Student exercises freedom of expression

By Ali Gowans 2004

This weekend I participated in a demonstration against war in Iraq. A group of about 25 of us stood on the corner of University and Main for an hour Saturday morning, holding signs and hoping to make people think.

I’m very proud to live in America, a country where freedoms and human rights are protected and cherished; I just don’t think war is the best way to protect those freedoms. War, killing innocent people, doesn’t seem to me the best way to go about protecting personal freedom.

Many people see going to war with Iraq as necessary for national security — they think getting rid of Saddam Hussein is the only way to stop him from developing weapons of mass destruction. Preventing a dictator from destroying us is a sentiment I completely empathize with. And if war was the only way to accomplish that, I might be writing a different essay. But I’m not.

War should only be used as a last resort. Any other use is wrong. War takes innocent lives and promotes destruction. Imagine the horror Americans felt at the event of 9/11. That is what we would inflict on Iraq if we bombed it. Innocent Iraqis would be killed, their homes destroyed, in addition to the American soldiers who would die in battle. Then there are the financial costs. Though the U.S. government has been silent on the issue, some financial experts have estimated that a war with Iraq could cost $100-$200 billion. That’s for the war alone, not including the cleanup afterward, something we barely did in Afghanistan and probably aren’t prepared to do in Iraq. So, before going to war, we ought to have pretty good backing, don’t you think?

The truth is, we don’t have that backing. If this issue was flat out preventing nuclear attack, there probably wouldn’t be an issue. But it’s not that simple. No one should go to war on a suspicion alone, and right now, suspicion is all we have. Saddam Hussein may be a threat, but we don’t know that. North Korea, on the other hand, which has basically admitted to being a threat and pursuing nuclear armaments, is almost completely ignored. (North Korea, remember, is right alongside Iraq in Bush’s “Axis of Evil.”) See the problem?

The fact that we don’t have full international support is problematic too. Going it alone, as Bush seems prone to do, bypasses the United Nations, the main body of peace keeping among nations, and opens the door for other nations to do the same. Many people have questioned Bush’s motives for picking Iraq, wondering if oil or his father’s history are involved. While these points are mainly matters of speculation, they are sill something to keep in mind. War is such an atrocious thing that to engage in it we must be absolutely sure of its merit. To argue otherwise is to argue that killing is OK, and one who argues that is not one I care to talk to, let alone debate with.

This thing I found most interesting as we stood at that busy intersection with our signs was the response we got. In fact, we started keeping track. In an hour, with a steady flow of traffic, we received 13 negative responses. People flipped us off, yelled profanities, etc. But we also received over 100 positive responses. People honked (one man’s sign read, “Honk if you oppose war.”), waved, gave us the peace sign and thumbs up. Peace is patriotic; don’t try to tell me it’s not. the steady stream of people who shouted support that morning agreed.

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