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Articles and thoughts by Peter Holslin

Vox Pop: Why Did We Go to War?

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[The J/M/Z train at Myrtle Ave. Photo by Punk Elmo.]

Last Saturday, six people milling around Bushwick, a bustling immigrant neighborhood in Brooklyn, said the Bush Administration cooked up links between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda to invade Iraq, acting out a personal vendetta for the benefit of big business.

In the 1990s, Scott Brown, 47, said he regularly read newspaper and magazine articles suggesting that Hussein and Al-Qaeda were arch nemeses. “The two just never got along,” Brown said.

Nevertheless, in September 2002, by the end of a month-long drive across the country with his friend, Brown said that radio stations they listened to were in a furor over deposing Saddam, suddenly an alleged state sponsor of terrorism.

“In every small town across America, there were no opposition voices whatsoever,” he said. “Occasionally you would here someone called in and ridiculed.”

Brown thinks Bush was taking out a personal vendetta against Hussein—who dispatched agents to Kuwait in April 1993 in a failed attempt to assassinate the former president Bush.

Jason Enriquez, a 26 year old from Long Island, agreed. “There’s personal grudges,” Enriquez said.

Another reason for going to war, Enriquez said, was the prospect of securing control over Iraq’s oil fields. “But you’re never really gonna know the truth,” he added. “If you go by what everybody tells you, what the media tells you, they cover up a lot of the stories.”

Ty Smith, an African American fellow in his early thirties, pointed to lucrative contracts with weapons manufacturers.

“When there’s a war, companies get money,” Smith said, as he waited for food at a local diner called Snack Town. “There are a lot of arms companies out there that we don’t know about.”

Steve Trimboli, 50, a Brooklyn native who owns the bar Goodbye Blue Monday, echoed that sentiment. “It’s just big business,” Trimboli said. “I don’t even know how big it is, but it’s big.”

Still, nine people in the neighborhood did not know or care why America went to war.

“I really don’t wanna to talk about it,” said Andrew Gray, 35, a Briton who recently bought two row houses in Bushwick. “It’s just been going on so long, it’s just not something that I’m particularly bothered about.”

Cyrus, an African-American who declined to give a last name but looked to be in his early twenties, seemed to agree. He had scant interest in joining the war effort, to face an insurgency of violent paramilitary groups—like Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army and rival Shia militias, whom the United States suspects of getting funding and weapons from Iran, or the homegrown terrorist group Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, who lately have assassinated sheiks and police officers that support reconciliation in Iraq.

“I just live here,” Cyrus said, strolling down the street with his friend towards Flushing Ave, a lively commercial sector where cars clog the street near the Woodhull Medical Health Center, Latin music blasts from electronics stores and people eat roasted chicken at slapdash eateries. “We’re free,” he added.

Among the 17 people asked Saturday about why America went to war, six declined to comment altogether. But one supported the war. “They took down the twin towers,” said Ernesto Villegas, 38, a U.S. citizen from the Dominican Republic who owns a corner store on Broadway. “They can be back,” he added. “So we gotta go for war.”

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Written by Peter Holslin

September 30, 2007 at 6:14 pm

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