Video: Perspective on Iraq turning pessimistic

By Mike Taibbi Correspondent
NBC News
updated 10/23/2006 7:35:50 PM ET 2006-10-23T23:35:50

In this country, polls say the war gets ever more unpopular as the casualty figures mount. Even in Arkansas, which went big for President Bush in two elections, conversations about the war are ruled by pessimism.

You might expect Dr. Barbara Porcia, who lost her 19-year-old son Jonathan back in the war's first summer, to have this view:

"It's time we correct our mistake and pull our wonderful brave men and women out, bring them home," she says.

And you might expect a self-described conservative, engineer Rob Gilliom, to say "not yet."

"If we were to quit today, the war on terror doesn't stop, because the other side hasn't decided to stop," Gilliom says.

But even in red-state Arkansas, the ways the Iraq war keeps getting worse — and high-level suggestions that a withdrawal timetable is in the works — are impossible to ignore.

So conversations about the war — like one we witnessed in a Little Rock restaurant — are struggles for answers. 

Vietnam vet Russell Smith believes there are reasons to be in Iraq and isn't thinking "quagmire."

"I'm not sure we know what we're in," Smith says. "I'm not sure we've defined all our enemies."

But National Guard Sgt. Dave Short, a police detective who did 18 months in Iraq and may be sent back, has had it.

"If you pull out of Iraq today, whoever wants it can have it," Short says.

Barbara Porcia is with Dave.

"You pull these soldiers," she says. "If the Iraqi people are going to stand up, they'll stand up."

Which only deepens Rob Gilliom's confusion.

"Maybe I'm in a mental quagmire over this," he says. "I don't know what to do."

But what they could do was listen to each other, and think about the war in human, not political terms: Rob, thinking about Barbara's son — and his own.

"I don't want him in Iraq; I'm not going to lie about that," Rob says, as he chokes up and turns to Barbara. "I greatly regret your loss."

Everyone is worried for Dave Short.

"Do you have to go back?" Barbara asks.

"Probably. It's already scheduled," Dave says.

But Russell Smith, the soldier from another unpopular war, says there are no magical solutions.

"Magic I don't understand," he says. "This is the real world."

It's a grim conclusion that cheered no one at the table. And that no one disputed.

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