You may have forgotten, but – surprise – America is still fighting a senseless war. While the war in Iraq hasn’t quite grabbed the headlines like the tragic death of heartthrob actor Heath Ledger, the presidential horse race or the unexpected pregnancy of Jamie Lynn Spears, it is still a hazardous situation with dire consequences for our generation. Unless students take the time to understand the conflict in Iraq and pressure our leaders into action, it will continue to be a forgotten war that years later our generation will realize the financial and political costs of.
At the most basic level, students and Americans are unaware of what is happening in Iraq because they know little about Iraq. According to a survey by National Geographic in 2006, “Despite nearly constant news coverage since the war [in Iraq] began in 2003, 63 percent of Americans aged 18 to 24 failed to correctly locate the country on a map of the Middle East.” It’s tough to imagine how anyone could form a meaningful opinion about, or influence the policy on, a war half-a-world away if it’s not even known where the country is. If people knew even basic knowledge about Iraq’s geography or Iraq’s three primary groups, the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds, it would go a long way toward their understanding what’s going on.
Unfortunately, since debate about whether President Bush’s “surge” strategy last year has quieted, the media has kept the war in Iraq out of the limelight. There’s still a lot going on. In the last year, many commend Bush’s troop surge for improving the security situation in Iraq, but note that the social situation has not improved much. As of November 2007, an estimated 33 percent of Iraqis are still unemployed and many don’t have electricity, water or basic necessities. Although America is not debating it anymore, these changing circumstances still reflect different views on whether we should be fighting this war.
The fact that college-aged kids are fighting and dying thousands of miles away should be sufficient motivation for University students to protest the war. Sadly, few students care. However, according to the Associated Press, 3,931 American soldiers have died since the war began in 2004. The U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee reported last November that the cost of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq during the period from 2002 to 2008 would top $1.6 trillion. That is enough money to send an estimated 8.5 million out-of-state students to a four-year undergraduate program at the University or 20 million in-state students, room and board included.
What many students don’t realize is that we will ultimately pay the war’s expenses and the political blowback will be our problem. Even if you subscribe to the idea that the surge is working, there are other options like an international effort that could bring American troops back, rebuild Iraq and substantially reduce the cost of the war. This won’t happen with a president who has alienated the international community or with citizens who don’t demand that the U.S. occupation of Iraq end.
The war in Iraq poses too many threats and has too many consequences for the American people and the University’s students to go on uneducated. Become informed. Become active. Tell other people about it.