The independent news organization of Duke University

Column: Continue to question

I would like to suggest that instead of a constant pursuit of answers, we take a step back and think of some important questions. We are so trained to come to conclusions, think up solutions and formulate proposals that we don't often have enough time to really understand what the consequences of these decisions are.

You might think that I am not being concrete, that I'm going on a philosophical rant. Maybe I am. But maybe we need to sometimes, especially in times such as these. When we implement solutions to problems, when we believe that we can work hard and change things, most of the time we are using Band-Aids. We are figuring out how to cover a gushing wound with a small strip of plastic. Not only does this not work, but it also doesn't really change anything.

I fall into these traps myself. I try and think of solutions to the millions of problems I see around me. I think about what is effective and what is efficient. But what I have realized is that right now I don't need to solve these problems, simply asking questions is important enough. After hearing various opinions on going to war with Iraq I have to ask "What will we accomplish?" and "Who will benefit?"

When I try to understand what the United States's relationship is to Iraq today, I have to look at history. The economic sanctions that have been placed on Iraq since 1990, that killed thousands of children, come to mind. In 1996 when a reporter said to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: "We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And--and you know, is the price worth it?" Albright responded: "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price--we think the price is worth it."

Now that is a million dollar question. I would follow up by asking Albright whom she represents when she says "we think the price is worth it." So half a million children are construed as non-humans. They are the collateral damage in a foreign policy solution. They are a price. We always have to pay a price in war, right? After all, we pay the price so we can prevent more death and destruction.

As Rashmi Varma, English professor at the Univeristy of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said on a recent panel, we have a situation in which non-humans are killed in the name of human rights. How is the discourse of human rights transformed to aid in justifying killing? What kind of paradoxical logic is that? In many cases today, the excuse of human rights is used just as the excuse of civilization was used during colonialism. Invade for our own interests and say we're saving people.

As long as we're supporting human rights, let's look at the United States's present record of human rights. We continue to execute people through a barbaric death penalty and imprison thousands of people of color, including the detainment of immigrants. Harsh drug laws and a growing prison industrial complex have created a booming prison population. Our government refuses to give U. S. citizens health care, welfare and equal educational opportunities. In addition, we have access to weapons of mass destruction. Perhaps another nation should invade the United States and force a regime change?

Obviously this logic sounds crazy to most Americans. However, to many people around the world, the logic of United States foreign policy sounds equally insane. Two weeks ago, half a million people protested in Florence, Italy against a U.S.-led war with Iraq. Though the United States has passed its resolution in the United Nations, it has done this mostly through coercive power: bribes and implicit threats. I'm not going to lay out a plan for how to save the world (at least not yet). But I am going to continue to question what I see going on around me. What are you going to do?

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