A year after the Persian Gulf war started, discussion of the conflict today still draws a sharp response from people who opposed the U.S. military role in the war.
"I think that allegedly we went in there to make life better for the people of Kuwait and get this suppressive force the truth is, I think the lives of people in Kuwait are worse now than they were before the war," said David Brown, a member of the Lawrence Coalition for Peace and Justice.
From the fall of 1990 to March 1991, the coalition sponsored weekly peace vigils every Sunday at the Douglas County Courthouse. At its peak, as many as 675 people attended the vigils to protest the war.
As evidence of the war's unfavorable toll, Brown cited the pollution from oil fires, the damaged national infrastructure and political reasons why the Kuwaiti people are in bad shape today.
"They live in a country that is torn by civil strife, they have absolutely no freedoms, (and) we did not improve the political standing of that country at all," he said. "Presumably, that was what this war was about."
Louise Hanson, coalition president, also says the war hasn't brought stability to the Persian Gulf region.
"THERE WAS instability created by Saddam Hussein. Well, Saddam Hussein is still there," she said of the Iraqi ruler. "The war brought great loss of life, a huge amount of military casualties, and a huge amount of civilian casualties in Iraq. That is a consequence of war that we have to continuously be aware of."
Allan Hanson, Louise Hanson's husband and a professor of anthropology at Kansas University, said he was saddened by the U.S. reaction at home during the war.
"What I have found so disturbing about the whole thing is that the America's view on this world is very narcissistic," he said. "The main legacy of this war is that for a while, we felt good about ourselves. It seems to me that if the United States is going to achieve a viable position in the world, we have to do something more than feel good about ourselves because of our abilities to destroy."
THE THREE coalition members said they hoped people would learn to seek peaceful alternatives to future conflicts. Excluding Yugoslavia and the former Soviet republic of Georgia, the changes in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union have been "relatively peaceful," Allan Hanson said.
"So far those people have been dealing with tremendously important political and economic questions . . . with negotiations and making drastic changes in their social systems without much violence," he said. "If they can continue that, maybe that would be a sign that the world is coming to a point where we can achieve peaceful reconciliations and peaceful solutions."
Brown said the coalition will continue its tradition as an educational organization involved at the community level. For example, Allan Hanson said the group was interested in improving community relations in Lawrence, especially in light of the deaths of several young Native American men in recent years.
The group also will retain its interest in global affairs by sponsoring a symposium on international issues this spring. The members said they would demonstrate when they felt it necessary and stay active in local, national and international issues.
LOUISE HANSON said the coalition is trying "to create locally, the world that we want. We feel it's our responsibility, and it's our want to do that."
Looking back at the year since Operation Desert Storm commenced, the three agreed the world was a better place today, although not because of the Persian Gulf War. They said they hoped the United States would not rely on its military power nor become isolationist in the future when dealing with world problems.
"I'd like to see America not be isolated, but help in the peaceful development of free societies throughout the world," Brown said. "America has great resources, and we can gain in peaceful change without sending military arms. War is destructive, and there is no reason for it."