A group of about 50 veterans gathered on the grounds of the VA Hospital in Minneapolis for a meeting of the United Veterans' Legislative Council, which consists of more than 30 veterans organizations and auxiliaries. During the meeting, the group recognized Gov. Pawlenty for his work on veterans issues. Pawlenty took the time to remember the three Minnesota soldiers who died in Iraq since Saturday.
"We're gathered here today on a sad moment for Minnesota. We have lost a number of our National Guard members over the last few days," Pawlenty acknowledged.
Pawlenty's comments came just hours after the bipartisan Iraq Study Group released a report warning that the current approach to the war in Iraq is not working and needs an overhaul.
Veterans from three major conflicts in the 20th century agreed with the assessment, but disagreed with the committee's call to reduce U.S. forces over the next year.
Stanley Kowalski, who served on a Navy submarine in the South Pacific during World War II, says he'd like to see more troops sent to Iraq to stabilize the country. But he agrees that there needs to be greater diplomacy with other countries in the Middle East to maintain that stability. "Let's get the job done right," Kowalski said. "If we need another 150,000, let's send them. But I like the idea of bringing Syria and Saudi Arabia in there so then they can't say we're infidels, because anybody who isn't a Muslim is an infidel in their eyes."
Others believe the time for diplomacy is over and there needs to be a greater show of strength. Charlie Makidon of St. Paul served in the Army and Air Force from 1967 until 1972 and saw action in Vietnam. Makidon says he disagrees with any calls for a troop pullout. He says a show of strength can resolve the situation quickly.
“We'll probably end up doing the same thing we did in VietnamXavier Gonnier
"The civil war that's erupting over there can be handled, but diplomacy is not the way to do it anymore. It's been tried, it's unproven and it doesn't work. We need force, major force, we need it immediately and then we can come home. We can come home just as fast as any politician wants us to if we get over there and do it right and do it now," he said.
Makidon says he supports President Bush's current policies.
Xavier Gonnier didn't support the war in Iraq from the start. Gonnier, who served in the Marine Corps during the Korean War, says President Bush should have kept a stronger focus on the conflict in Afghanistan before taking action in other countries. Gonnier also says military officials made a mistake when they invaded Iraq without preparing an exit strategy. But he believes U.S. forces should stay in the country until there is greater stability.
"I don't believe we will let it slide into catastrophe, but I think we'll probably end up doing the same thing we did in Vietnam," Gonnier said.
All three veterans also said it was necessary for political leaders to help U.S. military personnel once they return from Iraq. They say it's important that the soldiers have an easy time transitioning from the battlefield back into the business sector.