John F. Burns, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner for his work in journalism, discussed the role America has had in the war in Iraq and how the current situation evolved on Friday at the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene.
In an event that lasted about three hours, Burns praised American values many times. There was a reception before and after Burns’ speech, as well as a period in which audience members were able to directly question him.
In the course of the speech, Burns, the longest serving war correspondent in The New York Times’ history, talked about how America keeps the peace in other wars. This was a belief Burns’ father, who served in the Royal airforce in World War II, taught him.
“That was true then, and it is true now,” said Burns.
In his speech, Burns compared the alliances between Britain and America during World War II to the alliance between the two now in the current Iraq War. Burns said this was a whole different war on a different scale than that of World War II. What makes this war different in Burns’ eye is that America is the leader of a coalition that no longer really exists.
Burns said that in March/April of 2003, there were about 160,000 American troops and about 43,000 British troops, but those 43,000 were drawn down very quickly. By 2007, the United States still had 160,000 troops, and Great Britain had 4,100.
“America is essentially fighting the war in Iraq now, alone,” Burns said. “The allies are gone.”
While Burns took more of a disappointed view toward his home country in his speech, Burns was full of praise for America. He said that even though he didn’t carry a U.S. passport, it didn’t inhibit his freedoms in America. Burns said that America has a unique ability to reinvent itself that almost no other country has.
“On this side of the world, the compass is starting to reset itself back to true north,” said Burns. “But in this part of the country, I don’t think it ever shifted at all.”
Burns currently serves as the London Bureau Chief for The New York Times and is expected to release two books within the next year, one about the trial and execution of Saddam Hussein, and the other about his experiences in foreign countries.