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UC Berkeley Point of View

Have the elections in Iraq changed your opinions about the Iraq war?

A thousand points of view
Check out the Point of View archive, with opinions on the presidential election, the Free Speech Movement, and more.

– The first competitive national elections in decades were held in Iraq on Sunday, January 30, and pictures of jubilant Iraqi voters were on every front page and evening news broadcast. We asked a sampling of Berkeley students whether their feelings about America's role in the war had shifted at all in response to the news, and if so, how.

We invite other Berkeley students, faculty, and staff to share their points of view with the campus community. We will update this page with a selection of the most thoughtful e-mail submissions over the next several days. (Jump to submissions.) Please limit your response to no more than 200 words; include your full name, year and major (or title and department); and send from your Berkeley e-mail account only, for verification purposes. (Note: We've gotten enough e-mails from alumni to persuade us that they should be allowed to participate as well.)

'Nothing has changed. I don't think we should have gone into Iraq, and I think we should get out while we still can. There were like 25 parties running for the same election, and just because one faction won doesn't mean that the other 24 are going to cooperate. It doesn't make any sense to me.'
—Zuhair Saadat, first-year student. Hometown: Santa Clara, CA.
Zuhair Saadat

Josh Kienitz
'The elections haven't changed my view of the war, although the coverage of the elections on the news looks good, seems positive. I heard that one-third of the assembly will be women, and there was a high turnout of female voters. Given the history of women's rights in Iraq and the Middle East, that's significant. They keep saying the turnout was surprisingly high, but I am not sure what expectations that was based on, so I can't help but be skeptical of what will happen.'
—Josh Kienitz, second-year Boalt Hall law student. Hometown: Lima, OH.

'No, it hasn't. I don't believe the elections were set up in the most democratic of manners. The process was aided by the United States too much to be considered truly independent Iraqi elections — you know, by the people of Iraq, for the people of Iraq.'
—Simona Langmaier, Haas MBA '06, Hometown: Sacramento, CA.
Simona Langmaier

Ryan Quinn
'I watch the news, but I don't trust what they say anymore. I was against the war, and it's a hard opinion to change. I just don't know how W. [President Bush] can sleep at night with all those people on the front. I guess it's good that the elections went well, but it would be naive to think that will change the violence over there at all.'
—Ryan Quinn, fourth-year forestry major. Hometown: Fiddletown, CA.

'Well, I was one of the few people who were for the war initially, but then I had to revise my stance when it went so badly. I think overall, the elections are positive, and if this works out, great. The pictures you see of people voting make everyone sentimental, but what will be even more depressing is if the hopes of all those people risking their lives to go to the booths don't get realized. Although maybe I am not as cynical as other people on campus, I am still worried.'
—Yael Livny, second-year Boalt Hall law student. Hometown: Berlin, Germany.
Yael Livny

Justin Barton
'No, they haven't changed my opinion. The reasons for going to war in the first place were wrong, and I don't think just having an election can justify that. I have watched some of the news coverage, mostly of Iraqi-Americans casting their absentee ballots here. They seem happy. A while ago I read that it looked like the U.S. was not pleased with the party that would probably win most of the votes, and I think that's just such a hypocritical situation: we "give" them their freedom and remove their dictator, but then they have to elect someone we like.'
—Justin Barton, fifth-year anthropology major. Hometown: Loas Banos, CA.

Other opinions, via e-mail (in the order received)

'The elections do not represent a real transfer of power to the Iraqis. That is because polls in Iraq show that the vast majority of Iraqis view us as an occupying power. And a country under foreign occupation cannot be independent, by definition. Likewise, elections run by an occupying power cannot be legitimate. We should pay Iraq reparations for having destroyed their country over the past two decades: first by supporting Saddam Hussein in the 1980s; then by destroying their infrastructure during the first Gulf War and through the sanctions imposed in the 1990s, along with periodic bombing; and finally by the invasion, which is estimated to have killed 100,000 Iraqis.'
—Daniel Cohen, fourth-year electrical engineering and computer science major.

'I was initially dead-set against the war (and mostly still am), but it’s hard to argue that we haven’t seen some positive changes as a result of it. For example: while I believe we should not have invaded in the first place, I think it’s great that Saddam Hussein is no longer in power. I think the reason that Bush was pushing so adamantly for these elections and not paying mind to calls for postponement is that he wants to show the American people definitive proof of significant progress in Iraq.

But hastily implemented elections are simply an easy-to-televise display of democracy; the real democracy will have to show itself through the actions of its government. To answer the question, these elections have not changed my opinion of the war, but the enhancement of life in Iraq and the improvement of world opinion regarding the U.S., should they manifest themselves, could change my view.'
—Chris Varesi, English '04. Orange County, CA.

'No, my opinion has not changed. I was against invading Iraq from the beginning.
The fact that they have now had an election has not changed my opinion. The election occurred only because of U.S. intervention. Otherwise it would not have happened. Sadly, once we leave, Iraq will be the new hotbed of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism.'
—I. Sanchez, endocrinology Ph.D '92.

'To this alum, Berkeley students seem so remarkably brainwashed. Even a cursory reading of student reactions to the recent Iraqi election reveals a lack of serious thought on the part of most these students, including, shockingly, some graduate students who should be developing a sense of independent thinking. You can almost visualize them droning to your reporter exactly on cue:"No, the election didn't change anything .... The evil Americans are forcing the Iraqi citizens to vote for a particular party ... We put Saddam in power, and kept him there ... George Bush is a murderer" and so on.

Far too many of America's young people have grown fat and happy, and they know that every spring and fall, they are able to bike over to the local elementary school, and cast their votes. Unfortunately, many of these students will actually fail to exercise their democratic right, which as we see now is not easily won.

Of course the elections in Iraq were a monumental event. Watching the elation on the faces of Iraqi voters is real, direct evidence these students should consider when debating the value of our presence in Iraq. Freedom, like so many other things in life, is difficult to attain. But as the saying goes, nothing in life worth doing is easy! Wake up, Berkeley!!'
—James Alpert, BS Engineering '04.

'The Iraq elections came with a tremendous propaganda barrage unleashed by the corporate media. Nothing has changed. American soldiers are still being killed; the Sunnis won't let power go without a fight; civilians are being killed by both sides. All I hear, is the insurgents will be finished shortly. (Peace is just around the corner.) The big winner is Iran: we have removed Iran's arch enemy and created a vacuum they are more than happy to fill. We have created conditions for training grounds of new terrorists to hone the skills of killing. Now, with the Shiites receiving the majority of the vote, an Islamic constitution may be around the corner.

When we as amateurs in reference to the age of these conflicts come with simplistic religious views of the world and try to intervene in complex political tribal and volatile religious areas, more wars and civil wars will follow. And nothing is said about the 13 permanent bases the U.S. is building — a recipe for future confrontation. Lies, deceit, propaganda galore. No! Nothing has really changed to make me change my mind, unfortunately.'
—John Gorbunoff, Night Pressroom Supervisor, UC Printing Services

'I don't believe that the Iraqis even had a election, and as educated people, we shouldn't refer to our current situation as a "war" — because it hasn't been one since Day One. We have lost more then 1,500 troops in our offensive against Iraq, and no one, even at our progressive [university] seems to care that we are essentially committing genocide on those fighting against the destruction of their nearly crippled culture. The fact is, as long as the United States or any other armed occupying force is present in iraq, the bloodshed will only increase on an increasing scale. We as a society need to wake up.'
—Albert Lae Mou, legal studies/Chinese major. Hometown: New York City and Taipei.

'The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.—Thomas Jefferson, 1787
Nothing in life is free, and I am afraid that those who oppose this war forget this. This is how I have felt about the war in Iraq all along, and this is how I feel now.
—Bill Principe, zoology '74. Hometown: La Cañada, CA.

'Nothing has changed. In fact, the elections have even lowered my opinion of the current administration (and half the American people). The reasons for invading Iraq have shifted from non-existent WMDs to liberating the people from Saddam, and if the U.S. is really so keen on its moral mission to free people from such evil and oppressive regimes, it should take the war further and attack the other 100 or so countries where there is no full democracy.

It is almost comical to see the U.S. administration trying to promote their propaganda about the Iraqi election (and the Americans buying into it, too). Journalists in Baghdad were limited to only five polling stations, and only one of these was not in a Shi'a area. Ninety percent of Sunnis were expected to not have participated. A high 72 percent turnout was hastily announced, which was later withdrawn and then a 60 percent figure was provided two days later. However, even if this statistic is accurate, only 8 million out of 14 million Iraqis bothered to register for the election, bringing the percentage down to 30 percent. Out of 1.2 million Iraqi exiles, only 280,000 registered to vote. Nor would high Iraqi participation in this election lend legitimacy to the occupation, as the administration has tried to suggest. Most Iraqis believe that forming a National Assembly will bring an end to the U.S. occupation, and that is the real reason many of them are voting.'
—Haywood Hiu Yat Ho, EECS '03. Hometown: Hong Kong.

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