Opinion Terrorism The Tattoo

Rally for peace, not war

Australian Army in Iraq (Australian Army photo)

The “War on Terror” is a phrase that, unfortunately, is heard all too often. We are in the midst of a war – a war on terrorism.

What can our respective governments do? How can anyone possibly put an end to millions of innocent people living in fear? How long do we have to wait before yet another ‘terrorist threat’ is made?

Whenever I hear about a new threat made on society, not only do I cringe but a cold shiver races down my spine.

I hate the feeling of guilt. I say this because I am as guilty as anyone else for what is happening because, before this moment, I had not said or done anything to voice my disapproval of this supposed ‘war on terrorism’ – and that is as bad as the actions of the perpetrators.

Terrorism has become a word that has been added to the vocabulary of every person on this planet and has had an incomprehensible impact on society.

Using violence or force to intimidate societies, governments or individuals has existed long before the United States glorified its invasion of Iraq or the truly devastating event of September 11, 2001.

Think back to 1939, for just one example. World War II ended millions of lives prematurely because of the Nazis’ ideology. I fear that the grim outcome of this war will be the same.

Do not misunderstand me, though, I am by no means sledging America or President Bush, or the Iraqi people for that matter. The fact is that the war is wrong, for so many reasons. I find it hard to believe that any one nation will ever come up with a solution for Iraq’s problems or that people can view this war as positive action to combat terrorism.

In January of this year, I sat in my home watching the 5 p.m. news report with my parents and two younger sisters. The night’s main story explained to the Australian public that our prime minister, John Howard, was considering sending more of our men and women to Iraq.

The first thing that went through my head was one simple question – why?

And then, Howard began to justify himself. It was established that he had a rather long and friendly conversation with his buddy, George W. Bush, who outlined his new strategy for Iraq and asked really nicely for Australia to pitch in a little more and ‘fight the good fight.’

I thought about all the families in Iraq that were living in constant danger and I realized, without a doubt, that nothing can help them.

I began to think about those poor families in more depth after that night. Seriously, what can help them?

Many revolutionary figures throughout history have fought for the power of the individual and I believe that is the path many must go down. To change a system, whether it is a political system or a social system, all must be true to themselves. At the end of the day if everyone conforms to the imposed norms of a system just because it is easier then they themselves are supporting the norms of that system. Everyone is responsible for creating and shaping the society in which they live in. This is the truth. Everyone knows this.

I am inspired by people who have sought to make the world a better place, including Henry David Thoreau, an American writer, who created the concept of ‘civil disobedience’ in the essay of the same name. He argued for individuals in society to resist governmental law if it serves an immoral or unjust cause.

Thoreau states in “Civil Disobedience” that “the only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right.”

With this in mind, it is my belief that we have the foremost duty to act upon conscience firstly, as human beings.

Since the Iraq war began in 2003, there has been progress – Saddam Hussein’s reign of terror is over, elections have been held, and Iraq is a more democratic country. But the fighting continues.

It makes me wonder if there is hope of winning this war. I am not even sure what constitutes winning any longer.

There has been so much emphasis on putting an end to terrorism that it has had a reverse effect. What I mean is that the more we seem to try to combat terrorism, the more the terrorist organizations fight back.

The simple fact of this situation is that it does not matter how necessary Bush thinks transforming Iraq into a Western society is because it will not happen. No one can impose a culture on a country that does not want and understand it in the first place and cannot cope with it anyway.

Democracy is an idealistic term that is meant to demonstrate equality and freedom – in reality this cannot happen. The thing with democracy is that there can never be a complete demonstration of it; there are always a group of people that will be restricted by the system. Maybe if Iraq was politically and economically stable beforehand, then democracy would have a chance, but this simply was not the case.

The wise Oprah Winfrey made an extremely good point in one of her recent talk shows with a couple of experts about a brand new way to change your life forever by following some kind of “law of attraction.” Toward the end of the show they began talking about war and its negative connotations, which intrigued me.

Winfrey explained that the war on terrorism was simply adding fuel to terrorism’s ever burning fire and maybe we should try waging a war for peace.

Instead of focusing with such devotion on an incredibly negative aspect of the world, why can’t we focus with the same devotion on something that the world can build together? Terrorists will always be terrorists. No one will change that.

But instead of letting them get the attention they so obviously crave, we should transfer that attention to a greater cause – a rally for peace.

In the words of one of the most inspirational men of our time, Martin Luther King, Jr: “Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate.”

I don’t think anyone can disagree with this point, made by a great man.

The official death toll for the U.S. military alone reached 3,297 by mid-April. To those men and women who so bravely lost their lives, in the hope that future generations may come to have the opportunity to live in a world not grasped by the cold hands of terrorism, the world is humbled for the great contribution and sacrifice.

I can say that Australia has been lucky thus far, with only one dead, but for how long?

If I have offended anyone with this piece then all I can say is this is what I believe to be right and I will not apologize for speaking my mind. It is not my intention to criticize anyone’s beliefs, only to speak my own, for it is one of the highest acts of patriotism to critique the system and government in the hope of creating change.

Rebecca Baylis is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.