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International students agree Saddam is a threat

This is the second in a three part series examining the feelings of Troy State international students about the current war in Iraq. Wednesday's article provided an overview of the experience of international students in Troy during wartime and outlined some of their feelings about the war. Today's piece offers a look at the international students' specific concerns about the war, the media coverage of the conflict and the big picture of American foreign policy.

On Getting Rid of Saddam

Over the course of the interviews with Troy State international students, it became clear that the students harbored many passionate opinions about the current American war in Iraq. Though many of the international students voiced opposition to the war and voiced skepticism about American goals, not one of the international students defended Saddam Hussein.

"He is a threat," said Anna Hovsepyan, a masters student in environmental science from Armenia.

However, Nicolas Espeel, an MBA student from Belgium, said Hussein isn't the only threat to global stability.

"Saddam is bad, but the United States is also a dangerous country," he said.

Sola Daves, a pre-medical student from Nigeria, added some historical context to the stated aim of regime change espoused by the Bush administration.

"Don't forget that the United States supported Iraq not long ago," Daves said.

Daves knows a thing or two about getting rid of bad leaders.

His nation has had more than its share of corrupt dictators. General Sani Abacha was called "the worst in a long line of human rights abusers in Nigeria," by murdered activist Ken Saro-Wiwa.

Daves and other Nigerians have personal experience overthrowing tyrants and attempting to set up democracy. He conceded that Hussein is a brutal dictator, but said external attempts to overthrow leaders of other nations are poor policy.

When asked about some of Nigeria's previous military strongmen, Daves said the leaders, many of whom were passionately hated by the people of Nigeria, would have been preferred to an American invasion to topple the government.

"People would not support it," he said. "People are wary of tyranny imposed from the outside."

In the case of Nigeria, Daves said, alternatives to invasion and war were effective in changing the nation's leadership.

"United Nations sanctions isolated Nigeria from the international community and it worked," he said. "The government could not function anymore."

"Saddam is bad, but what about bin Laden?" Serban asked, referring to the public enemy that mysteriously vanished from mainstream media radar screens and the consciousness of many Americans once focused on prosecuting the war on terrorism.

On The Media

The international students were nearly unanimous in their critiques of American media coverage of the war.

"The media says it shows both points of view, but it's one-sided," Hovsepyan said. "CNN says it is showing the effects of the war, but Russian television is showing other effects of the war. How do I know who to believe?," Hovsepyan asked.

She said MTV's coverage has been better than CNN's.

"The international media shows more bodies," she said. "There's not as much pro-American coverage."

Ahmar Chaudhry, a computer science major from Pakistan, agreed.

"You can see the difference between the BBC and the American channels," Chaudhry said. "FOX and CNN only give an American perspective."

Other international students have managed to tune into the CNN of the Arab world and gain a broader perspective on the war.

"My friend has Al-Jazeera and you can really see what's going on," said Salma Allami, a finance major from Morocco. "Every Arab person thinks that it's just the U.S. wanting to expand its empire."

Allami describes American media coverage as a sedative.

"They just want to keep Americans calm," she said.

Daves employs another tactic: online research.

"The media is propaganda and the spin is pro-war," he said. "I use the Internet so I can see what is on both sides. Al-Jazeera is more gory, but they have good information too. You have to strike a balance. There's propaganda on both sides, but if you look at everything from all sides, you can make your own decision."

Desmon Wise is an American student at TSU, but a foreigner of sorts in Alabama. The psychology sophomore is a native of Hartford, Conn. He listens to the international students blast the foreign policy of his nation and chimes in with a response of his own.

"I don't support this war, but I do support the troops. Bush is a bully. This war is just going to lead to more racism and create reasons to hate the American people," he said.

He agrees with the critiques of the international students about the inadequacies of American media coverage of the war.

"They tell us what we want to hear. They delete the gory details because if they showed it, support would go down."

On Post-War Iraq

All of the students were concerned about how America would know when it had "won" the war. Some were able to draw on the experiences of their own countries to support their arguments.

"People think that when we take over and get rid of Saddam Hussein that it's just going to be over," Wise said.

"Iraq is not going to be democratic," Hovsepyan said. "Armenia shows the difficulty. We have been trying for democracy for a long time. It takes a very long time and you can't just put it in and say it's democratic."

Hovsepyan said Armenia could be a useful example of other domestic troubles awaiting Iraq after the fighting stops.

"In Armenia, the humanitarian aid doesn't go to the right places. Why would Iraq be any different? You go into a store and they are selling the food aid that was intended to be free."

Friday's piece will examine opposition to the war and explore the international students' thoughts on the lack of activism on the Troy State Campus.