The following entry is by guest bloggers Brandon Cestrone and Steve Strausbaugh of Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania.
Slippery Rock University Young Americans for Liberty wanted to host an event this semester to show our disapproval of the decade-long War on Terror in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many of the members of our group are very concerned with US foreign policy.
Early in the semester our group members came up with the idea of having a visual representation that showcased US fatalities in Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. We decided that filling the quad with 3,000 small US flags would be an excellent visual representation. Each flag represented two American fatalities in the last decade of war. To fund the event, we applied for and received a protest grant from Students for Liberty.
In addition to the flags planted on the quad, we reconstructed our free speech wall from a previous event in the fall which encouraged students to exercise their First Amendment rights during Constitution Week. This time the wall was dubbed the “Was it Worth it?” wall, where students could write their opinions of the war. Most comments showed disapproval toward our acts of aggression abroad, though there were many pro-war opinions as well, and many ROTC members and war veterans became actively engaged. This brought about interesting dialogue, since many students don’t understand the difference between being anti-war and anti-soldier.
Overall, the event was a huge success. It enabled our group to open up discussion with fellow students about the implications of the wars and the corrupt government policy of sustaining the overseas occupations. We tabled in front of the wall for an entire week during common hour and had our usual swag and flyers available for students to learn more about liberty. Thousands of students walked by the display each day. Brandon Cestrone documented the event with a inexpensive HD flip cam, and the event was covered in numerous local newspapers, including the Butler Eagle and Grove City Allied News.
Organizing events like our Decade of War event is vitally important. Most students don’t understand that we’ve been at war for over ten years. Students unfortunately can be blissfully ignorant of the consequences of our military adventurism. Many probably don’t know there are 900 US military bases scattered across 140 nations. Shielded from reality, the majority of American college students are clueless about the political situation in the Middle East, let alone the long history of US meddling. Education is the key to awakening our generation.
Most students don’t know that we have lost over 6,000 US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and according to The Lancet, over 650,000 Iraqi lives have been lost as a consequence of the war, which is about 2-5% of the population in the study area.
Most students don’t know that the Iraq war alone has cost US taxpayers over $800 billion dollars.
Most students don’t know that more US soldiers have died from suicide than combat over the past two years.
Candidate Obama ran for President as the “peace candidate,” but this couldn’t be further from the truth. He declared the war’s end, stating “the final work of leaving Iraq has been done,” but we are still spending $3.5 billion on our occupation there alone. Taxpayers are now provide funding for 14,000 to 16,000 contractors in Iraq. Most students don’t know that the Iraq War is not over.
Over 6,000 soldiers will never see their families again and we have also lost our most sacred civil liberties during the past decade, all because the State declared it in our best interest. This state of war will continue until the Americans realize that preemptive war is not the answer, and that the longer we occupy other countries, the less safe we will continue to be. Teaching students that preemptive war is not only a danger to our liberty, but also to our lives, is one of the most important conversations we as liberty lovers can have, and Young Americans for Liberty at Slippery Rock University are proud to have brought the discussion to our campus.