It’s hard for Americans who fought in the war in Iraq to watch the rapid advances being made there by the brutal terrorist force that calls itself the Islamic State.

Military veterans of the Iraq War told The Daily Signal that they were heartened that President Obama ordered airstrikes against the Islamic State. But, most said, they remain unsettled by the president’s decision to withdraw —  and are concerned that the sacrifices and gains they made for Iraqi freedom were, in one soldier’s words, “for naught.”

Besides a series of airstrikes to kill and scatter fighters of the Islamic State — formerly known as ISIS — as they advanced on the Yezidi religious minority, Obama ordered airdrops of food and water to those trying to escape the violent jihadists.

>>> Islamic State Terrorists Massacre Yezidis in Iraq After U.S. Airstrikes

The Daily Signal reached out to veterans whose military service included one or more deployments to Iraq, asking  them to sound off on the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, the recent airstrikes, and what should be done next.

We received more than 1,000 comments from Iraq veterans and grateful Americans. Here’s some of what the veterans had to say, beginning with detailed responses from two:


Photo courtesy Amber Barno

Amber Barno
Army Chief Warrant Officer Two
Deployments: 2

What are your thoughts on the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq?

I think Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq was completely botched. He left behind a weak government and an Iraqi military that was unable to defend itself. Obama’s decision to pull U.S. forces out of Iraq almost instantaneously with no sort of residual force to help them defend their own nation has consequences. There are real-world consequences to messing up the withdrawal as we’re now seeing with the [terrorist group] Islamic State, with their ability to have such significant advances into Iraq.

What about the recent airstrikes against the Islamic State (ISIS)?

The airstrikes are necessary. They’re happening a little late. The delay allowed ISIS to gain strength and momentum in Iraq for months. I don’t think they’re going to necessarily make that much of a difference on the grand scale of things. These are basically just pinprick airstrikes.

Yes, they’re going to take out some equipment here and there, but they’re not going to change the Islamic State’s mission, goals, intentions, etc. It’s basically just momentarily disrupting their freedom to maneuver. It’s temporarily holding them back rather than destroying them. It is a short-term solution to a long-term problem.

Do you think at some point we’ll need boots on the ground in Iraq again?

Right now, with our current leadership, I don’t want to see conventional U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq. That being said, the mission may require that in the future. Right now I’d like to stick to supplying Iraqis with weapons, ammo, and intelligence and basically guiding the Iraqis to fight back.

What is America’s best strategy in Iraq for the near future?

I think they need a coherent, comprehensive air campaign in conjunction with supplying Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga with weapons, ammo, and intelligence to help them fight against the Islamic State and regain control.

As someone who has served, is what’s going on in Iraq disappointing? Are you surprised, saddened?

It is disappointing. Thousands of American soldiers who served in Iraq made life-altering sacrifices. Some came home with physical or invisible wounds that they still have to deal with. It’s disheartening, and now we’re having to deal with the consequences of an early, too soon, withdrawal. The withdrawal was not managed properly.

“Thousands of American soldiers who served in Iraq made life-altering sacrifices,” says @AmberBarno.

The president was more concerned with a rapid withdrawal than ensuring all we fought for in Iraq was preserved. To see that and almost a decade of work, lives, and sacrifices put into Iraq be swept away in a few months of ISIS coming in and grasping control, it is extremely frustrating to watch that.


Photo courtesy Jason Beardsley

Jason Beardsley
Special Operations Master Sergeant
Deployments: 4+

What are your thoughts on the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq?

One of the things that’s surprising or disappointing is we’ve put a lot of energy and efforts into a strategy; where we have it now is we’ve failed to secure the peace there and are left without a coherent strategy.

This increasing unrest we’re seeing in the region both in Iraq and Syria … it shows the weakness of the policy that I think we’ve taken in the last few years — a lead-from-behind policy. That’s given us a gap, a projected weakness. It’s tough to watch. It’s failing to secure that peace that leaves us in a difficult situation.

What about the recent airstrikes against the Islamic State (ISIS)?

Airstrikes and air drops aren’t going to shift the military balance in the region. We’ve seen the airstrikes before, and they’re not enough if they’re not backed up with comprehensive, robust strategy. … If we fail to do anything more comprehensive, the airstrikes would be a pinprick. They’re a good step, a good initial step, but they’re not enough on their own.

Do you think at some point we’ll need boots on the ground again?

Nobody wants to put boots on the ground. I think it’s going to be a question of whether we have any other options at the end of the day that suffice. Right now we do, and it’s a question of how much do we want to invest now versus having to come back and do it later.

What is America’s best strategy in Iraq for the future?

To change the balance of power, it’s going to require a comprehensive strategy, a sort of sustained military action, not necessarily U.S. boots on the ground. It’s on-the-ground humanitarian assistance. You can do those in conjunction with airstrikes, but there has to be a cohesive strategy or a coherent strategy.

If we fail to intervene, then we’re going to be facing that violent, jihadist threat to America. It’s global security and it’s security in the region. The implications in the U.S. are when we fail to do this, if we fail to contain [the Islamic State] and to push them back or roll back what they’ve done with that strategy, it leads to insecurity in the region.

“If we fail to intervene, then we’re going to be facing that violent, jihadist threat to America,” says Jason Beardsley

As someone who has served, is what’s going on in Iraq disappointing? Are you surprised, saddened?

It’s frustrating to watch because we had the mechanisms in place to prevent that. And, of course, the withdrawal just allowed for that [power] vacuum to overwhelm those mechanisms. This is a tough thing to watch, and it is frustrating for service members to process that. We’ve spent multiple deployments facing some of the same threats on the ground, and now we see those threats strategically expanding because we just left the area.

>>> Q&A: How Should the U.S. Respond to New Violence in Iraq?


Matt Millburn
Army Specialist
Deployments: 1

It made me sad when we prematurely left Iraq because what is happening now was predictable. The airstrikes should be expanded to defeat [the Islamic State], and we should never say no boots on the ground.



Photo courtesy Kelly Dickson

Kelly Dickson (above)
Air Force Staff Sergeant
Deployments: 1

It should have happened sooner. When you get there and realize that it’s all for nothing but making the industrial complex and OPEC money. You can’t force a democracy on people who won’t want or understand it.

The real problem is we never should [have] been there in the first place. Now, we left Iraq with a problem, and morally we are obligated to fix it.

Sending in ground troops again just makes me shake my head. Keep pounding them from the sky, and let’s see where that gets us.


Photo courtesy Anthony Tassone

Anthony Tassone
Army Specialist
Deployments: 1

It’s sad what is happening. We needed to stay and finish the job right. I wish they would ask for volunteers to go back. I lost several friends there and refuse to think they died for nothing.

I’d go back and finish the job in a heartbeat.

I pray for the people of Iraq’s safety every day.

“I’d go back and finish the job in a heartbeat”–Iraq veteran


Photo courtesy Dennis Joslyn

Dennis Joslyn
Army Sergeant
Deployments: 2

When ISIS first rolled in, the United States should have taken action, and it would have ended the uprising. Now, thanks to Washington’s inability to act, that time has passed. Airstrikes can aid, drops are too little too late.

I am not advocating redeploying American soldiers. I think this is a problem that should be handled by the Arab League as we have no [Status of Forces Agreement] with Iraq at this time. It is my belief that had the president ordered these air missions sooner, none of this would have happened.


Photo courtesy “JJ”

Army Staff Sergeant
Deployments: 2

We should’ve never withdrawn. All the blood and treasure that was put into it is now at risk of being in vain because of Obama’s pullout. Now, it’s a complete cluster.

It’s difficult to tell what the best course of action is at this point, but if I and other U.S. troops have to go back, so be it.

>>> Commentary:  The Obama Administration Doesn’t Want Iraq to Be the Next Benghazi. Good.

SGT Aaron McGuire

Photo courtesy Aaron McGuire

Aaron McGuire (above)
Army Sergeant
Deployments: 1

I helped secure Mosul and Erbil in 2009. I feel the commander in chief put politics before making the right military decisions.

The sacrifices of my three friends that died mean nothing to the president. He is derelict in his duties to protect the American people.

>>> Video: Two Questions on Iraq and the Islamic State for Bush’s National Security Adviser

Army Sergeant
Deployments:  1 (three more as civilian)

I think we left too early and for political reasons. I support the airstrikes. I don’t want to go back, but if the [Islamic State] isn’t eliminated, they’ll eventually come to the U.S.

ISIS is a real threat. I put most of the blame on the Iraqi government and its corruption and tribally/ethnically/religiously fractured society for the current mess. But blame doesn’t get anything done. ISIS has the money, manpower and resources to attack the U.S. and are making their intentions known.

If we don’t handle it now, I think we’ll regret it later. Leaving a stabilization force like we did in Germany, Japan and Korea  would have helped, but the withdrawal was politically motivated and political decisions in wartime don’t always work out so well.