A former Jacksonville state representative is weighing in as the Iraqi government tries to fight off insurgents from an al-Qaeda splinter group.
The group is interested in the creation of an Islamic territory that would include parts of Iraq and Syria. They have taken Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq, and are marching on Baghdad.
Jim Watson, who represented the 97th District from 2001 to 2012, spent eight months in the Anbar province of Iraq in 2008 after the surge. He talked to our reporting partners at WICS ABC Newschannel 20 about the latest developments.
“The first word that comes to mind is sadness. You look at the time and treasure and our most precious assets that we invested and the losses,” says Watson.
Nearly 4,500 U.S. servicemen and women were killed in Iraq fighting to install a democracy and rebuild a country ravaged by sectarian violence.
Watson worked with tribal leaders in one of the most dangerous areas of the country to help them form a representative government.
“You forget but these folks, 55, 60 years old had never elected a school board member so they had no institutional knowledge,” he says.
But Watson says the Americans had won them over and they wanted to make democracy work. But, those working within the provinces, which act like states, knew the progress was fragile.
“Anbar is the Sunni province and the rest of Iraq is 2/3 Shia, and the central government was formed. There were a lot of mistakes made and there’s plenty of blame to go around, but the way they formed the central government they didn’t give the provinces much power. So there were no real clear separations of what a state or province could do on its own. So they were very dependent on the central government,” says Watson.
Watson also shared how when was in Iraq, they had to council the tribal leaders on making sure to include all people, because if they didn’t, the people would turn to insurgents to provide for them, which some say is exactly what’s happening in Iraq right now.
President Obama said Thursday that sending in U.S. troops is not an option, whereas air support is an option.