An Iraqi soldier stands guard as security forces inspect the scene of a car bomb attack in Basra, 340 miles southeast of Baghdad Sunday.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

In March 2003, the United States invaded Iraq, beginning a bloody and controversial war that lasted until late 2011. The Iraq War took the lives of 4,500 U.S. soldiers and wounded tens of thousands more, in addition to costing American taxpayers at least a trillion dollars. It was the defining political crisis of the first decade of the 21st century, permanently destroying the credibility of the George W. Bush administration and leading to the election of Barack Obama, whose longtime opposition to the war helped him defeat Hillary Clinton for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. In recent weeks, Americans have again heard unsettling news reports from Iraq. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has brutally seized control of parts of the country and threatens to overthrow the entire government. As worrisome as this development is, the United States should be cautious in its response.  Another war in Iraq would have serious consequences for our country, especially for our soldiers and veterans here at UT.

In the lead-up to the initial invasion, Bush argued that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein harbored weapons of mass destruction and posed a threat to the safety of the United States.  For Bush, removing Hussein from power and establishing a democracy in Iraq became critical goals in the War on Terror employed by the United States following the 9-11 attacks. Most Americans initially supported the U.S. invasion, although a vocal minority warned of the difficulty of building a new government and that Iraq could disintegrate into warring factions. U.S. forces quickly toppled Hussein, but American public opinion turned against the war when Bush’s claims of weapons of mass destruction proved baseless and the occupation of Iraq devolved into a quagmire that lasted years. Finally, after spending great amounts of blood and treasure to help Iraqis build a stable government and combat terrorism, American forces withdrew from the country in late 2011.

Now ISIS is threatening to conquer Iraq. This dangerous prospect results from the failed political leadership of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shia who has refused to bring Sunni Muslims into his government. ISIS consists of Sunni militants in both Iraq and Syria determined to establish a caliphate, or Islamic state, in the region. ISIS has taken control of parts of Iraq and viciously executed American-trained Iraqi soldiers. Obama recently sent approximately 300 military advisers to Iraq to aid its military and evacuate Americans from the Baghdad embassy, if needed. However, Obama has vowed not to send combat forces into Iraq at this point.

The president’s cautious response to the crisis has been commendable, but the United States must avoid becoming trapped in another dangerous war in the Middle East. It is true that terrorism continues to threaten the safety of Americans, both at home and abroad. We have seen this in Austin. Recently, a UT student and his friend were charged with and pleaded guilty to supporting terrorism. The conquest of Iraq by ISIS would bring immense instability to the region, and the last thing this country needs is to become engaged in another costly war. Adam Wagner, President of the UT Student Veteran Association, served three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Wagner believes that the United States cannot intervene every time there is a crisis in the country. “We fulfilled our obligations. We should urge the Iraqi Army to take advantage of the skills we taught them. It is up to them.” Wagner maintains that the immense sacrifices paid by American soldiers were worth providing the Iraqi people with freedom they had never experienced. “I strongly believe we did our job.” However, he argues that ultimately the Iraqi people must decide for themselves what type of government they wish to have. The United States has endured over a decade of war since the terrorist attacks on 9-11. Our soldiers have sacrificed endlessly, and many bear terrible injuries that will be with them throughout their lives. American military forces deserve the chance to return to civilian life. The American public is extremely war weary. Polls show that Americans of all political persuasions have no desire to support another war. Those few politicians who pressure the president to use more force in Iraq are the same individuals who relied on flawed information to lead us into war in 2003, such as former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Besides the conflict in Iraq, other problems around the globe persist that require U.S. attention. For months, Russia and Ukraine have remained in a tense standoff.  Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine have brought violence to the country with the tacit support of President Vladimir Putin. Recently, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers. Although investigations into the incident continue, evidence suggests Russian rebels perpetrated the tragedy, mistaking the airline for a military plane. The Middle East region has also witnessed renewed problems between Israel and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Following the firing of rockets into Israel by Hamas, Israeli forces responded in kind.  

The United States faces numerous problems at home and abroad. Although our country is indeed the most powerful nation in the world and it must protect its international interests, the U.S. cannot intervene every time a crisis plagues the Middle East, as Wagner reminds us. These countries must determine their own destinies, and American interference can cause further problems for all nations involved.  Our complicated history in Iraq over the past decade makes this fact abundantly clear.

Briscoe is a history graduate student from Carrizo Springs. 

Editor’s Note: In the run-up to next week’s Civil Rights Summit, we hit the West Mall on Thursday to ask students for their thoughts about the ticket distribution system as well as the significance of the event. Below are some of their responses.


Aubrey Folck, speech language pathology sophomore

DT: Are you going to the Civil Rights Summit next week? 

AF: I didn’t know about that. 

DT: Well, there are going to be four former presidents speaking on campus — Clinton, Bush, Obama and Carter. Do you have any thoughts on it?

AF: I think that that is a pretty rare opportunity.


Katie Russell, radio-television-film junior

DT: Do you know about the Civil Rights Summit that’s happening on campus next week?

KR: I’ve heard about it a little bit, yes. 

DT: Did you try and get tickets?

KR: I did. Obviously, I mean Obama is going to be here — Jimmy Carter, Clinton, a lot of great people. I did. But I don’t think I got them. 

DT: How do you feel that there will be four presidents here? What does that mean for our University?

KR: I don’t know. I think it’s really awesome, and it just shows how big UT is and our connections. I think something that’s really great about our school is that we have so many deep alumni connections — and the ability to have these resources that other smaller schools can’t afford this or maybe can’t host this. I think this is a lot about just UT and how established we are as a school. I don’t know. It’s really exciting to me. I’ll maybe come and try to stand and maybe get a glimpse. 


Natalie Escarano, English and speech language pathology senior

DT: Do you know about the Civil Rights Summit that’s happening on campus next week?

NE: Yes.

DT: Did you try and get tickets?

NE: I did not.

DT: Why?

NE: Yeah, I didn’t really know the process, and by the time I heard about it, it was too late already. 

DT: What do you think it means for our campus that we will have four presidents speaking at this summit?

NE: The apocalypse is coming. [Laughs] Sorry, I honestly have no clue. I think it’s great that it’s at our campus. I don’t really have any thoughts on it. It’s just going to happen. 


Ally Finken, human development and family sciences sophomore

DT: Did you try and get tickets for the Civil Rights Summit? 

AF: I did. 

DT: Did you get tickets?

AF: No.

DT: Okay, how do you feel about the whole process? Do you think it was fair? Do you wish you had gotten tickets?

AF: I think it was pretty fair. I mean, I think it was pretty fair. If you wanted to do it you had to apply, and you had to rank them. Of course, I am sure everyone put the Obama one as No. 1. I mean, the only way it could have been unfair is if you wanted to go to one of the lesser ones, and people who did get it didn’t even want to go. 


James Grandberry, journalism junior

DT: Did you try and get tickets for the Civil Rights Summit that’s happening on campus next week?

JG: No, but a lot of my friends did. 

DT: Do you have any thoughts about that process? Do you think it was fair? Should it have been easier to get into it?

JG: I think it might be just based on our initiatives. I think some people might have signed up earlier and got it. I think it was like a lottery. You can say it was unfair, but it seems pretty fair since it was a lottery. 


Tayma Rehn, English junior

DT: Did you try and get tickets for the Civil Rights Summit? 

TR: I did. 

DT: Did you get tickets?

TR: No. I was mad. I was so mad. 

DT: Can you just tell us about the process? Why it makes you mad?

TR: Well, it made me mad because where else are you going to see Carter, Clinton, Bush and Obama all in the same place? And I don’t know. I’ve seen speeches of them before, so I thought it would be really cool to see them in person. So I signed up for this newsletter, and you were supposed to get this email and click this link, and I clicked the link like three minutes after the email was sent out, and it was like, “tickets are gone.” And I was not happy. I had been counting down for a week. 

DT: What do you think they could have done differently to make the process better [and] fairer for students?

TR: I mean for students, I had to find out about it because I work over at LBJ, so that’s how I found out about it. But they should have probably sent out an email to everybody, so they could have let us know about the opportunity ahead of time. Because then we could have signed up earlier, and then maybe more people could have gotten tickets. Because I know that only a select few students got an email about it from the dean I think, if they were preapproved, which I don’t understand. 


Lauren Eller, communication studies and human relations junior

DT: Did you try to get tickets for the Civil Rights Summit?

LE: No.

DT: Did you know about the process?

LE: No.

DT: Do you know about the summit?

LE: No. I heard about it briefly, but I didn’t get it in time. 

DT: What does this summit mean for our campus? What does it mean that we’re having four presidents here?

LE: Well, it’s good publicity I guess, but I don’t know. I don’t even know why they’re here or what they’re doing here. I would love to hear them talk, but I am honestly clueless about the whole thing. 

DT: Could the University have done a better job in getting the word out to students?

LE: Yeah, absolutely. I actually asked someone to email me the email because I didn’t see it.

Texas took a step back, then two steps forward.

After announcing that guard Sterling Gibbs planned to transfer following the spring semester, the Longhorns inked two big names in high school basketball for the 2013 season.

The addition of guard Demarcus Holland and center Cameron Ridley gives the Longhorns a six-man recruiting class that includes guard Javan Felix, forwards Connor Lammert and Ioannis Papapetrou and center Prince Ibeh.

At 6-foot-10, Ridley is the source of much excitement for Texas fans because he was a high school standout. He brings size to a Texas team short on shot blockers and power players and is ranked as the No. 8 overall recruit in the nation by ESPNU. The Richmond, Texas native averaged 21.5 points, 15.2 rebounds and 5.3 blocks per game while helping Bush to a 25-5 record his senior year.

Holland, a guard from Garland, Texas averaged a team-best 11.3 points to go along with 4.9 rebounds, 4.1 assists and two steals per game as a senior. He was teammates with Ibeh, already a Texas signee, at Naaman Forest High School. Holland helped pace his team to a 29-8 record and advance to the Class 5A state semifinals in 2011.

Head coach Rick Barnes loves the versatility the incoming players bring to the table and sees Texas being successful in the long term with the addition.

“We’re so excited as a staff when you look at our returning players from this past year and combine them with the four players we signed in the fall and the addition of Demarcus and Cameron,” Barnes said. “All these guys come from winning programs and backgrounds, and they all want to win a championship at Texas. When we look at our roster, we see skill, character and work ethic, and we’re excited to have them get on the floor together this summer and get to work.”

Published on Thursday April, 12, 2012 as: Ridley, Holland add needed depth to squad