Troop surge ‘doesn’t get us there’
Hours before President George W. Bush was scheduled to deliver his State of the Union address, panelists on Main Street on Tuesday criticized the president’s policies in Iraq.
The opinions were not surprising as Sundance has a tradition of drawing filmmakers and crowds from the political left. The panelists, including a Sundance filmmaker and a former Marine lieutenant, questioned the Iraqi situation and the president.
Seth Moulton, the former lieutenant, was especially critical, saying that the president’s plan to send more troops to Iraq will not accomplish what the president hopes. He said the number is too few and they will arrive too late to be effective to end the insurgency in the occupied country.
"20,000 troops doesn’t get us there," Moulton said.
Instead, he said, the U.S. troops need to better mount a counterinsurgency but the U.S. is paying what he described as "lip service" to that effort. He wants the U.S. to better define what it expects in a victory.
He told a crowd of filmmakers, publicists and journalists that the U.S. should restart the draft if more troops are needed for Iraq. He said Americans must decide whether the troop increase is adequate and, if not, whether they will support a draft.
"We need to understand the choice," he said.
The panelists also compared combating the insurgency in Iraq to fighting gangs in American cities. They said that the U.S. must start a broader effort to stop the insurgency, just as domestic police officers fight gangs through a variety of methods, not exclusively through arrests.
Charles Ferguson, who made the Sundance documentary "No End in Sight," about the Iraqi war and the occupation, said he is unhappy with the Bush administration’s policies, wants changes and said he hoped decisions about war are made "far more carefully" in the future.
"It might be too late for Iraq. I hope not," he said.
Ferguson worried about the potential of Iraq descending into a civil war. That, he said, could be far bloodier than Iraq of today.
"We could see millions of people killed," he said.
Ferguson claimed "many people with machine guns" decide elections in Iraq. But he wondered how the U.S. could influence changes because, he said, America was not going to reinvade Iraq to start another new government.
The panel occurred two days before an anti-war demonstration is scheduled in Park City. It would be the first substantial protest of the film festival.
Scott Beibin, an organizer of the Thursday demonstration, said the group expects to demand that congressional Democrats "hold the Bush administration’s feet to the fire." They also oppose Bush’s plan to send more troops to Iraq, want the soldiers there now withdrawn and want Bush to be impeached.
The demonstration is scheduled at noon at the intersection of Main Street and Heber Avenue. Beibin expects a few hundred people to rally but past demonstrations in Park City during Sundance have not drawn that many people, including one Beibin helped organize in 2003, as Bush was planning the U.S.-led invasion.
At the panel, Moulton said the troops hope they are helping the Iraqis but they oftentimes do not have time to consider the political decisions of the war.
"You certainly want to believe in the mission. You want to believe in your leadership," he said, adding, however, "What matters most is the guys you are with every day."
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