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Big celebration unlikely for returning Iraq troops

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WASHINGTON » Americans probably won’t be seeing a huge ticker-tape parade any time soon for troops returning from Iraq, and it’s not clear whether veterans of the nine-year campaign will ever enjoy the grand, flag-waving, red-white-and-blue homecoming that the nation’s fighting men and women received after World War II and the Gulf War.

Officials in New York and Washington say they would be happy to help stage a big celebration, but Pentagon officials say they haven’t been asked to plan one.

With tens of thousands of U.S. troops still fighting a bloody war in Afghanistan, anything that looks like a big victory celebration could be seen as unseemly and premature, some say.

"It’s going to be a bit awkward to be celebrating too much, given how much there is going on and how much there will be going on in Afghanistan," said Don Mrozek, a military history professor at Kansas State University.

Two New York City Republican councilmen, Vincent Ignizio and James Oddo, have called for a ticker-tape parade down Broadway. A similar celebration after the Gulf War was paid for with more than $5.2 million in private donations, a model the councilmen would like to follow.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said last week that he was open to the idea but added, "It’s a federal thing that we really don’t want to do without talking to Washington, and we’ll be doing that."

Ignizio said he had been told by the mayor’s office that Pentagon officials were concerned that a celebration could spark violence overseas and were evaluating the risk.

Navy Capt. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said that he has not heard that issue raised and that New York has yet to make a formal proposal. He also said officials are grateful communities around the country are finding ways to recognize the sacrifices of troops and their families.

The last combat troops in Iraq pulled out more than a week ago. About 91,000 U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are in Afghanistan, battling a stubborn Taliban insurgency and struggling to train Afghan forces so that they eventually can take over security. Many U.S. troops who fought in the Iraq War could end up being sent to Afghanistan.

Mrozek noted that President George W. Bush’s administration referred to military action in the Middle East as part of a global war on terror, a conflict that’s hard to define by conventional measures of success.

"This is not a war on a particular place or a particular force," he said.

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