Syrian-American alumnus weighs in on current conflict

Last updated: 09/08/13 5:59pm


The conflict in Syria has been a global debate since the Arab Spring uprising of 2011, and some Eastern Michigan University students said the U.S. should seriously consider its options before taking military action.

EMU graduate Omar Tibi is a Syrian-American and he stays informed about the ongoing crisis every day because it directly affects his family still living in the war-torn country.

“I hear about certain accounts firsthand from my friends, grandparent, aunts and uncles,” Tibi said.
“They are mostly living in Damascus, which is still relatively safe, but the fighting is getting closer.”

He said the war has reached a stalemate, and the U.S. military should still use some of its capabilities to assist the rebels.

“The United States needs to help them, but personally, I think it is a bit late they are just now considering it,” he said. “There have already been 100,000 people killed before chemical weapons were used, and 1,300 to 1,700 were just killed with chemical weapons.”

Tibi’s mother is American but converted to Islam in her teens, and his father moved from Syria in 1989. His family used to visit the country regularly before the civil war erupted.

Tibi said the U.S. should not use missiles to attack Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s army because there would be too many non-combatants caught in the destruction.

“The strikes may have been useful a year ago, but now they would probably just hurt and kill civilians,” he said. “The government forces have moved their assets into civilian areas, and if bombings occur now it’ll just hit civilians on the ground.”

Tibi said missile attacks could be ineffective because the U.S. has taken too long to act and the government forces commanded by al-Assad are now better prepared.

“It won’t be Iraq,” Tibi said. “al-Assad has been busy buying up ground-to-air missiles and the missiles that are launched might be shot down. The effectiveness of an air strike is entirely debatable.”

He said sending arms and ammunition to Syrian rebels would be the most effective assistance.
“These rebels are shoemakers, carpenters and teachers,” he said. “Just everyday people that have had their families killed and cities leveled. All they have left are their guns and ammunition, and to survive, they fight. The supplies would most likely go to the citizen soldiers that arefighting. No one likes the extremists and they are not the majority of the rebel fighting forces.”
Tibi said he wants to see a change in Syria after the war ends, but he is not certain about what will happen.

“I hope al-Assad will be gone and they find a good person to take his place,” he said. “But right now, it is a stalemate, and it could be anyone’s guess. Syria will rebuild itself, but right now it is just in a desperate state.”

Tibi said the use of chemical weapons is probably the main reason for the sudden outcry by the Obama administration.

Skip Lawver, an EMU associate professor of a foreign and domestic terrorism course, said the chemical weapons used by al-Assad’s troops last month would “kill you in a heartbeat.”

“I assume it was a nerve gas,” Lawver said. “The UN has yet to come out and say what it is, but it’s a chemical and a weapon of mass destruction.”

EMU senior Katherine Zurenko is studying to become a social worker and said America can’t afford another war.

“War uses a lot of money that we don’t really have,” Zurenko said. “It is something that needs to be considered because we have been at war for like 12 years.”

Zurenko also said the mainstream media is a “tainted source,” and she stays informed about global news through a variety of sources.

EMU freshman Samantha Snell, studying creative writing and political science, said the U.S. is entering into the conflict because of ulterior motives.

“Personally, I think we are not going into Syria for moral reasons,” she said. “He’s been killing people for a long time and we are just now getting involved.”
She said the U.S. is probably intervening for economic reasons in attempts to becoming a higher
power.

Some EMU students said they do not keep up with the events transpiring in Syria. EMU freshman and biology major Megan Robeson said she has been indifferent to the turmoil in Syria.

“I don’t keep up with the news a lot, but I do hear about a lot of what’s going on because of my roommate,” she said. “If we attacked, I would definitely pay attention then,” Robeson said.
EMU freshman Nichole Klein intends to study nursing and said she has been aloof to Syria’s internal struggles.

“I don’t really have much of an opinion because I don’t know much about it,” she said. “I never watch TV, and I don’t really read the newspaper.”

Klein said she has possibly become calloused to war because of America’s long-term involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We have been at war for so long I kind of feel used to it,” she said. “War is necessary sometimes, but I am not so sure about this time.”

Published Sep 8, 2013 in News

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