Students#039; opposition rational

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 4, 2003

This is the third in a three part series examining the feelings of Troy State international students about the current war in Iraq. Today's piece offers a look at the international students' feelings on opposition to the war.

Why would students of any

nation oppose the war in Iraq? A series of interviews with international students offers some insights into a global perspective on American foreign policy. Though the students concede that Saddam Hussein is an unsavory character, they contend that methods other than war more appropriate ways of dealing with outlaw regimes.

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Reasons for Opposition

"Maybe I'm just saying this as an environmental science major, but there are some major environmental consequences to fighting this war," said Anna Hovespyan, an environmental science masters student from Armenia.

"Bush doesn't care," responds Nicolas Espeel, an MBA student from Belgium. "Look at how he ignored the Kyoto protocols [on global warming]."

Desmon Wise, the lone American sitting amid the group of international students, said the reasons for attacking Iraq apply equally to nations with whom the United States has committed to diplomacy.

"Why attack Iraq when North Korea has actual WMD and is run by a tyrant. Unlike Iraq, their weapons can reach the U.S.," he said.

Vlad Serban, a Romanian studying computer science at TSU, also would have liked to see the U.S. to continue to pursue diplomatic alternatives to war.

"They had a lot of other options that they didn't use," he said.

"The U.S. has just said 'Damn the UN,' and you notice the UN hasn't said much since the war started," said Sola Daves, a native of Nigeria.

"Ignoring the UN just made us look like jackasses," Wise said. "Bush is like the parent that embarrasses you and you have to say 'I can't believe he just did that.'"

Concern for innocent Iraqis also tops the list of worries of the students.

"Civilians and women and children are dying," said Salma Allami, a finance major from Morocco. "That's not right."

Ahmar Chaudhry, has personally been next door to some recent American military aggression and shares Allami's sense of compassion. His native nation, Pakistan, shares a border with Afghanistan. He said he saw the humanitarian consequences of an American attack firsthand.

"I was in Pakistan when America was invading Afghanistan and they said they were only hitting military targets, but refugees were flooding into our country. They were living in camps with no food and no water. It's the same with the people in Iraq now."

"Even if they say they are not hitting civilians, they are," he said. "They say they are fighting this war to prevent people from getting killed, but that's what you are doing."

Daves also said the U.S. was being a bully.

"My final support is against the war. Even if it's a good idea to get rid of weapons of mass destruction, this is the wrong way to do it," he said. "They're just doing it because they can get away with it."

Daves harbored another concern as well.

"It looks to people around the world like this is an attack on religion," Daves said. "It's not, but it's hard to convince people of that. It creates huge collations against the United States."

Allami adds one other possible cause for the conflict with Iraq: support for American consumption habits.

"The U.S. just wants the oil," she said. "Americans keep driving all the time like they do and that's the whole purpose of the war."

Why No Protest?

With such overwhelming opposition to the war, why has the Troy State campus been so silent? Unlike other college campuses across the nation, all of the students said peace protests or organized opposition to war was virtually non-existent.

"The students just aren't that into it," Wise said. "They don't support Bush, but it's just not a big thing for them. They still just hang out."

Though a few of the students said war was a topic of conversation in their classes, Wise conceded that open discourse and dialogue were conspicuously missing from conversations about war.

"The older people in the south are against having an opinion and speaking out," he said. "The old people try to persuade you to support the war, but their reasons are so stupid."

Daves said selfishness was a defining characteristic of many students.

"Most people are not oriented to mainstream politics. They just do their own thing," he said.

"There's no motivation," Wise said. "The students are lazy."

Espeel cited another reason.

"People are victims in a propaganda war. People are just stepping into the traps that the government has set up. Bush uses some of the same propaganda techniques that Hitler used."

Additionally, many of the international students said it was not their place to act as the internationally-savvy motivators for anti-war activities. As guests in the United States, each was sensitive to the difficulties involved in speaking out against a conflict, no matter how unjust, being waged by their host nation.

"It's hard for us as international students to say much because it would be awkward to insult our host country," Serban said.

"And you don't want to get labeled a terrorist," Daves added.

"You want to be respectful to Americans. It's their country. If they want to oppose this war, they should," Hovsepyan said.

Still, the American student in the group encouraged further dissent.

"People should speak their opinions," Wise said. "If they don't, they're being fake. People should speak up."

Not All Opposed to War

Some international students were less bitter about the American mission to topple the Iraqi government.

Leonard Chow is a 21-year-old TSU student from China. Though his nation threatened to veto American war plans in the UN, Chow supports the war.

"I feel like the war is appropriate and I strongly agree with what President Bush is doing. I feel like it is justified," he said.

Chow said the war is justified because Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction and has not complied with UN resolutions. He said he would feel the same way if China had such weapons

and did not comply.

"Saddam deserves it," he said.

Chow is blind, so he can’t watch the war on TV, but he listens to CNN radio and finds it "interesting and exciting."

His parents called to make sure everything was okay, he said.

"Everything is peaceful here, so there is nothing to worry about," he told them.

Tinnad "Ryan" Ampai is a 20-year-old TSU student with family in Thailand. He's a citizen of both Thailand and Japan and is worried about his family back home.

"I worry about my country and parents," he said.

He is also worried about the fate of the Muslims in southern Thailand who are protesting the war.

"For the last two years I have tracked the news about the U.S. and Iraq because there are a lot of Muslims in Thailand," he said.

Ampai is afraid the war will start internal conflict in Thailand between the Muslims who oppose the United States and the Thai government, which says it supports the U.S.

His parents aren’t too worried about him, Ampai said. They also don’t see Thailand or Japan becoming involved with the war.

Overall Opposition

Still, the overwhelming majority of the international students interviewed said the war was wrong.

"The 21st century is no place for war," Hovsepyan said.

"This war is going to cost lives, cost jobs and cause people to go broke," Daves said.

Whether for or against the war or still plagued by mixed feelings, the international students offer sophisticated analysis of international relations and global politics that seamlessly blends personal narratives from overseas with metaphors from their lives as college students.

"When America occupies Iraq, it's like after a party and you have all this stuff to clean up."

"And this is going to be a long hangover," Wise said.

Stephen Stetson can be reached at stephen.stetson@

Cheyenne Martin co

tributed to this report.