Wheels of Justice provides first-hand account of foreign conflict

Wheels of Justice provides first-hand account of foreign conflict

CHARLOTTE TAYLOR AND GWENDOLYN GAUSE
Arbiter Staff
Issue date: 3/20/08 Section: News

wheels

The Wheels of Justice tour brought a message of hope and peace as it rolled into Boise Monday. Wheels of Justice is a non-profit organization that tours the country in a bio-diesel bus and educates Americans on the conflicts in Israel-Palestine and Iraq.

Speakers Mark Turner and Salam Talib visited Boise State Monday and Tuesday evenings as part of the tour. Turner and Talib, like all other Wheels of Justice speakers, are volunteers.

The presentation, held in the Student Union Building Bishop Barnwell Room, began with an introduction by Boise State English professor Marcy Newman, Idaho Peace Coalition spokesperson Liz Paul and Wheels of Justice Bus Driver Bill Hill.

“If anybody would have told me in 1999 that we’d be doing this nine years later, I would have told them they were crazy,” Hill, a Vietnam veteran, said. “This is the only way that we as Americans have been speaking out against what our government does.”

The first speaker, Mark Turner, spoke to a crowd of about 40 people on his experience in Palestine and the devastation that the Israeli occupation has caused.

Turner is the founder of the Research Journalism Initiative, a program that provides video and audio resources for Palestinian students to share their stories first-hand.

“We produce material that could be incorporated as curriculum here in the U.S.,” Turner said. “We give [American students] the opportunity to engage Palestinian students in this through video conferencing.”

Turner described the state of Palestine as one without electricity, fresh water or raw sewage treatment centers. Poor conditions and violence have escalated to the point where, according to Turner, the Palestinian situation could be considered genocide. He attributed this to the Israeli occupation with influence from the United States and United Kingdom, as well as both foreign and Israeli corporate interests.

“We’re talking about corporations determining the life or death of Palestinians,” Turner said. “Israel does not have the right – none of us do, thank God – to violate human rights law.”

Salam Talib, born in Iraq in 1975, spoke about his life in both before and after American occupation Iraq.

“War is the first thing I know in my life, and it is the last thing I know when I left Iraq,” Talib said.

He explained what Iraq was like under the rule of Saddam Hussein, and the state of Iraq after American troops invaded in 2003. Hussein, according to Talib, was brutal and deprived the Iraqi people of many resources. He described secret police knocking on doors in the middle of the night, and civilians being executed in front of their families.

“The Iraqis thought whatever the Americans can be, they can’t be worse than Saddam,” Talib said.

However, Talib stated that Iraq has worsened considerably since the American occupation began.

“Americans don’t knock on the door, they knock down the door,” Talib said.

He went on to describe looting as a direct result of an American military process referred to as “securing the building.” He also shared a personal experience where he would have been shot had it not been for his ability to speak English.

Talib described an Iraq with no jobs, no public records, no justice system and no infrastructure. “It’s not just like Saddam, it’s worse than Saddam,” Talib said.

He explained that, in his opinion, American troops should pull out of Iraq immediately, because the longer they stay, the longer it will take the country to recover.

The audience was attentive and asked many poignant questions about the situations in both these regions. Some audience members shared personal stories of friends and family members who are overseas.

“They were speaking from their true life experience,” audience member Gail Hawkins said about Turner and Talib. “It was very personal.”

For more information on Wheels of Justice, students can visit justicewheels.org.

Turner stressed, however, that there is no source available where students can go to get the truth.

“If kids want answers, they have to build the mechanisms to get those answers themselves,” Turner said.

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