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The war is wrong
First Place $50
By Marya Nunez, Dominguez High School (Compton)

Every day, it’s war this and war that. Not a single day goes by that we don’t hear the word "war." It’s on the television, the radio, the streets and in our schools. We hear everyone arguing about the war. There are some people that agree with war but it seems to me the majority of the people think, "What’s the point?" Personally, I think that the war is wrong.

I think the war is wrong because I keep hearing President Bush telling people that he is doing this to free Iraq from the tyrant, Saddam Hussein. If he is trying to help the Iraqi people then why is he bombing their homes? Every day I see the newspaper, on the front page I see pictures of soldiers battling Iraq. Then under those pictures I see pictures of Iraqi women and children homeless after bombs or debris hit their houses; children left orphans because their parents have been killed in the bombings.

Bush is looking for problems with other countries. If he’s looking for problems he doesn’t have to look far. We have so many things wrong with our country. Before Bush tries to "solve" other country’s problems, he should solve his own. We have growing violence and drug usage. There is at least one homeless person on every block in America. We have these problems and many more problems facing our country, but for some reason Bush has to deal with Iraq’s problems first.

On the radio there is a song that talks about George Bush. It’s called "United States of Whatever" and it is supposed to be about Bush singing it. One of the things that the song says is "Mr. President, North Korea’s got nukes." Then Bush responds by pretending to speak Chinese and says. "Translation… whatever." This is true because Bush wasn’t sure if Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, but it is a fact that Korea had those. However, he concentrated everything on Iraq.

Some people my age don’t really care about the war because it doesn’t affect them. Others have family members on the other side of the world fighting. My sister’s boyfriend, Omar, is in Kuwait right now. Every day Maria, my sister, sits in front of the television making sure Omar wasn’t one of the soldiers that were wounded, or even worse, dead. Every time she hears that someone from his battalion is dead or injured she cries because she’s scared that he might be next. It hurts to see someone in your family suffering, longing for their love to return.

The war is causing so much suffering. Not just to the people Iraq, but also to the many people here in America. People waiting for, even mourning, their loved ones. Children not sure when their mom or dad is coming back or if they’re coming back at all. Is war really worth all this suffering? And not just emotional suffering, but we are probably going to see a lot of economic suffering after the war. Do we really want that?

Why are we at war?

Second Place (tie) $30
By Cristina Serrano, Cleveland HS (Reseda)

I can’t wholeheartedly agree with the decisions made by the Bush administration. I’m confused as to what the real motives behind the war are. After Sept. 11 we began our fight against terrorism. Our target was Osama bin Laden and his terrorist group, Al Qaeda. We invaded Afghanistan to try to find bin Laden and get rid of him. We weren’t successful in capturing bin Laden.

A year later the president started making connections between Al Qaeda and Iraq. Bin Laden was no longer our focal point. Saddam Hussein took center stage. Now we’re sending young troops unprepared for a fight of this caliber. It’s understandable that the president is trying to protect Americans from continued attacks in our own land.

The president seems to be impatient and disregards the opinion of many Americans that are against the war. If he’s fighting for the American people, why are their opinions being ignored? Our president wants to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam to create a new government. This no longer seems like a fight against terrorism but a fight to conquer new territory and expand America’s power.

Following the Gulf War of 1991, Iraqi civilian deaths were high, one estimate being 114,000. It’s logical to assume that such deaths will be high again, too. The war will make it difficult for the Iraqi people to get food, water and medical attention. It’s hard to understand how we can kill innocent people yet claim to want to free them from an oppressive ruler. We’re stooping to Hussein’s level by killing innocent people for no reason.

Are we trying to trade Iraqi blood for the American blood shed on Sept. 11? I truly hope not. The president hasn’t shown any official plans as to what his course of action will be with Iraq once Saddam is out of the picture. The reasons for invading Iraq are shaky and it’s not fair to our troops to fight for something that has not been completely proven. We are not positive that there is a connection between Hussein and the Sept. 11 attacks.

It’s hard to be against a war that seems so right to almost everyone. In my heart, I don’t feel right about the war. I’ll support the troops so that they don’t feel a negative response for the sacrifices they are making. But I don’t support Bush and his hasty decision.

War is dangerous
Second Place (tie) $30
By Talia Coutin, Upland HS

Imperious dictatorships. These are exactly what we Americans despise. When the words are pronounced, we gasp and shudder, as if on cue, compelled by our sense of moral righteousness and faith in our democratic system. We speak of such countries with endearing sympathy for the oppressed, with vitriolic anger for those manipulative and exploitative tyrants who wallow in self-glorification at the fate of the masses. The over-consumption of power, concentrated solely in one person – that is what we fear most. It is our duty as America’s youth, as citizens of the world to inhibit the growth of un-egalitarian regimes and to dismantle those extant ones that are all too hideous; this is our noble obligation.

The current affairs of our nation seem mildly depressing; an economy bursting in tears, corporate malfeasance left under-prosecuted, the suction of clean air, the future of social security foreboding, shame for rejecting many international treaties that would work well to improve the lives of people everywhere – but we persevere. Scarred by the atrocities of Sept. 11, "justice" has become tantamount to "retaliation" or "revenge." This seems acceptable, if not wholly good, in the situation where our nation is being attacked and we must defend ourselves. But the current scheme to attack without being attacked is reminiscent of an angry hornet, one that viciously stings its victims even if unprovoked, without knowledge or reason or justice.

Hauntingly enough, such action is even reminiscent of the man whom we’ve attacked, the Butcher of Baghdad who massacred thousands of his own Kurdish minority with chemical weapons and razed villages of Shiites in the south. The difference of course is that our own government isn’t brutal in the same context, but our mission of pre-emptive justice will attack another country deeply impoverished and highly oppressed, but undeserving of a military invasion nonetheless.

In doing so, we could enkindle more flames of hatred from many more Al Qaeda-esque groups. Yet perhaps what is most daunting is that congressional leaders decided to relegate powers specifically designated to congress to one man, a mass concentration of power in one person. Isn’t this hypocritical? Is this not what we so vehemently abhor, especially when waging peace is less important than waging war? Truth be told, this is subversive to our democracy. What were once the vibrant red, white and blue has now become dulled into muted grays.

War is justified, says an Iraqi teen living here
Third Place ($20)
By Essra Jawad, Glen A. Wilson HS (Hacienda Heights)

As an Iraqi American living in the United States all my life, I feel that the war is justified. I feel that the Bush administration is not going into Iraq for the oil but mainly to free the Iraqi people from the evil tyrant Saddam Hussein. Saddam for years has tortured and killed his people just because of their differences of opinion toward the Ba’ath party’s ideas. Saddam doesn’t care if his people are dying of hunger as long as he is in control of Iraq.

My parents were against Saddam’s ideas and therefore fled the country in order to get more freedom and a better opportunity here in America. My father escaped from Iraq because he came from a religious family and Saddam is against anyone who is religious. My father’s cousin was taken by the secret police in Iraq and was killed at the age of 11. Another of my father’s cousins participated in a religious ceremony and therefore was taken by Saddam’s secret police along with four other men. He was only 17 at the time and since in Iraq it was against the law to execute someone under the age of 18, Saddam made his age 18 and ordered his execution. The secret police then took the dead 17-year-old to his parents’ door and said that his parents were not allowed to have a funeral or any type of mourning for their son’s death.

Since my uncles were religious they celebrated religious holidays and did the traditional ceremonies even though it was not allowed. As a result, my uncles were forced to flee the country before it was too late. They decided to escape through the country of Kuwait. My grandfather was affected by this because Saddam’s secret police arrived at my grandfather’s house they had asked for my uncles. My grandfather refused to tell them the whereabouts of my uncles and therefore my grandfather was taken by the secret police and tortured in prison for nine months. They tortured him by cutting beneath the skin of his foot and placing acid in the cut. My father felt that his life was in jeopardy, so he decided to flee the country as well. My father used a fake passport to get into Kuwait. There he was safe and stayed with his brothers who had been waiting for him to arrive safe and sound.

As for my mother, my grandfather was half-Persian so during the Iran-Iraq war, Saddam deported people who were half-Persian. As a result, my mom decided to escape before they were all taken away. My mother and father met in America and since then have not seen their country in nearly 20 years. They long to go back and I long to see the country they talk to me about. I hear of the great traditions and the beauty of the country and I want to be a part of that. I have an uncle in Iraq that I have never seen or even heard his voice before. I am hoping by the end of the war to be able to finally see my uncle and the rest of my family. I do hope that they are safe and sound as well as the Iraq people living in Iraq.

As for the protesters doing their demonstrations, I feel that they don’t know what they are talking about. They protested against the war and violence, yet they are using violence in order to get their point across. I feel that at a time like this people need to support the American troops as well as the Iraqi people who are living in Iraq because they are struggling during this war. American troops need our support because they are putting their lives on the line in order to free the country of Iraq that is controlled by an evil, vicious and heartless dictator, Saddam Hussein.

Many people, I think, are afraid that America is going to betray them like they did in 1991 after Desert Storm. America told Iraqi civilians to rise up against the evil tyrant Saddam. When the Iraqi civilians began to rise up, American decided not to help. In that year Saddam killed thousands upon thousands of Iraqi civilians by torturous means, including running over them with tanks. I believe it is the decision of the Iraqi citizens living in Iraq to decide on whether this is was is justified because they will be the ones who will be greatly affected by the outcome of this war. As from what I am seeing, the Iraqi people are greeting the U.S. and British troop with great welcome and are thankful that the allied troops have finally come to remove the evil Saddam Hussein and his regime.