On Feb. 15th, 2007, I participated in an event that I will never forget. Thousands of UCSB students joined me on a march to the 217 freeway in a protest against the war in Iraq. I was one of those people shouting, “What do we want? When do we want it?” I was proud our generation rose up and protested the old-fashioned way. But then I heard the leaders of the event speak. I realized the protest I was told I was participating in was not an anti-Iraq war protest. It was an anti-war protest. There is a difference, and for those of you considering marching on Feb. 12, be forewarned: You may not agree with the reasoning behind the march.
Little by little, the real reasons behind the protest came out. The chant changed from asking for peace to “Hey hey, ho ho, this racist war has got to go.” The protest against the war in Iraq became a protest against the U.S. military, when one member stood up and said with disgust, “UCSB is providing technology to the U.S. military for better armor for our troops and better weaponry. We should march to the vice chancellor’s office and tell him to stop!” I do not know about you, but I am against this war because of the way it has been handled, not against its purpose.
One of the most horrid things I have heard from the Bush Administration came from Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld went to Iraq to help strengthen the morale of the troops. One brave soldier got up and asked why his squadron had to dig through trash to find scrap metal to up-armor their vehicles.
“You fight with the army you have, not with the army you want,” Rumsfeld responded.
I later watched a TV series documentary about an Arkansas National Guard unit sent to Iraq. On the way from Kuwait to Baghdad, the unit had to stop at a dump to get scrap metal to up-armor their vehicles, many of which were made for the Korean and Vietnam wars. One soldier kicked the door to the truck and watched it fall off its hinges. Several other soldiers took off their bulletproof vests and stapled them to the doors of the vehicles. Other troops were filling up sandbags, hoping to prevent shrapnel from piercing the vehicles and killing them. And yet, at an anti-Iraq war protest, a student had the nerve to complain about the development of new technology to protect our soldiers and new missile technology that would reduce civilian casualties.
“No war for oil!”
“This racist war has got to go!”
If only this war was that simple. We went into Iraq for a very liberal reason. Saddam Hussein was a maniac who used chemical weapons against his own people, killing thousands of Kurds. His sons had torture camps set up throughout the country, and political persecution was the norm. We went into Iraq to liberate its people, and our war plan suggests just that. When our generals said we needed at least 300,000 troops, Rumsfeld responded that we would be greeted as liberators, and would have no problem dealing with the fall of Saddam. That’s why we went into Iraq with fewer than 200,000 soldiers. That too was a failure in war planning. But to say this was a war for oil is dead wrong. The fact that many of the oil facilities are not up and running is a good indicator to that fact.
You can be against the war in Iraq but still support our troops, and you can still support the idea of war for just causes like ending genocide. When protests for those reasons occur on our campus, I will gladly join my fellow students. However, the march on Feb. 12 is far more than a protest to the situation in Iraq — it is a protest against war as a legitimate foreign policy and a protest against any funding for technology to better protect our soldiers.