At War With Peace

Personal experience in Mideast leads to clarity & vision

By Luis Vega
Published on LatinoLA: May 28, 2002

At War With Peace

Colony = a country or area under the control of another country and settled by people from that country.

Patriotism, hate, honor, revenge or desperation? What motivates Palestinian teenagers to wrap themselves in sugar and fertilizers to become human bombs?
What motivates young Israeli soldiers to use sophisticated weapons of war against civilians claiming their independence?

The Arab-Israeli conflict dates thousands of years. Nevertheless, the United States, a young nation founded on Christian principles, is the only nation in the world with the credibility, authority, military and economic strength to force both sides to end their dangerous dance with death.

This situation has put the White House on checkmate, threatens to paralyze our global war on terrorism, put in doubt President Bush's leadership before the eyes of the whole world. Rejecting the intervention of the United Nations, the European Union, human rights organizations, and ignoring the advise of Russia, China and Latin America, Israel's Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, has not only humiliated and cornered Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, but also the American president.

In a decade the success of "Desert Storm" against Iraq's occupation of Kuwait have been demolished, like sand castles in the desert, by America's apparent impotence before the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. Today the Middle East region perceives us as villains, Saddam Hussein popularity as an anti-imperialist leader has been resurrected and world public opinion has turned against us.

The ghosts of Vietnam still visit the White House. No intelligent American president wants to enter in a colonial conflict not our own. Vietnam's cost was thousands of victims, billions of dollars, families and the country divided, provoked massive protests, demonized our Armed Forces, stained the national prestige and brought America it's first modern military defeat.

It is not necessary to take sides on the Arab-Israeli conflict. We have to see it through purely American eyes when we analyze how to promote peace in a scenario of violence, death and war.

When I visited the Middle East, as a Latino soldier in the Naval Reserve of the United States, I could not avoid to see reflected in the local landscape fragments of common struggles, shared frictions, truncated dreams. Under my American military uniforms lives a being who understands the glory of the 'conquistador' and the suffering of the conquered. It is not an existential contradiction but the awakening of a higher consciousness. Can war transform me into a man of peace?

Militarized borders, ancient territorial conflicts, different customs and languages, connected economies, common history, a rich and powerful country with nuclear weapons neighboring a poor one with desire to prosper, this scenario is not exclusive to the Middle East. But in other latitudes leaders and visionary governments transform these difficult realities in mutual opportunities for progress; like Mexico and the United States.

While walking freely, after finishing my military job at the aircraft carrier USS Constellation, through the streets and 'barrios' of the Muslim island of Bahrain, I recognized in their culture features of mine. Jennifer Lopez posters adorn their record stores and Mexican 'telenovelas', dubbed to Arabic, dominated Bahrain's primetime national TV schedule. I discovered at the other side of the world the profound roots of Latino culture.

My personal experience made me understand that the Middle East crisis is not a problem of its people, both suffering and fed up of violence, rather it is the manifestation of the lack of morality of both their leaders. An old generation of violent men without vision who only know how attract followers by promoting hate, revenge and destruction. Political dinosaurs who attempt to seduce us to join their dangerous dance with death. It is not a friend one who transfers his problems and
disobeys our orders.

Perhaps destiny has wanted that an American president with Mexican blood in his immediate family, George W. Bush, be the one who faces the current Middle East crisis with the moral strength and legitimacy a prosperous and peaceful nation confers him. The American message to the region and the world must be: Violence as a method of political change is unacceptable and the occupation of territories by force indefensible. Colonialism is dead.

About Luis Vega:
Luis Vega is the Republican Congressional candidate for the 31st District. He is a freelance journalist and educator in Los Angeles.

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