Iraq War displays importance of information
The enemy in the War on Terror is so vague, many struggle to justfy its cause
Published: Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Updated: Friday, December 26, 2008 18:12
Few topics in the last 100 years have sparked as much debate and as many heated opinions as the current war in Iraq.
Not since Vietnam has the American public been so ambivalent about a war.
Despite this uncertainty, almost everyone has a variety of ardent beliefs about its justification and execution.
Worst of all, everybody seems compelled to share their beliefs with anyone who will listen.
Although there are a number of on-the-surface differences between the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, the true difference lies in the amount and accuracy of information being leaked to the public.
Americans had not seen extensive war footage broadcast into their homes before the invasion of Vietnam.
The mostly unfiltered acts of violence and chaos displayed on their television sets helped sway public opinion against a war where little credible information reached the masses.
With the Operation: Iraqi Freedom and the current war, the inverse is true.
Thanks to the proliferation of journalism and rise of the Internet, it is unlikely that Americans will ever have to worry about lack of information ever again.
Unfortunately, with so much information so readily available, it is easy for anyone with even the highest levels of comprehension and patience to become lost in a swirl of confusion.
Countless media outlets barrage people with cold statistics and euphemisms, writing stories that create more questions than they answer and are aimed more at changing people's beliefs rather than informing.
What are insurgents?
Why does it matter if a suicide bomber is female?
Who is the actual enemy America is fighting?
The answer to the first, according to Merriam-Webster, is "a person who rises in revolt against civil authority or an established government, especially one not recognized as a belligerent."
This could mean roughly anybody from Cindy Sheehan to John Wilkes Booth.
Answering the last two questions is a bit more complicated, however, as one could easily reply to both with "who knows?"
Most Americans were in favor of the country's involvement in World War II because there was an obvious enemy - Adolf Hitler.
In Vietnam and Iraq, however, rather than fighting a clearly distinguished person or set of people, the adversary is more of an abstract idea.
It becomes more difficult to support a war when the enemy is a form of government or emotion.
Admittedly, one could argue that the Vietnam War was more of an attack on the North Vietnamese rather than communism, but the reason the United States decided to intervene was the fear of communism spreading.
Similarly, the enemy in the War on Terror is so vague, many struggle to justify its cause.
Without much visual imagery outside of photographs, Americans have been left to sort through the deluge of unorganized facts.
For when the information is organized, it is commonly done so in a way to shape thought.
Therefore, it is every American's responsibility to do their research, meaning that one cannot simply rely on a single American media outlet.
Eric Drues, a Contra Costa College student and former Army soldier who served two separate years in Iraq, encourages everybody to seek out information from multiple sources across the globe and act upon their beliefs.
"Go to BBC. Go to Al-Jazeera. Go to places that will build knowledge," Drues said. "Let your opinion be heard, contribute in any way you can."
The point of studying history is to learn from past mistakes.
Information has never been easier to find and gather, one just has to grasp it.
Perhaps more importantly, however, one must grasp it without preconceived conclusions about its meaning.
Alec Surmani is an associate editor of The Advocate. Contact him at email@example.com.