Experts Gather to Discuss Iraq War
March 20, 2007 6:56 AM
As the war in Iraq enters its fifth year, a panel featuring two combat veterans spoke Monday afternoon at Rosa Parks Hall against the motives behind war and today’s violence in Iraq.
The panel included Joe Wheeler, a veteran who served from 2001 to 2004 and was stationed in Iraq in 2003 as a surgical assistant but left the military after only a year of being stationed there because of what he described as “situation depression” or post-traumatic stress. He is a member of Iraq Vets Against the War.
Wheeler compared war to a business. It’s a way of generating better economy for the U.S., he said.
“We need to wake up and complain,” Wheeler told the audience of about 50 in attendance. “We need to ask, why is this about money? And why is this about oil?”
Also present on the panel was Sgt. Ruben Vasquez, who has been a medic in the Air Force since 1990. Vasquez repeatedly encouraged young people to take a side on the issue of war rather than continuing as an apathetic society.
“Until you put your money where your mouth is and vote, I’ll keep getting deployed year after year,” said Vasquez.
Dr. April Hurley, one of the two women on the panel, was not a war vet but rather part of the Iraq Peace Team in Baghdad in 2003 where she said she witnessed numerous war crimes against Iraqi civilians.
She compared U.S. actions to terrorism and stated that the Iraqi death tolls have reached the millions.
“We’re talking genocide,” said Hurley. “And if we don’t cut military budget we’ll be in war for a long time.”
Elizabeth Stinson, Director of the Peace & Justice Center of Sonoma County, talked about her contacts with active soldiers who contact her regularly.
“They were put in harms way by lies,” said Stinson. “And they want us to do all that we can to protect them.”
Each speaker advised that the U.S. pull out of Iraq as soon as possible.
“We need to withdraw from there,” Stinson said. “It’s the most conscientious thing we can do.”
However, Vasquez reminded both the audience and the rest of the panel that an appropriate withdrawal is easier said than done.
“Until there’s a personal impact on each and every person,” said Vasquez. “It’ll continue to be just a T.V. war.”
The event was sponsored by The Holistic Health Learning Center, The Holistic Health Network, and the Orangeband Initiative, whose website encourages "respectful conversation about issues that we feel are important to talk about."
It was also part of the 10th Annual Gandhi-King Season of Nonviolence, which seeks to understand and change causes of violence in the world, according to a promotional flyer.
Benjamin Wiklund, 23, of Oakland came to hear the panel with his mother Pamela Coggins, who is studying humanities. He enjoyed each speaker’s views and found it to be very compelling.
“There was lots of experience on the panel and good ideas,” said Wiklund. “The students here will definitely benefit from what was said today.”
Dr. Hurley left the audience with a bit of advice for those concerned with the standing of their nation.
“Be outspoken and be for truth-telling and things that are just,” she said.
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