SALEM — Seth Moulton was one of the first Marines to enter Baghdad when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003. He returned three more times, ultimately serving as a special assistant to Gen. David Petraeus.
Now, like other veterans of the Iraq war, Moulton is watching in dismay as Sunni insurgents overrun parts of the country and threaten to undo whatever gains were made.
“It’s hard for all the veterans of the war to see the country descend into chaos after we worked so hard and sacrificed so much to help the Iraqis succeed,” he said. “A lot of people are asking me, ‘Was it worth it?’”
Moulton, a Salem resident who grew up in Marblehead and is running for Congress in the Democratic primary, said that question needs to be answered on two levels.
“From a national perspective, it probably wasn’t worth it,” he said. “It’s hard to defend going into Iraq when you see what’s happening there today.
“But on a personal level, I signed up before the war; and when my country asked me to go, I was proud to go. I was proud to serve so that no one had to go in my place, and I still feel proud that nobody had to go in my place, so it was worth it for me personally.”
Moulton said he does not second-guess President Obama’s decision to withdraw U.S. combat troops from Iraq by 2011.
“This is really a political problem more than a military problem,” he said. “Many of the Iraqi forces are not well-trained, that’s true, but more than that, they clearly don’t have faith in their political leadership. The Maliki government has lost all credibility.
“When Gen. Petraeus reported to Congress on the surge, he said that militarily, it had exceeded expectations, but politically, there was a lot of progress still to make. This is exactly what we’re seeing now — that politically, the Maliki government was not ready to lead Iraq in a united way.”