The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Complexities of commemorating a tragedy like 9/11

“Seventy-one percent of the poll-taking Americans believe that intervention in Syria would not be justified in the current situation,” news channels drone on. “Hundreds gather in Minneapolis protesting,” people all over the city inform each other. How is it that the suggestion of military action still stands? It seems absolutely preposterous to me that a self-declared democracy would overlook such a visible majority consensus and yet it does. Every time I watch debates over Syria, the first thoughts that cross my mind are those of the Cold War between East and West and the horrible disaster of Iraq, resulting in the deaths of around a million people.

Coming from Pakistan, I know that most non-Americans are certain that terrorists, funded by the U.S., are deviously conducting the Arab Spring, much like the Bay of Pigs Invasion. Even Bashar al-Assad hinted at “anti-Americanism” in his interview with Charlie Rose and, though quite possibly malicious, there may be some truth to this. Most rational Americans understand that, but now must anticipate a more puzzling question: How do we convince the government of our unwavering views when all our attempts in the past have usually failed?

The primary method to voice our opinions has always been through civil disobedience against war in general. The Twin Cities-based, Macalester-linked Anti-War Committee member, Jess Sundin, organized people who claimed to care enough about dispirited individuals 6000 miles away to attempt to halt exacerbating their grief. This effort was made regardless of the fact that, in the strike, no U.S. soldier will be involved and no cost incurred.

However, even while participating in the protests, skepticism is my primary response when dealing with the question of their efficacy – certainly Congress is not going to see a bunch of Minnesotans protesting and change their plans. Protests appear futile in the short run and often in the long run too. For example, in the Iraq war, 36 million people protested across the country, but the war continued years after the demonstrations. The same occurred with Palestine and Afghanistan. The only fruitful demonstration was the Vietnam War, but that was unique because the soldiers eventually rebelled too.

Seeing these statistics, the only conclusion I can come to is that people practice this sort of “altruism” just to erroneously pretend they are making a difference.

This cynicism is not appreciated by protesters. Jess recounts her visit to Baghdad and the support the Iraqi nationals felt upon realizing the existence of war-abhorring Americans as an example that protests work.

I can understand that Iraqis would have felt relief at evidence that not all Americans are inhuman — merely the government — a situation many citizens of developing countries know as well as the back of their hands. It can also be argued that perhaps the widespread opposition of the American war against Syria can be attributed to organizations spreading awareness through demonstrations of previous wars. Personally, I don’t find the evidence concrete enough for me to simply submit to this method.

Another method may be to attempt to explain by research and writing not that war, per se, is amoral but that through possibly inaccurate evidence we may be fooled to assume that the regime used nerve gas when the rebels used it in reality. The Syrian war itself is a largely sectarian conflict over economic and political control and an extremely dangerous place to take sides. Should you support a rebellion decked with extremists funded by the US and other Gulf countries or an authoritarian “coalition of minorities” aided by Iran and Russia? For most of the Middle East, nationalism and empathy worked as fatal flaws, causing countries to pick their sides based solely on biases. Most Americans can look at the conflict without being swayed by commonality (regardless of the differing use of propagandist “web activism”) and appealing to this may be helpful only if common opinion mattered in the first place.

For most, if Obama cared he’d look at poll results and make his decision. Often only exhaustion ends wars, and even then not permanently. This can be seen in the war for South Sudan where rebellion spanned decades with periods of peace in between the fighting until finally the country was divided.

Division cannot be Syria’s solution as the world is loath to see the severe implications this may have for the surrounding countries. Nonetheless, because every conflict will affect us and millions so horribly, we mustn’t turn a blind eye. Protests and writings are great but only when directed at particular audiences that are in control.

If we can appeal through debate with the representatives of the states by having an impromptu, chosen leader that speaks for the majority at the time of the issue, in ad hoc committees, maybe we can get something done in the short run. Even though diplomacy has proven its effectiveness this time, this is not always the case. I believe that we need to change the system to allow for our voice to be heard strongly enough to convince our elected representatives of that change.

We can, however, still show our solidarity through media, and aid the victims of massacres: tortures like that of the 13-year-old boy al-Khateeb, rapes of refugee women by the soldiers supposedly “protecting” them to help Syria. No matter what way we choose to do assist, Minnesotans cannot give up on Syria even after the U.S. has declared not to attack Syria and our conscience are thus cleared.

View Comments (6)
More to Discover

Comments (6)

All The Mac Weekly Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • W

    William MartinSep 11, 2019 at 3:08 am

    You made some clear points there. I did a search on the subject matter and found most people will approve with your site.

  • J

    James BellSep 6, 2019 at 10:10 pm

    very nice submit, i definitely love this website, carry on it