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Group says U.S. is unfair to Iraq

October 31, 2002|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

A traveling group of anti-war activists says the United States government is waging war on Iraq to control its oil market, and federal officials are shoveling out lies to the American public about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities.

The Chicago-based Voices in the Wilderness made a stop at Hagerstown Community College's Kepler Theater as part of its two-month Mirror of Truth tour. About 55 residents attended.

Stephanie Schaudel, co-coordinator of the tour, said the group opposes sanctions put on Iraq after the Persian Gulf War and also a possible new war against the Middle Eastern country.

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She blamed President George W. Bush and the U.S. government for treating Iraq unfairly and said sanctions on the country are killing thousands of innocent people. She also questioned how the U.S. can justify an attack on Iraq for allegedly having weapons of mass destruction, while claiming the U.S. is the largest exporter of chemical weapons.

Shahab Siddiqui, who brought the group to Hagerstown, said before the program that other countries, such as Israel and Turkey frequently violate U.N. resolutions but do not receive the same harsh treatment Iraq has received.

As a result, such U.S. actions fuel terrorist organizations to take actions against U.S. citizens, he said.

"It's grounds for terrorism to come back," Siddiqui said. "We need to be fair and just when dealing with the other nations."

During his presentation, Siddiqui joked about a prank survey that had been circulating across the world, which asked countries to offer honest opinions about solutions to a food shortage in the rest of the world.

He joked that the survey was a failure because the countries didn't understand words such as food, honest and opinions. The U.S., however, did not understand "the rest of the world," a comment that drew laughter from the audience.

The Voices in the Wilderness group handed out literature about their cause, including a poster-size flyer of Osama bin Laden mimicking the "I Want You" poster made famous by Uncle Sam. The poster went on to say a war on Iraq would garner support for terrorism against the U.S. and Israel.

"Go ahead. Send me a new generation of recruits," the poster read. "Your bombs will fuel their hatred of America and their desire for revenge. Americans won't be safe anywhere....Please, attack Iraq...Divide the international community. Give Saddam a reason to strike first. He might draw Israel into a fight. Perfect!..."

Schaudel and Siddiqui said they weren't apologists for the behavior of Iraq President Saddam Hussein, but they did not say whether they thought the Iraqi dictator was responsible for the troubled U.S-Iraq relationship nor did they offer suggestions on what Saddam could do help mend that relationship.

Siddiqui, however, said negotiations with the country were the best bet for peace.

"There is still a lot of room for that," he said.

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