Saturday, November 19, 2005

War, even on terrorism, is wrong

By GEHANI BETHMAGE STUDENT VOICES

Last update: November 21, 2005
If we call ourselves an advanced society just because we know right from wrong, we should be avoiding war, because it only has one outcome -- destruction.

War results in political, social and economic chaos in the society. In wars, no matter who wins, this damage done to the society is not repairable. One of the main reasons for war is foreign occupation. The words "foreign occupation" demonstrate world history. I am a Sri Lankan student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach. So, let me look at the British occupation of that part of the world.
The British conquered the known world at the height of their power. Since British society and culture was very different from that found in the countries it colonized, it led to many misunderstandings between the British and the native populations. This eventually resulted in wars, which left most of the world in chaos. After the British left, the Indians started fighting among themselves and ended up dividing their country into pieces of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. There has not been any era where there was peace between these nations. Even after foreign occupations, the aftermath of these struggles resulted in more destruction in these societies, and terrorism was a direct result of these wars.
The best example is Afghanistan. Between 1978 and 1992, the Afghans were in a war against Soviet occupation forces. More than a million Afghans had died and 5 million were refugees. This was the starting point for the Afghan terrorism as we know it today. The foreign occupations had only brought never-ending destruction to these developing countries. According to Juan Cole, a professor of Modern Middle Eastern and South Asian History at the University of Michigan, "People need a sense of autonomy and dignity, and (foreign) occupation produces helplessness and humiliation. Humiliation is what causes terrorism."
Foreign occupation gives a reason to start terrorism in the societies in order to free them from foreign rulers. After they have won their fights, these groups have lost their main objective, and many of them do not know how to handle the newfound freedom, and how to stop what they have started. This is probably one of the reasons why terrorists in developing countries are always targeting rich nations. Maybe they do not feel as though they are free from them.
Another major reason for war is the fact that the weapons business has converted itself into a major industry. The United States is the biggest supplier of weapons to developing countries, following Russia. In 2004, the United States ranked first in the value of arms deliveries to developing nations at nearly $9.6 billion (42.6 percent of the total). Russia ranked second at $4.5 billion (20 percent), France ranked third at $4.2 billion (18.7 percent).
For the past decade Saudi Arabia has been one of the biggest customers of the United States. Saudi Arabia made over $5.6 billion in arms transfer agreements in 2004. Its major suppliers were the United States ($3.8 billion) and the four major West European suppliers ($1.7 billion). Saudi Arabia has been accused of supporting terrorism on many occasions. Even though there was no evidence to prove it, they have not been very cooperative in arresting terrorists. The United States has not been motivated to end the Saudi weapons supply. According to FBI reports, more than half of the hijackers from the 9/11 incident were of Saudi nationality.
According to the recently released Small Arms Survey, the United States exports more small arms and light weapons than any other country. Small arms and light weapons kill more than 500,000 people a year, 80 percent of them women and children. In fact, according to the Federation of American Scientists, small arms exported by the United States are used in 92 percent of conflicts worldwide.
The initially justified basis for the war against Iraq was that it possessed weapons of mass destruction. According to Iraq history, in 1983 when Iraq was fighting against Iran, the Reagan administration secretly began allowing the sale of bombs to Iraq and these shipments even violated the Arms Export Control Act. In the same year, George Schultz, the secretary of state, was given intelligence reports showing Iraqi troops were daily using chemical weapons against the Iranians. In 1984 the CIA began giving Iraq the necessary intelligence to calibrate its mustard gas attacks on Iranian troops. In March 1986, the United States and Great Britain blocked a Security Council resolution condemning Iraq's use of chemical weapons, and on March 21 the United States became the only country refusing to sign a Security Council statement condemning Iraq's use of these weapons. In 1986, the U.S. Department of Commerce licensed 70 biological exports to Iraq between May 1985 and 1989. In 1987, the Iraqi Air Force began using chemical agents against Kurdish resistance forces in northern Iraq. A year later, the U.S. Department of Commerce approved shipment of chemicals used in the manufacture of mustard gas. It is evident from the Iraq history that it was the United States who helped Saddam to gain such power in the Middle East.
How can you put out a fire if you are the one who is supplying gasoline? To resolve these wars and terrorism, the powerful countries need to stop getting involved in other wars as a military and arms supporter. They should help only as negotiators and as supporters to rebuild the societies of other nations. The damaged society is where the root of terrorism is nurtured. If one starts a war against terrorism, one must make sure you have a start-to-end program or it will just be a temporary measure.
There is a proverb in Sri Lanka, "Violence against violence never results in peace." Throughout history there were many incidents that showed us how nonviolence had resolved many problems, and we call the leaders in those situations heroes. Some of them include Mahatma Gandhi, tha Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Let's look at the story about Mahatma Gandhi. He was a barrister who graduated from the University College London. Before he helped free India from British occupation, he conducted a successful civil rights movement in South Africa. His methods were direct, and they did not involve any kind of violence at all. His acts made the British appear as inhumane rulers, and that contradicted their own laws. Eventually this led to the freedom not only in India but most of south Asia.
In conclusion I oppose all wars, and I believe the well-to-do nations have created reasons for these wars. It may be a religious, political or cultural reason, but the bottom line is our ignorance that created such destruction. We should not forget the fact that we, the citizens of this entire world, are humans with rights.

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