Panel talks Iraq five years later

In light of last week’s five-year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, a panel of Fresno State professors discussed the topic “Five Years of War In Iraq,” focusing on what we have learned in these five years.

The Philosophy Club, the Anthropology Club, the Political Science Club and the Ethics Center sponsored the March 12 event. With five professors from different departments around campus, each contributed different views and background on the subject.

History professor Don Stillwell gave a short lecture on the history of Iraq. He depicted the rise and fall of the Iraqi government and the changes it has been through.

“History does repeat itself,” Stillwell said. “The details just change.”

World War II was also largely concerning oil, Stillwell said. It was possibly the largest war over oil in history. Now we are fighting, not only against terrorism, but also for oil.

Stillwell said that are other ways to get the oil from Iraq, such as trading. He went on to say that he wished the U.S.’s only connection with Iraq was as customers of oil.

“We don’t need to invade to get oil,” he said.

Stillwell described the history of Iraq as very long, very complicated and very sad, calling it a “land of wasted opportunities.”

Ellen Gruenbaum, from the anthropology department discussed the need to look at the war from different perspectives. There are many cultural diversities in this war and it is something she believes Americans have not paid close enough attention to.

“People do not understand the foreign politics that are running this,” Gruenbaum said.

She went on to point out that people in the military are realizing the fact that they do not understand those who are protesting the insurgents. The military is focusing on having a better understanding of human terrain.

Gruenbaum suggested an intelligence system for understanding people. The problem, she said, is that universities across the country have had trouble getting students interested in Islamic and Iraqi culture.

“We need to build mutual understanding instead of threatening annihilation,” Gruenbaum said.

Tackling the focus of “what can we learn” from five years in Iraq was Kevin Ayotte of the communication department. He stressed that the greatest loss in this war is the lack of communication about it.

Ayotte argued that freedom of speech should be used to debate the war in a public forum. The problem is with the information that is available to Americans.

At the start of the war, Ayotte pointed out, “60 percent of the US believed factually wrong data concerning Iraq.”

He said that people are simply protesting the war now, and rational discussion of the facts has been lost over the past five years. With technology such as the Internet, ideas can be shared over a broader region. Ayotte suggests that we communicate among ourselves, and with citizens of other countries.

Andrew Fiala, philosophy professor, had a very dark and depressing view of the war. He took the “Just War” idea, and pointed out the faults and misconceptions it offers. He described “Just War” as a myth.

“War is not a self-contained entity,” Fiala said. “There is not a clear beginning or end to the war.”

He agrees that there are some causes worth fighting to defend, but moral compromises are made to win.

“If we keep our hands clean, we will never win,” Fiala said, adding that it is a very dark and sad realization.

He agreed that the U.S. needs more citizen power and more communication to end this war. If citizens do not speak up for what they believe and passively watch what is happening, there is not going to be any change.

Yishaiya Abosch, from the political science department, covered the legality of the war in Iraq. Some question whether or not the Iraq war is an invasion of international law. Abosch said that, “no state has ever won a war by being nice,” and that the U.S. has far more to lose in this.

He went on to argue that this is not the first time a president defied the constitution in times of war. Unilateral decisions need to be made in order to do what is right.

“Would we be better off if we left Saddam in power?” Abosch asked. “When it comes to war, justice and necessity are debatable.”

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