this week that on Sunday, the third anniversary of the launch of the Iraqi war, he will be contemplating the sacrifice of the soldiers in Iraq and elsewhere.
"The efforts they put in there have not been in vain. They have been useful. It has made this a safer country for me and my family and I’m very grateful for that, so it’s going to be a day of gratitude," Bishop said in an interview this week.
Steve Olsen, Bishop’s Democratic opponent this year, does not plan to mark the anniversary publicly. In an interview, he said he is not impressed with President Bush’s handling of the war.
Three years ago, Olsen was convinced that Bush was rattling a saber to scare Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who was ousted in the war and then captured.
"I was telling my friends President Bush wasn’t dumb enough to go in there," Olsen, who did not support the military action, said. "We had him contained. It wasn’t a big emergency to go into the country."
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The Iraqi war and the subsequent occupation are expected to be significant campaign issues in the November election. Olsen said he plans to challenge Bishop on the occupation but Bishop said the GOP is not vulnerable on the issue.
Locally, Parkites have been split on the war since before the U.S.-led invasion was launched in 2003. Rich Wyman, Park City’s most prominent anti-war demonstrator, plans a peace march and rally on Sunday.
The demonstrators intend to march from Miners Hospital to the Olympic Welcome Plaza that afternoon, where they will hold a rally. The plaza has been the site of several anti-war demonstrations.
The demonstrators, though, have not drawn massive crowds to their events and, in the period before the war, Wyman was unable to convince Mayor Dana Williams and the Park City Council to adopt a peace resolution. The elected officials claimed that they were not voted into office to address international issues.
Bishop says that the progress in Iraq since the fall of Hussein is remarkable, especially in the context of the aftermath of other wars.
"In less than three years, these people have gone from a total dictatorship to have written a constitution and held two elections where the turnout’s greater than we get here," he said.
Bishop, though, said he would have preferred that the president obtained a declaration of war from Congress before he ordered the invasion.
He said he is not surprised that demonstrators continue to hold events.
"If it gives them cathartic relief, maybe that’s good," Bishop said.
Olsen, the Democrat, said he supported the Bush administration’s toppling of the Taliban in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and that the American military performed brilliantly against the Taliban. The president lost Olsen’s support in the buildup to the Iraqi invasion.
He claims that Bush miscalculated the Muslim world, saying that the war humiliated Muslims and that allowed Iraqi insurgents to gain support.
"That humiliation is feeding the insurgency," he said.
Olsen said Iraq will be an "important topic" in the campaign and said he wants to address the war in an effort to debate how the U.S. promotes democracy abroad.
Olsen said the U.S. cannot pull its military out of Iraq immediately but wants the American troops to return home "pretty darn soon." He said he expects the troops to remain in Iraq through at least 2008.
Bishop said the troops will not stay in Iraq indefinitely, saying that the country will not become an American colony. He said military leaders, not politicians, will establish a timeline for the troops to leave Iraq.
"Personally, as long as combat exists over there, I will be nervous and anxious and wish it was otherwise," he said.