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April 20, 2004 - Image 16

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-04-20

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4B - The Michigan Daily - Special Graduation Section -Tuesday, April 20, 2004


Since its inception, the Daily Editorial Page has been a forum for diverse opinions on a vast array of topics. As the class of 2004
prepares to graduate, we offer a look back at some of the most important issues addressed during its time at the University.

Iraq will not have
any mass destruction
weapons. So we are
not worried about the
inspectors when they
will be back in the
country. Iraq is clean."
- Mohammad Al-Douri, Iraq's
ambassador to the United Nations,
addressing why Iraq was not concerned
about weapons inspections,
as reported on Nov. 12, 2002 by CNN.


I C whr. ton.5


Remembering what was lost and (briefly) gained

This is big. Bigger
than the Oscars;
Bigger even than
the Super Bowl. This is
Sept. 11, 2002. Every
channel, all day. This is a
media event. Something
to be hyped, advertised
and treated with breath-
less reverence. So ends
the memory of Sept. 11.
I don't want to be cynical about the
memorials and tributes and remembrances
and vigils and retrospectives and analyses
and banner headlines and pictorials and mon-
tages. But I am.
It all seems like too much of a show lacking
any real substance. We have diminished the
human tragedy and made it into a chance to pat
ourselves on the back and assure ourselves that
everything is fine now, if not better than before.
The United States hasn't changed for the
better. We haven't re-evaluated anything; we've
become more set in our ways. We haven't
become more tolerant; we've put our blinders
on. It's us versus them, good versus evil. Gone
is our thoughtful introspection.
As we pause today to reflect on the horrible
sorrow that was Sept. I1, we should not forget
the humanity of the day. That day is now a fixa-
tion of every media outlet across the country.
On one level, it has to be. To ignore this day
would somehow feel wrong, as though we were
refusing to acknowledge the sincerity and
solemnity of emotions stemming from Sept. 11.
But somewhere during this past year we forgot

the real lessons we learned and instead focused
on broad self-assurances of righteousness. Sept.
11, the event, can be divided into two distinct
realities: The day and the follow-up. First and
foremost, it must always be remembered for the
day. That day shocked the world. It was a day
unlike any in modern times; airplanes didn't fly,
no television commercials ran, the stock mar-
kets all closed and we spontaneously gathered,
talked and thought, all united by grief and a
deep feeling of loss. Everything commercial
stopped, and everything human drew us in. For
those few days, the world stepped back and
asked, "Why?" Why does this happen? Why
here? What did we do? Why is there so much
death in the world? Why so much hate? On
campus, 15,000 people gathered on the Diag
and talked about peace and tolerance and love.
Amidst the horror, it seemed we were poised for
a change. It was during this time of destruction
that it seemed as though, somehow, we would
bring about a new Greatest Generation, one that
would rise above consumption and nationalism.
The world was going to come out of this better
than before.
But then all that changed. After those few
brief days, Sept. 11 began to take on a second
meaning. It became the cause for frustration as
the United States failed to take the opportunity
for positive transformation.
It all started when we began to react to Sept.
11 like good little capitalists ought: We used it
and consumed it, bought it and sold it. Flags
flew off the shelves, patriotic songs blared and
red, white and blue logos graced every televi-
sion station. We consumed - guilt-free -

because our president told us it was our patriotic
duty. We swaddled ourselves in the material and
forgot the humanity and love that was our
immediate reaction. After a brief spike in caring,
people, despite what they may say, returned to
their self-centered lives. Volunteerism never
took off. After a brief respite, anger and impa-
tience with each other found their way back into
The words "September 11" no longer con-
jure up images of falling towers and ended lives.
I've grown cynical towards that day. In part this
is because I'm no longer hopeful of what might
become. But I once was. The commercialization
and use of Sept. 11 for political gain, coupled
with- unilateralist U.S. policies strike me as hor-
ribly wrong.
I can't help but look back at those few days
when, despite all the tragedy, there was hope.
That was before nationalism's iron grip took
hold of the United States. Before racial hatred
and intolerance boiled over. Before our civil lib-
erties where traded in for a figment of security.
Before our politicians used the day for their
gain. Before we separated the world into us and
them. Before we installed a puppet government
in Afghanistan. And long before we planned to
preemptively spread war throughout the world.
And I want to deny it, deny that there was a
chance. That way at least I don't feel frustrated.
I don't feel defeated. But it doesn't change the
fact: We could have been great. We had our
moment, we all felt it. And then, "poof," it's a
TV mini-series. And all meaning is lost. And
I'm cursed for having had hope.
-Sept. 11, 2002

A justified war we shouldn't fight

1 v

ar is in the air.
What we're
TV| hearing now is
that the deal is done; we're
just a couple weeks from
war with Iraq.
Who are you with? The
protesters telling us it's all
about oil? Or television's
gung-ho graphics and
theme music driving for that big story?
Whatever the ups and downs of the polls
might say, I get the impression that most people
are on the fence about this one. Toppling Sad-
dam Hussein sounds like a good idea and
annoying the French appeals to many, but peo-
ple just can't shake the nagging feeling that for
all the national interests being asserted and
unintelligible satellite photos being bandied
about, this just isn't something we need to do.
Can you support a war that may be justified
for many reasons but just isn't necessary for
your own security?
As for justifications, there are many. Saddam
Hussein starves Iraqis by using money from oil
he is allowed to sell to buy personal luxuries and
maintain his military rather than feed his people.
His proclivity for invading his neighbors is well
known and his brutality to his own citizens is ter-
rifying. According to Human Rights Watch and
Amnesty International, Iraq is a place of mass
arrests and summary executions, of "disappear-
ances" by the thousands, of political prisoners
being beheaded in front of their homes, of goug-
ing out eyes, of punishment for crimes of family
members, of the tongues of government critics
being cut out and much worse.
The anti-war argument that goes, "so what,
things like this happen all over the world. Why

should we only do something about it here?" is
unconvincing. Maybe it's time we started doing
this in more places. There are certain values I
hope we-have the courage to say are universal.
It's the tip of the iceberg, but if nothing else,
can't we draw the line at summary executions
and torture? Yes, lots of countries do these
things, but by any measure, Iraq is a particularly
egregious offender. Why shouldn't we start with
them and move forward with a policy of serious
promotion and enforcement of human rights -
the rights that have been established by interna-
tional law and which we have been derelict in
demanding for too long?
A pro-war argument that I'm partial to is
that this will free the Iraqi people. Whatever
happens, Iraqis would certainly be better off
without Saddam, no matter what the conse-
quences in blood, money and hatred for us.
There will, of course, be costs borne by inno-
cent Iraqis in a war. Saddam will make sure of
that. But a less sociopathic government will
save and improve lives, as will the sure end to
U.N. sanctions after Saddam is gone.
Humanitarianism isn't what's driving the
U.S. promoters of invasion, of course. Human
rights may be more respected post-war, but
they're not why it will happen.
The most common pro-invasion argument
is that Iraq is a danger to us - that it is build-
ing weapons of mass destruction and directly
or through distribution to terrorists, they will
be a threat to us. Good reason. It seems to me,
however, that the logical conclusion to that
line of reasoning is not full-scale invasion,
occupation and a never-ending al-Qaida-like
hunt for the bad guys that get away, but con-
tinued containment and possibly military
action against only those sites where we know

or strongly suspect that weapons of mass
destruction are being produced.
Containment has worked so far and the
political will currently exists in the world to
enforce it vigorously and support a strong
inspections regime, which is cheaper and less i
dangerous than war, and has worked very well
in the past.
Invasion might be the only sure solution, of
course, and the sheer humanitarian reasons for
removing Saddam are compelling. But looking
at what this war may cost us, I wonder if any of
it is enough.
The administration has wanted this war so
badly that it's pushed some friendly govern-
ments out of the way and pushed others to make
choices conflicting with popular sentiment -
and creating danger for them - to get it. This
may be creating long-term rifts in our alliances,
which is not good for our security.
In another troubling move, to win over vari-
ous allies, such as Turkey, the Bush administra-
tion seems to have committed to keeping
post-war Iraq in one piece, while the majority of
Iraqis, by all accounts, would rather see the
country - a vestige of colonial line drawing -
broken up. This means the United States or a
new government having to coerce a very large,
sharply-divided populace spread over an area
the size of California to be a political entity they
don't want to be. Our complicity in any such
arrangement will only worsen our already
reviled image in the Middle East, possibly fuel-
ing more hate driven terrorism.
I'd really like to see Saddam Hussein gone,
but I can't stop thinking we're sacrificing an
awful lot to see it happen. That's why I'm hav-
ing trouble getting off the fence.
-Feb. 11, 2003


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