Iraq War efforts questioned after growing violence in Fallujah - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Iraq War efforts questioned after growing violence in Fallujah

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WASHINGTON -

As al-Qaida terrorists gain a foothold in Fallujah, Iraq -- the same area where many U.S. service members lost their lives during a decade of war -- some Americans are asking: was the U.S. mission in Iraq worth it?

"It's just a waste, what happened," says Kevin McIlvaine. "All the men that we lost over there - it's a waste."

McIlvaine lost his nephew, James, to the Iraq War. The 26-year-old Marine Sergeant from Olney, Md., was killed by a bomb blast in 2009.

"James was ready to defend our country and do what the government and military asked of him," McIlvaine's uncle says. "And he loved being a Marine. And he wanted to go back over there and serve a second tour. And he ultimately lost his life serving our country. But he went over there believing it was a just cause and helping the Iraqi people."

But now that al-Qaida terrorists have apparently taken hold of Fallujah, just outside Baghdad, many are left to wonder: was the Iraq War worth it?

"You know, I think it's the wrong moment to try to answer that definitively because things could look different in a month or a year," says national security expert Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution. "All that we accomplished is now at risk. And it's being gradually lost."

O'Hanlon says several factors have led to the resurgence of al-Qaida in Iraq: the civil war in next-door Syria; the absence of high-end U.S. military forces there, but most importantly, O'Hanlon blames the Iraqi prime minister for losing the respect of the Sunni tribes there.

"And what that meant was the Sunni tribes stopped viewing al-Qaida as their enemy and they started viewing al-Qaida as an ally of convenience against the central government," he says. "That created the conditions in which al-Qaida could then hide and be protected to some extent by the local population."

"We thought al-Qaida was defeated," McIlvaine says. "And apparently they're not."

That is a fact clearly not lost on the more than 4,400 American families that lost a loved one in the Iraq War.

Sgt. McIlvaine was the father of two, married to Sheryl -- they had met working at a movie theater in Olney -- and now buried in Arlington's fabled Section 60.

"His kids and his wife are doing well," McIlvaine says, "but it's just a big hole in our family."

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