COLUMBIA — Hickman High School students pressed four Speak Your Mind panelists on why they thought the U.S. should be the "pit bull of democracy" and get involved in Libya.
Columbia resident Ahmed El-Tayash said the world owes it to Libya to get involved in the uprising. El-Tayash, a native-born Columbia resident with family in Libya, was one of four panelists at the Speak Your Mind discussion at Hickman High School on Tuesday night.
The panelist discussions are meant to be opportunities for Hickman students to practice their First Amendment rights. Speak Your Mind discussions have been held since 1990 when Ian Noyes, a Hickman student at the time, came up with the idea.
"Now it's become sort of part of Hickman culture," said George Frissell, the teacher who plans the event.
The topic, which was voted upon by Hickman students, was conflict and regime changes in the Middle East and North Africa. The discussion focused primarily on Libya but included Egypt and other countries less emphasized in media outlets such as CNN.
The panelists generally agreed the United States should get involved in some way in the conflict in Libya.
El-Tayash told the half-filled room of students, faculty and Columbia residents the history of Moammar Gadhafi's rule in Libya, the international laws he has broken and acts of terrorism against the U.S. — such as the bombing of a German nightclub with U.S. citizens inside — that the international community has looked past. A few of the panelists also said because the U.S. calls itself "the leader of the free world," it is the duty of the U.S. government to act in the interest of democracy.
Panelist and MU professor Larry Brown said one reason for not acting is the idea that if we help one country, we would have to help all of them.
Kurt Jefferson, another panelist and a professor at Westminster College in Fulton, said other countries with strong historical bonds, such as France, are much more active in the current conflict than the U.S. France, he said, recognizes the council of Libyans from different tribes as the new government in Libya, a move El-Tayash said is critical.
"If the international world recognizes them as the new government, they can make moves," El-Tayash said. "What we need to do is even out the playing field."
Panelist Shakir Hamoodi, who grew up in Iraq, compared the issue to the genocide in Rwanda. The U. S. will look back with regret on Libya, he said, the same way as it looks back on Rwanda now.
"Gaddafi will not hesitate to make it worse than Rwanda," Hamoodi said.