Hampton Roads Has A Change Of Heart On The Iraq War
By Glenn Burwell
After four years of war, the American public is most certainly ready to end the war in Iraq. No matter where one falls on the political spectrum, political philosophies or ideologies one follows, or what political party one belongs to its easy to see that the current administration doesn’t err on the side of the American public. What was once called the Iraq war is now aptly nicknamed “Bush’s War” by many people.
“I am over it now, at the start of this war I was all for it. Even when I started to realize we were there for the wrong reasons I held my tongue because in this area its never taken lightly when you criticize the war or our soldiers,” said Leah Matthews, 21, a Virginia Beach native and student at Old Dominion University. “I can’t hold my tongue any longer; we can’t hold our tongues any longer. A huge group of those men and women over there are from the area. Those are my friends and family and I want them home. The only way we are going to be able to accomplish that is to have the right people elected,” said Matthews.
We all know the devastation that the war in Iraq had caused abroad, but many people don’t realize the impact that the war has had at home. The American family has been rocked by the war in Iraq. With tens of thousands of troops deployed, many families will be missing aunts, uncles, mother, fathers, sisters, and brothers this holiday season. One of the areas most affected by the war is the Hampton Roads area of Virginia.
Hampton Roads in southeast Virginia comprises seven cities, Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Suffolk, Newport News, Hampton, and Portsmouth. Hampton Roads is home to the largest concentration of military bases in the world and the largest population of uniformed men and women in the U.S.
In Hampton Roads, it seems, Patriotism isn’t just a word, but a way of life. The majority of the homes have American flags hanging from their porches. Almost every car is decorated with a yellow ribbon magnet, or a patriotic bumper sticker of sorts. As patriotic as Hampton Roads residents may be, they like many Americans today are furious about how long the war has lasted and are ready to have their family members back home.
“There was a time here in Hampton Roads where it felt like if you were against Bush or the war you were for the terrorists,” said Hampton roads resident Adolfo Gulden, 45. “That seems to be changing now. I see more anti-war rallies and discussion going on than I ever have in the area. The residents of Hampton Roads have separated supporting the war from supporting the troops and that shift in thinking has made all the difference in this red state,” he said.
According to the Washington Post, the president’s approval rating was at an all time high, 90%, in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attack and at the start of operation Enduring Freedom in October 2001. However, Bush’s popularity plummeted to a record low 33% by November 1, 2007. In a survey from September 2007, the World Opinion Polls showed 24% of Americans wanted to withdraw from Iraq immediately and 37% wanted to withdraw within a one-year timetable. The statistics speak loud and clear: America is ready for a new administration.
With the 2008 presidential elections looming in the not so distant future and the primaries even closer, Americans are anxiously waiting to oust the Neocons of yesteryear and welcome a new president, Democrat or Republican.
Matthews, whose 25 year-old sister has been serving in Iraq since 2004, describes her deployment there as playing the waiting game. Matthew’s feels that the current administration is to blame for what she called a long overdue withdrawal. “Virginians did their part in this war withdrawal effort in the last midterm elections by electing (Democrat) Jim Webb for senate,” said Matthews.
Matthews is doing her part to bring troops home by campaigning for Barack Obama, the candidate she thinks has the best plan for troop withdrawal. Matthews has been campaigning for him for the last three months in the hopes that he will be the one to bring her sister and so many of her friend’s home. Matthews attributes her support for Obama to a video she saw online of Obama speaking at an antiwar rally in Chicago.
“When I saw the speech he made I knew he was the candidate for me,” she said. “He said every thing that I was feeling about this war, but I could never articulate.” Matthews says she remembers an excerpt from the speech and she keeps Obama’s words with her when the outspoken warmongers in the area are combative. Matthews vehemently recites the excerpt that won Obama her support, “I don't oppose all wars. And, I know that in this crowd today, there is no shortage of patriots, or of patriotism. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war.”
Gulden said he felt that no matter who was chosen to take over the presidency next year it would have to be someone who was against the war. A retired naval officer and high school teacher, Gulden hopes young people in the area will help make a change. “I really hope young people take a look at what is going on in the White House and realize that things need fixing and then realize they can fix things by voting. That is our only hope for ending this thing - seriously.”