Anti-war activist Dr. Dahlia Wasfi spoke Thursday April 17 about the negative impacts of the Iraq war on Iraqi people and the United States.
She urged Congress to end the war two years ago and advocates for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.
Francesca Fornasini ’10, the head of the social justice branch of the College’s Catholic Campus Ministry, invited Wasfi as an addition to several events concerning the war that she had recently seen on campus.
Wasfi has a Jewish mother and Iraqi-Muslim father. She grew up in Iraq under Saddam Hussein and in 1977 moved to the United States. Here, she earned a medical degree, but left the profession for activism.
Wasfi’s lecture was entitled “Iraq: The New Genocide.”
“I call this genocide, though it’s not officially used by this administration to describe what’s happening,” she said. “It’s a desperate and incredibly difficult life for people on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
She gave a warning before showing “images of occupation.” The disclaimer excluded the first slide, which showed a Radio and Television Correspondence Association Dinner, an annual black-tie gala at which the president typically presents a brief comedy act.
“Last year after April 16, Bush said that he would not present a comedy routine, but the year before, he didn’t have a problem cracking jokes,” she said as she showed a slide of the president jokingly looking under a chair for weapons of mass destruction.
“But this young man probably didn’t find it funny that he was sent to find WMDs that don’t exist,” she said of a slide depicting an injured soldier.
Wasfi also used many pictures of her family in her talk. As she showed a picture of her grandparents, who had a Sunni-Shia intermarriage, she claimed that the sectarian strife that Americans believe exists between the Iraqis is the “age-old tactic of divide and conquer” used by the United States.
“The strife we see today is a result of the occupation,” she said. “We have a picture of people who can’t wait to kill each other once left to their own devices.”
She tried to show what life is like for families and people on the ground in Iraq. Her biggest concern was the lack of law and order in the country.
“Families pay the price,” she said. “If you take any nation in the world, it is made up of families.”
Wasfi also addressed Iraqi image in America.
“It is unfair to characterize a whole group by actions of an extremist for Islams, just as it is unfair to characterize all of Christianity by someone like Bush, who, apparently, God talked to him and told him that if he invaded Iraq there would be no casualties,” she said.
She also gave a brief history of Iraqi civilization, which she said flourished for 7,000 years and gave birth to Arabic numbers and the basis for law and medicine.
“These were all created without any American or British — it’s true,” she said.
She said that women’s rights have degenerated since the occupation. According to Wasfi, Iraq was one of the most progressive countries for women’s rights prior to the 1980’s.
“Since our invasion, the rights of women have been set back by decades, if not centuries,” she said.
Besides this, she stated that many Iraqi families and American soldiers develop post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the conflict.
“They will tell you that one-third of soldiers come back with this; I will tell you three out of three,” she said.
In addition, she said that they sometime do not get a doctor’s appointment for up to six months, and in that interval before their appointments, they may choose to self-medicate.
“Society will pay with problems with drugs and alcohol,” she said. “We as a society are going to pay sooner or later. In addition, 38 percent of homeless people are veterans and already some of those are from the Iraq War.”
“I don’t know how I feel about all of her political points of view and I can’t speak on behalf of the Catholic community,” Fornasini said at the end of Wasfi’s talk. “But I appreciate that she brought attention to people there and attention to the soldiers.”