I attended the Vets for Freedom Iraq war forum in order to learn from
the firsthand experiences of those who have served in the military. I
feel it is important since being a soldier is a completely different
experience from my own. I’ll admit to being a little bit of a dreamer.
I hold signs at peace demonstrations and talk to members of the
community who are against the war. I felt strongly against the war as
a high school student. I was harassed by classmates when I wore a
homemade badge bearing a peace sign and the words “Don’t attack Iraq”
in the days following the President’s decision to invade. I felt this
war would distract Americans from real crises facing our country such
as education, health care and morale in general.
Who knew we would still be fighting a war based on lies, even after
those lies were exposed? In these five years, I have seen friends put
their lives on hold in order to serve their country. While I can’t
understand their decision, I respect and admire them. I support our
troops, and I don’t feel supporting them means I have to support the
war. They fight so we can “peacefully assemble” and exercise other
freedoms assumedly given to us as American citizens.
I was inspired when I heard the words of fellow student, Ranya Ahmed.
Ranya is Muslim and left her home in Bahrain to seek an education in
the United States. I have always wanted to study abroad and have a
great appreciation for interactions I have been able to have with
people from other countries. Ranya spoke on the pro-war side, which
had only two voices, compared to five voices supporting the war. She
was raised in a mixed religion family, her father being from Iraq and
her mother, from Saudi Arabia. Ranya spoke to the horrors she had
witnessed first hand, volunteering at a hospital when she returned
home. She admitted that it is “hard to see” but she has seen and
treated their wounds. The problem is, war doesn’t only wound those
involved, it kills them. It kills them in numbers that quite honestly,
I can’t register. I cannot fathom 4,000 American deaths, it makes me
sick, sick of war and sick of people who want to keep losing lives for
I was moved as I heard Ranya speak, I heard her message and I know
others did as well. Without her voice the debate would have left me
discouraged. While the pro-war panelists insisted they were there to
“protect [Middle Eastern] culture” she responded, “You don’t have to
hold a weapon between us, to stop us.” We need to work on cultural
barriers, such as race and differences in religious views and realize
that all people are the same. We draw lines on paper and call it a
map, we create barriers between others and ourselves and start to
believe we can truly disconnect ourselves. Tragedies often bring
people together so why is it so hard for the world to come together
and “live as one?”
I cannot share Ranya’s experience; I can only offer my voice and
support her and her country. I hope for peace not just in
America but everywhere. I hope that someday a human
life will be worth more than a drop of oil. I hope someday America
will right its wrongs and begin to provide for its own citizens again.
The main theme I carried away from the debate was that we have trouble understanding each other. Several statements were made regarding “killing for something” versus “dying for something” I think this illustrates that point. I strongly disagree with Vets for Freedom panelist, David Bellavia, who admitted he “hasn’t found anything to die for but something he’s willing to kill for.” There is more dignity in dying for a worthy cause than in killing for a pointless cause. Maybe that’s why 4,000 deaths seems so unreasonable to me. Our soldiers and friends are dying because of our mistakes. Thousands of families and communities in our own country are being devastated by this frivolous war.