Illinois State University students at Global Review last night were afforded a unique opportunity to view the U.S. occupation of Iraq from an Iraqi perspective.
"The way the American media speaks about Arabs and Muslims in general, in many cases, is just wrong," Raed Jarrar, an Iraqi political analyst currently working in Washington, DC, said.
Following the 2003 U.S. invasion, Jarrar formed a grassroots movement, coordinating civil societies with Iraqi political leadership in an effort to rebuild the war-torn country's infrastructure.
Jarrar explained that the first step to rebuilding an independent Iraq is the complete withdrawal of all U.S. troops and mercenaries.
"Foreign occupation is the major reason for violence," he said. "Despite the myth that what's happening now in Iraq is happening for sectarian or religious reasons."
Contrary to what much of the American media portrays, Jarrar stated that the main source of violence is not divisions between Sunni and Shiite factions.
"People from all different backgrounds are fighting with other people from all different backgrounds because of economic and political reasons," he said. "The Quran and the Bible never told us what to do with our oil and natural resources, or what to do about issues of sovereignty."
Jarrar was the country director of the only casualty survey group formed after the invasion.
"Iraq as a nation and as a people has existed for the last six to seven thousand years" he said. "In the last five years alone, one million Iraqis have been killed and five million displaced."
Jarrar noted that the majority of both American and Iraqi citizens want an end to the war, and that many Iraqis feel excited but cautious about President-elect Barack Obama.
"He has to send a message that this is a new day, this is a new policy, otherwise people will assume that it's just business as usual," Jarrar said, pointing to some exceptions in Obama's withdrawal plan that could potentially leave 50 to 75,000 American troops in the country.
"It was definitely informative being able to hear someone who's been so involved in Iraqi, and now American politics," Tyler Clark, a senior politics major, said when referring to Jarrar's presentation.
Jarrar said that his ultimate goal is to end the U.S. intervention and restore Iraqi sovereignty.
"I think people are motivated now," he said. "There is a sense of empowerment after the recent election." "The important thing is that we use that sense of empowerment to make real changes."