The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday December 6th

Teach-in Aims to Promote Awareness of Iraqi Issues

Speakers encouraged event participants to petition policymakers to change U.S. policies toward Iraq.

SURGE featured speakers Rania Masri, a graduate of N.C. State University, and Tomas Murawski, a UNC senior and SURGE member.

The event's organizer, SURGE member Elizabeth Ferris, said her goal was to raise awareness about Iraq and the U.S. bombing campaign against it. "I didn't know what was going on (in Iraq) a year ago, and now I'm horrified by it," she said.

Ferris also said the current political climate was an influencing factor in planning the teach-in, especially President Bush's comments in his State of the Union address in January. In that speech, Bush labeled Iran, Iraq and North Korea as "an axis of evil."

Masri said these three countries are unrelated, and she does not understand why Bush chose Iraq to be the No. 1 target.

She began her discussion on Iraq by detailing the history behind the U.S. bombing of Iraq, which began in January 1991 and has continued for the past 11 years.

Masri explained that the bombing is worsened by the economic sanctions the United States places on Iraq, causing mass starvation of civilians. She focused on the death of children in Iraq, saying that the United States has killed half a million children under age 5 since the bombing started. Some of the worst problems in Iraq are the U.S. destruction of telecommunication, electrical communication and water treatment facilities, she said. "The No. 1 cause of child mortality in Iraq is contaminated water."

Masri also said the United States is currently stealing Iraqi oil money through a deal called the Oil-for-Food Program, in which the United Nations trades food rations for Iraqi oil money. The most highly paid United Nations officials are those dealing with Iraq because the oil money is paying their salaries, she said.

"A bunch of rich white men in suits are determining what's happening in Iraq."

Murawski also discussed the trip he took to Iraq in January 2001. He described some of the horrifying images he said he faced there, including infants with birth defects who were born to malnourished pregnant women.

Murawski also said he was appalled that he couldn't even drink the water at the five-star hotel where he stayed in downtown Baghdad.

After their lectures, both speakers fielded questions from the audience.

Before ending, the speakers urged the audience to take personal action by calling representatives and senators, attending functions in Washington, D.C., and writing letters to local newspapers.

Freshman Tre Jones, who heard about the event by e-mail, said he wanted to get more facts about the situation in Iraq.

After exposure to some of the information, Jones said he plans to follow up. "I want to do reading to find out how much of what the speakers said is rhetorical and how much is a real problem I should take an interest in."

The University Editor can be reached at udesk@unc.edu.

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