In this time of war and occupation in Iraq, we, the American public, are being told by the mainstream media that there are only two sides, two opinions to this situation; you are either pro-war or anti-war – end of story. To be sucked into this ignorant perception of Iraq as a black and white scenario is to forget the history of Iraq and the Iraqi people themselves.

The most underrepresented voice that has been stifled by both the anti-war and the pro-war communities is the voice of the Iraqi people. Although the Iraqi people don’t have one consolidated opinion of the war and occupation, their insight into the complexities of Iraqi society and the Iraqi political situation bear far more weight than the voices of non-Iraqis.

The Iraqi people are being used and exploited by outside interests. Their stories of suffering under Saddam are consistently seen and heard, but are used in justification of the war as a war of liberation. Their stories of hardship and suffering under American occupation are consistently used in justification of an anti-occupation stance. But rarely do you see an Iraqi condemn Saddam’s atrocities against humanity and criticize American occupation in the same broadcast.

It is about time that an Iraqi’s full sentences be heard. It is about time that Iraqis can speak out against anyone who violates their human rights, whether it is Saddam or America. It is time that as Americans, rather than support an opinion that benefits us, we gain awareness into the plight of the Iraqi people and insight into their feelings and desires and support their aspirations. It is the Iraqis who are living with and will be living with the consequences of the war and the occupation.

It is not enough to simply criticize and condemn the crimes of the occupation without acknowledging the horrifying atrocities that took place under Saddam Hussein’s regime. By forgetting Saddam you are forgetting the millions of Iraqi brothers, sisters, husbands, wives and cousins that were executed, disappeared, massacred, gassed and tortured for decades. The reality is that every Iraqi who lived in Saddam’s Iraq was affected by his brutal regime and not to acknowledge that is not to understand the Iraqi people. At the same time, lack of criticism of the occupation is severely detrimental to the Iraqi people. As Americans we have the right to hold our representatives in Iraq accountable. As long as certain American soldiers are committing crimes against the Iraqi people, we have not only the right but the obligation to bring these criminals to justice. We have a responsibility to the Iraqi people to make sure that our foreign policy is in agreement with our original domestic policy of freedom and justice. Iraqis deserve the same rights that we take for granted in our country and that we fail to deliver in other countries.

Now that America has a physical presence in Iraq, we as citizens have an opportunity to help the Iraqi people reconstruct their country, even if that is not the main concern of our leaders. The least that we can do for the Iraqis is listen to their plight, respect their dignity and support what they want and rightfully deserve. Iraqis will be speaking their minds in a groundbreaking film that was just released in April of this year called “About Baghdad.” The film, along with a discussion held by the filmmakers, will be shown in Isla Vista Theater II this Friday at 7 p.m. Come and listen to what they have to say.

Adam Al-Sarraf is an undeclared freshman.