In Matthew Lamont Stern’s opinion piece “What Is It Good For?” (Daily Nexus, Feb. 26, 2003), his arguments boil down to the assertion that an American invasion and occupation of Iraq would be for the Iraqi people’s own good. The fantasy picture he paints of a benevolent and altruistic American army bringing liberation and democracy to a grateful Iraqi populace would be almost comical if it weren’t so tragically awry. Throughout history, invaders have dressed up their depredations with similar rhetoric as they slaughtered their way through the homelands of people who, by and large, were just trying to live their lives, care for their loved ones and raise their children. From the European colonialists invoking the “white man’s burden” to the Nazis bringing their Aryan superiority and order, invaders have usually found a way to justify their actions. Implicit in these rationalizations is the fundamental belief in their own superiority. They know what is best for their victims.

Mr. Stern presumes to speak for the Iraqi people. He has decided that they are better off being invaded and occupied by a foreign power than continuing to be oppressed by Saddam Hussein. How many Iraqis has he consulted? People who have been in Iraq recently report that Iraqis they have talked with, even outside the earshot of Hussein’s minders, want to be left alone to deal with Hussein in their own way and to have the cruel and counterproductive sanctions lifted. Even Iraqi opposition leaders in exile are not backing the proposed invasion.

Mr. Stern says that the Iraqi people should have the right to live without fear of their government. Shouldn’t they also have the right to live without fear of foreign invasion? The “democracy” that the Bush administration is proposing to bring them has been described in press releases from Washington, D.C. The police state structure of the Ba’ath party currently administering the country is to be left intact, but with Americans replacing Hussein and his most senior thugs at the top. All the junior thugs will be kept in their local positions of power. This is the “liberation” which, to Mr. Stern, is worth the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis, mostly women and children, the deaths of possibly thousands of American soldiers during the invasion and the subsequent deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians.

The embittered Iraqis will not likely be able to resist the infiltration of their former adversaries into Iraq, the Mujahaddin and al-Queda – who will blend into the populace and battle the American occupation troops using the familiar tactics of guerilla warfare, ambush and suicide attacks that defeated the Russians in Afghanistan. Many Iraqis may join them.

Both the Iraqi people and the American people will be losers in this war. It will cost us hundreds of billions of dollars that would be better spent on education, health care, the development of alternative energy sources and the many other real needs of Americans. This will cost the lives of unknown thousands of our youth and will play into the hands of our actual enemies, the terrorists, by reinforcing their assertion that we are an evil threat to all Muslims. It will cause disaffected and infuriated young people throughout the Middle East to join the terrorist organizations in droves.

This catastrophe can still be avoided. I urge students to inform themselves about Iraq and the lies being told to us by the Bush administration. Join the UCSB Student Coalition for Peace and participate in the workshops and rally on March 5.

George Gregg is the information systems manager for Housing and Residential Services at UCSB.