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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Students hear Arab perspectives on Iraq War

    Students are used to hearing about the war in Iraq from American politicians and newscasters, but last night they had a chance to hear about the Arab point of view as part of the UA lecture series “”Iraq: Three Years On.””

    Last night’s event, called “”Voices from the Arab World,”” was the second installment in a three-part series designed to bring about a greater understanding of America’s reasons for the invasion with an emphasis on how people can work to end American involvement.

    “”We called it ‘Three Years On’ because we wanted to stand back and observe the situation from different perspectives,”” said Gabriel Schivone, an undeclared freshman and coordinator of the series.

    Schivone is an active member of the Political Writings Reading Club and Students for Reproductive Justice, two student organizations that helped sponsor the speaker series. Other contributing groups included Refuse and Resist and the UA History Department.

    The first speaker of the evening was Sandy Marshall, a Near Eastern studies graduate student who recently volunteered in Palestine as part of Project Health Opportunities for People Everywhere.

    Marshall argued against the notion that America is “”bringing democracy to the Middle-East,”” pointing to U.S. cooperation with countries in the region that are less than democratic.

    America’s strategic and financial interests in countries like Uzbekistan, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, all of which have spotty human rights records and rarely – if ever – hold elections, have allowed us to overlook their lack of democracy in our supposed quest to bring democracy to the region, Marshall said.

    At one point Marshall showed the audience a map diagramming the paths of oil pipelines that crisscrossed the disputed countries.

    “”You can see why those countries are so important to us and why we’re willing to overlook their lack of democracy,”” Marshall said.

    Marshall also criticized the Bush Administration for taking credit for the democratic movements in countries like Lebanon, Egypt and Palestine, saying that to credit the U.S. for these improvements is to deny decades of struggle by Arab people and America’s support for Israel’s illegal occupation of Lebanon.

    “”To think that the Lebanese were inspired by the Iraqis’ throwing off oppression and the American presence there is pretty much fantasy,”” Marshall said. “”And to believe in that fantasy, you have to forget a lot of things.””

    Speaking after Marshall was Tawfik Maudah, a non-degree-seeking graduate student from Yemen who has spent the last 15 years in U.S.

    Maudah described the difference between pre-1991 Iraq and the country after the first American

    invasion as similar to the differences between Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Mexico.

    He remembered going to high school in Yemen and seeing friends leave home to study in Iraq, which was known for having the finest university system in the Middle East.

    “”Back then, the educational system in Iraq was very good,”” Maudah said. “”Most people in the Middle East would love to study at an Iraqi university.””

    He also described an Iraq that had a relatively prosperous economy compared to its neighbors until the invasion, when Iraqis are now flocking to countries like Maudah’s native Yemen to find work.

    “”Before 1991, Iraqi citizens’ income, their lifestyle, was about equal to a middle-class American’s; not most of them but a lot of them,”” Maudah said. “”If you told an Iraqi he would be going to a poor country like Yemen to work in a restaurant … they would laugh at you, if not slap you.””

    “”The Challenge of Opposition,”” will conclude the series next Tuesday, with UA graduate students in anthropology and political science discussing what students and citizens can do to help end the war.

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