Ninth anniversary of war in Afghanistan inspired group discussion

Monday, October 11, 2010 | 8:10 p.m. CDT; updated 8:51 p.m. CDT, Monday, October 11, 2010

COLUMBIA — Four years after leaving Afghanistan, Roya Firozi is still having nightmares.

"Thirty years — three decades of being not sure if you're going to live — there has always been war," she said.

Firozi spoke Sunday at the Boone County Government Center as part of the Columbia Peace Coalition's "teach-in" to mark the ninth anniversary of the war in Afghanistan.

The date of the ninth anniversary of the war fell on Oct. 7.

Firozi came to America as a high school exchange student. In 2006, she gave a speech at her high school in San Antonio, Texas, thanking the American soldiers for fighting.

"But now things have changed dramatically," Firozi said. "Things are different now because we are not seeing Americans helping."

Firozi said she thinks sending more troops isn't the answer.

"What the soldiers are doing is creating more enemies, because they can't differentiate between the Taliban and civilians," she said.

Firozi said civilian deaths are just viewed as mistakes because it's war, and all is fair.

"What happens if you do this mistake again and again?" Firozi said.

Firozi said many Afghans are more sympathetic toward the Taliban after someone they know has been killed by an American.

"Peace is not a plateau but a process," said panelist Gene Robinson, MU professor emeritus of community development.

Robinson said soldiers have to view the enemy differently in order to fight the war.

"We must win over them; we stigmatize them so if they are harmed it doesn't effect us," he said.

In the war, drone pilots return to a military base after they finish a mission, removing them even further from the battlefield, Robinson said.

The New America Foundation estimates that drone attacks have caused between 26 and 60 civilian casualties in the 85 drone attacks this year. However, the actual numbers are up for debate. The government cannot identify all the names of the individuals in each attack.

Collateral damage will still have effects long after coalition forces have left, Robinson said.

"The worst thing to do is to be apathetic and indifferent," Robinson said.

Another panelist John Betz, a radio personality from KOPN and a Vietnam War veteran, said the war in the Middle East isn't receiving the same amount of public protesting as the Vietnam War.

"It ain't the same as Vietnam; every conversation was about Vietnam," he said.

Betz said there are around 150,000 troops in Afghanistan and they keep being redeployed. 

"Without there being a draft, far fewer people are being touched by this war," Betz said.

Vietnam was always on the television, which hasn't happened with these wars, Betz said.

"We need to see the bodies," he said. "If this war was on the news everyday, we would be rioting in the streets."

After the program, a peace procession walked through the intersection of Broadway and Providence Road holding signs reading "Honk for Peace."

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