Phyllis Bennis opened her speech by clarifying a rumor: the Islamic State group did not start when Obama pulled troops out of Iraq, she said.
Bennis, the author of “Understanding ISIS and the Global War on Terror: A Primer,” spoke at Western on Wednesday, Feb. 3, as part of Fairhaven’s World Issues Forum.
About 100 people filled Fairhaven College Auditorium to learn more about ISIS. About one-third of the attendees were community members, while two-thirds were students.
Bennis said that ISIS started in 2004 during the Bush administration, while the United States occupied Iraq.
Citizens in Iraq disagreed with the United States occupancy because of the civilian casualties, Bennis said.
“Every time people get killed over there, someone gets angry,” she said during her speech.
Instead of more violence, Bennis said that the U.S. should stop sending more weapons into the area, and withdraw the troops from combat, as well.
“What really irritates me is to hear some of our politicians spout off about how they are going to destroy ISIS. The first thing you should be doing is getting rid of the symptoms for ISIS,” said Gene Marx, the coordinator for Bellingham’s Veterans for Peace chapter.
Gene Marx said he wants to work toward abolishing war and increasing awareness to the true cost of war.
Veterans for Peace co-sponsored the event, along with the political science department, Whatcom Community College and Voices for Middle East Peace, according to the College of Humanities and Social Sciences website.
Parallel with Bennis’s goals, Bellingham’s Veterans for Peace chapter was founded in 2004 to help educate others on the cost of war.
“As we are speaking now, we are spending somewhere along the line of 7,000 dollars a minute dropping bombs on ISIS,” Marx said. “My grandkids will be paying for this war.”
That number equates to about one quarter of tuition at Western for Washington state residents.
Marx recommends going to the root of the problem. Veterans for Peace addressed the root of the Iran deal by talking to their lawmakers, he said.
“Some of our members here in town were speaking to Rick Larson and convinced him to support the Iran deal,” he said.
Marx wants to engage in conversation with those who don’t believe discussion can be more effective than violence, he said.
“There are so many examples of where talking works,” Marx said. “How about Martin Luther King Jr.? That’s a non-violent movement. How about Gandhi?”
Freshman Madi Morrison said she attended the event to get a better understanding of ISIS.
“What I got out of [the speech] was, when it comes to foreign policy, the U.S. should really try to be more compassionate and start considering other options rather than just going straight to bombing and using more military force,” Morrison said.
Morrison reflected on the first policy goal Bennis discussed in the presentation.
“I really liked what she said about first and foremost trying to do no harm,” Morrison said. “I think that’s probably the most important thing when we’re talking about innocent lives.”
Now, Morrison wants to follow the news to stay up to date on ISIS, and find opportunities to help refugees, she said.
Bennis said students can learn more by reading books and joining organizations that will instruct them on talking to members of Congress.
Bennis’ book is available at the Associated Students Bookstore.