The University of Maine student newspaper since 1875
Sunday, April 19, 11:08 p.m.

Op-Ed: Peace of mind: Conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan keep US from serenity and prosperity

The United States is still fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. You probably want these wars to end as much as I do. I would like to present an argument as to why I am opposed to both of these wars, which will culminate in a call for your help.

War means people killing people who are anonymous, misunderstood and often innocent. Violence is a terrible thing. Think about how you would feel if you ever saw an animal being abused. You would feel disgust or anger. Now imagine that animal is a person.

In the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq combined, over 5,700 U.S. soldiers have died. In Iraq, over 100,000 civilians have been killed and in Afghanistan the number is estimated to be in the tens of thousands. These are numbers; they represent real people, but we can’t fathom what these numbers actually mean.

Think of all of those personal stories, the families, fathers, mothers and children. Think of those displaced from their houses and villages because American bombs have destroyed them, not to mention devastation of schools, hospitals, infrastructure and basic functioning structures in society. Countless suffer — they live in displacement camps because the war broke their lives. But this is to be expected of war.

This is what war does.

These two wars are also more expensive than our country can handle. The United States has been in a huge recession, as I am sure you are aware. In the midst of our financial crisis, the wars have cost us over $1 trillion — an absurd waste.

Think about all of the things that could be done with $1 trillion. In 2010, 48 percent of the federal budget went to the military. Resources that we need here in the United States are instead directly causing the suffering of people in foreign lands.

We as a country are lacking in key social programs like public education, health care, clean energy, social security, public transportation, roads and highways, and other welfare programs. Investment in these social programs creates jobs.

In 2011, the proposed Afghanistan war spending will cost Maine $288.8 million. With that money, you could give 30,004 one-year scholarships to university students. The resources are there, but they are instead allocated to military and war.

These wars are unjust. A link was never made between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida, and there were no weapons of mass destruction found. Hussein was a brutal dictator, but the United States had no grounds to go to war with Iraq for this reason. In fact, the United States is on friendly terms with other brutal dictators like King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

It is not the United States’ right to militaristically spread democracy around the world. The United States was never granted permission by the United Nations Security Council to invade Iraq. The war was illegitimate and unjust and it now seems clear the real reasons for the invasion are based on controlling resources and maintaining a strategic position in the Middle East.

Proof that military invasion is destructive can be recognized in the desolate situation seen in Afghanistan today. Afghanistan faces some of the worst conditions in the world and to make matters even worse, the more their country is ravaged by war, the more people in Afghanistan are likely to grow to hate the United States more.

In setting out to eradicate an enemy, the United States is creating more enemies.

These wars are happening and here we are at a university, safe and blissfully preoccupied with where our place in society will be. These wars are not a part of our daily awareness, so it is hard to feel connected to them. It is also hard to feel we can make a difference, even if we do oppose war. I am telling you it is worth the effort.

The powers that be prefer the public doesn’t know what is going on because people cannot organize against something that is unknown to them. Knowledge is power and there is power in numbers. There is a growing movement on campus to gather strength and support to protest the injustice of these wars and the system that perpetuates them.

If you feel opposed to the wars as we do and want to be a part of something meaningful, please participate in the Maine Peace Action Committee on campus. What you do matters.

Daniel White is a fourth-year philosophy and economics student. He is a member of the Maine Peace Action Committee.