What is the war in Iraq about?

When the Bush Administration declared "war" on Iraq my first thought was, "This is about oil." This assumption was mostly based upon a cynicism and distrust of government dating back to 1989. That was the year that I first read "The Crimes of a President," graduated from high school and dosed on my first hit of LSD.

I read maybe one article in The Oregonian, in April or May of 2003, drawing a connection between the war and oil. On the Internet, however, I found plenty of evidence to support my flimsy suspicion – but my eyes were only open to what I was looking for.

A year went by and in March of 2004, the Washington Report, a political magazine on Middle East Affairs, stated, "Water is potentially a more explosive substance than oil in the Middle East." Apparently, Israel’s only source of water lies under the West Bank and is not enough for their population. "The only option to guarantee Israel a water supply was to change the regime in Iraq and distribute Iraq’s abundant water to surrounding areas."

I believed that this war was about oil, because that is what I wanted to believe. I have many opinions about this war and the U.S. government, some of which may be true, some of which may not. What is true is that the more I read and see, the more complicated (and complete) my narrow picture of Iraq becomes.

Yet, who am I to have an opinion about any of it? I’m a college student in Portland, living off my financial aid, and if I were to write down everything I know on index cards, just the facts, I might be able to fill a very small shoebox. My point – and fear – is that I am only one person living on a very dynamic, complex planet, and my opinions are about as important as a bowl of rice.

"Voices of Iraq," a recent documentary, has led me to this conclusion. Two filmmakers from New York sent 150 digital video cameras to Iraq, enabling "everyday people -mothers, children, teachers, sheiks and even insurgents – to voice their perspectives on issues such as war, terror and the democratic reform."

The filmmakers edited over 500 hours of footage to produce this 90-minute documentary. What they left out is impossible to say, but what they left in is eye-opening.

The majority of Iraqis in "Voices of Iraq" express a tremendous relief at having Saddam out of power. An equal number of them are exhausted from the bombings (both U.S. and insurgent), but the majority of them seem to be in strong support of having a stable, secure democratic Iraq, and are grateful to the United States for its role in this.

Two days after the presidential elections and the day before I saw this film, I nearly was in tears thinking of all the innocent civilians who have died in Iraq. I was equally upset that 52 percent of the U.S. population had endorsed these murders by voting for Bush. Then I watched "Voices of Iraq" and realized how arrogant and presumptuous my opinions and sentiments are. Now, maybe the filmmakers were intentionally looking to shape a documentary with an overwhelmingly positive U.S. bent. The point is that my opinions, thousands of miles from the source, are based on very little fact and are about as useful as a pet rock.

The Iraq war is a war of information as much as it is a war against terrorism. One side says one thing, the other says another. It is a war about media control. Maybe it’s about oil, water, fighting terrorists, democracy, greed, power, imperialism and a hundred other things, which I am not and never will be privy to.

I am still angry at the Bush administration because they are lying to the public and the majority of people in the United States are buying it. Now, I can have an opinion about all of this, or I can do something about it.

A.J. Jackson can be reached at [email protected]