Two universities, an American one and an Iraqi one, set up a satellite link and students at the two universities were able to have a face-to-face discussion.
I thought it was absolutely wonderful, first of all that such a thing could take place in the current climate. I would never have thought that the Iraqi government would allow such a thing.
Secondly, I thought, "This is EXACTLY what America needs. Before we even THINK about going to war, every American should have to see the Iraqi people face-to-face and hear their thoughts and fears."
We here in America, of course, are always being told that Saddam Hussein is such a horrible person and his is always doing such terrible things to his own people, but at least one young man saw the US as the enemy. He held up pictures of members of his family who had died because of US action in the Middle East and said something to the effect of, "Do you Americans stand by your countries actions? Do you believe this was necessary?"
I don't know what I would have said to him. Would it have been sufficient to tell him that I was a mere child when the first Gulf War was going on? Would it have comforted at all to know that I do not agree with the proposed war we now face?
Then there was an interview with a young Iraqi woman who had lived in the United States until she was twelve years old. If I had just tuned in as she had started to speak her English would have been totally unremarkable to me and I would have just assumed she was an American. However, she had two perspectives. She condemned the United States' proposed war with Iraq because she said (again, to paraphrase), "You don't have the right to impose your ideas of democracy on us."
When she said that I spoke out loud: "YES!" She had put into words the convictions in my heart.
Even though I have assumed a very anti-war stance in this journal of mine, there are times when I have doubts. It is hard to remain steadfast in my beliefs when people all around me are saying, either by subtle implication or speaking outright, that this is a time to support the president, and if you're not with us, you're against us, and if you're against us you must be with Saddam Hussein. And so I've been haunted by doubts. If all they say is true, Hussein has violated his own people's human rights. And I believe very strongly in human rights. Moreover, I have feared that I am too close to all this to have the proper perspective. I believe, having not been alive and so having the benefit of objectivity, that World War II, and the United States' involvement in it, was necessary. But if I had lived at the time, would I have felt that way, or would I have spoken out against US involvement in the war? And if I had done so, would I have delayed US involvement long enough to allow Hitler to win, like Edith Keeler in the Star Trek episode entitled "The City on the Edge of Forever"?
But that young Iraqi woman's words allowed me to experience another perspective. I do not know how representative her opinion is of the Iraqi people, but she saw us as possible invaders and conquerors, trying to impose our values and our way of life onto her people. This is a role America has played in the past, as I have illustrated previously, and it is a role that America has been able to justify every time we take it on. President Bush may see us as avengers, defenders and liberators, but if that is not how the Iraqi people see us then is that truly what we are? Perhaps only history will be qualified to make that judgment, but surely every American, regardless of our opinions, should respect and take into consideration the opinions of these people who will be most affected by the war we plan to wage.
I was glad that this was a conversation between two sets of university students because, as the commentator said, they are the future of both countries. But I wish that President Bush would have had to sit down before those Iraqi students, to listen to what they had to say and to attempt to justify his words and actions to them. I wonder if he would walk away as complacent as he was before and as single-minded in his desire to go to war with these students and their people.