Iraq forum offers another view

February 24, 2003|by STACEY DANZUSO

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Decades of global political experience couldn't compete with the simple, emotional words of a local high school student during a Sunday afternoon peace forum.

"In my school there is not much support for a peaceful solution among students. They don't consider the consequences - babies, children dying. Our soldiers would be killed," 16-year-old Brittany Breslin said, choking back tears.

The Waynesboro (Pa.) Area Senior High School junior was so torn up by her own words that she had to pause several times Sunday to regain her composure during a forum at Wilson College opposing war with Iraq.


"This really will have an effect on us, on my generation. Revenge will be the name of the game later on," Brittany said. "If grown men and women cannot realize this, there is something wrong."

Her comments drew heavy applause from a crowd of about 50 people, who also came to hear Stephen Pelletiere, a former senior analyst on Iraq for the Central Intelligence Agency, and several area peace advocates.

Pelletiere, who also taught at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., has been to Iraq three times in the last 40 years, and he said most Americans' perceptions of the country are based on myths and distortions.

"Iraq and Saddam Hussein are the most maligned couple in the world," he said.

He said the most famous distortion involves a story that hit the news during the Persian Gulf War about Iraqi soldiers ripping 300 premature Kuwaiti babies from their hospital incubators and throwing them on the floor.

Pelletiere said it took someone saying it was unlikely there were 300 premature babies in Kuwait City for the myth to be exposed.

Pelletiere said the Bush administration was not able to make a case for clear and urgent danger of atomic weapons, so it has switched to touting war as the country's "moral obligation."

"A lot of what you hear is just flat-out untrue," he said.

Pelletiere said there are three reasons President Bush is pushing for war with Iraq:

  • Control of oil.

  • A reason to continue pumping dollars into the defense department.

  • Maintaining balance in the Middle East.

"There is no reason to pad the defense budget if there is no threat," he said.

Moderator Rob Wheeler, a member of the Carlisle Peace College who has represented organizations to the United Nations for a decade, said Sunday's forum was to raise awareness about the issues.

"What we hope to do is show different ways of resolving the situation of Iraq, through other ways than war and conflict," Wheeler said.

Alanna Hartzok, a Chambersburg activist who helped plan Sunday's forum with the Rev. Doug Hodges, a Mercersburg, Pa., pastor, said U.S. sanctions are so stringent on Iraq that they amount to genocide.

"Our sanctions against Iraq have essentially been a siege," she said.

Mike Bloom, 18, also a junior at Waynesboro Area Senior High School, said he was shocked by the negative feedback that came from his fellow students when he and Brittany circulated a petition and held an anti-war demonstration a few months ago.

"My role is simply to educate people. Children will die. We will be stealing oil from the ground that will have the blood of children in it," he said.

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