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Conflicting emotions of anger, relief clash as Iraqi war begins

March 21, 2003

By Joanna Cattanach

I have had the privilege of writing a column for the last two years and never have been at a loss for words or opinions. But Wednesday night I stood in front of the television and watched the first stages of bombing begin in Baghdad, and I had no idea what to write. It does not comfort me as an American to know that on Thursday, Iraqis awoke to the thunderous sound of the American liberation campaign.

I'm an American, and I do not support a war in Iraq. For that I have felt, as many others have, a backlash that I never would have expected out of my fellow Americans. Am I expected to apologize for my own convictions? Must I prove how patriotic I am by blindly following President Bush and never once questioning the wisdom of 'regime change' at gunpoint? I cannot do it.

My column space has been, I hope, a forum for provocative thought and the most liberal form of free expression on Baylor's campus. It has never been a Bush-bashing bonanza. I actually voted for him. Yeah, even I can't believe that. What I have tried to do is shed light on the massive undertaking of 'regime change' in a region ripe with hostility and in a geo-political climate that is less than supportive of the United States. If that has come off as critical of the President, then so be it. As George Orwell said, in times such as these, 'telling the truth is a revolutionary act.' I will not wrap my words in the red, white and blue, because no matter what some may say I agree with Howard Zinn's statement, 'There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.'

For some time the columnist and the political activist within me have struggled to make sense of this war. I have attended peace rallies and prayer rallies. I've practiced what I preached, and yet I still feel both extreme anger and deep disappointment. And neither one is easy to deal with.

As a columnist I deal with facts, and the fact is we are at war with Iraq. Over the next few weeks American soldiers are going to be risking their lives in the ousting of Saddam Hussein, disarmament and 'regime change,' and I earnestly pray for their safety.

My challenge is to search for a possible good that can emerge out of this travesty of foreign policy. While a majority of Americans may be convinced that war in Iraq is necessary and justified, most of the world does not.

The Bush administration must convey the message that democratic governance is necessary and good, and that to do this, America plans to institute a 'regime change.' Consensus building is still important, even after the fact, to try and quell the anti-American sentiment abroad. The world is watching America's democratic process in action. We must not give them more reason to hate, distrust and harm America.

If anything there is a sense of almost anxious relief that this thing, this war finally has started. Yet, there remains an overwhelming ignorance of the full complexity of the conflict. Indeed, the average pro-war supporter can't place Iraq on a map, has scant understanding or Arab and Islamic custom, culture, and governance and few comprehend the consequences of a 'pre-emptive war.'

Undoubtedly, this has been quite possibly the most difficult column for me to write because no words I compose give me comfort. The bombardment continues, the oil wells burn, innocent Iraqis huddle in fear, protesters line the streets and I am saddened by the fact that, as Dr. Martin Luther King stated, 'the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is my own government.'