Patrick M. O’Connell /The South Bend Tribune – 2004-11-22 09:26:43
SOUTH BEND (November 17, 2005) — Rob Sarra is not a pacifist. Sometimes, the former US Marine sergeant regrettably believes war is a necessary evil. “But when military power is used, it better be for a… good reason,” Sarra said. “And this was not it.”
Sarra is talking about the US-led war in Iraq, where in 2003, he experienced firsthand both the carnage and delicate side of war, scenes ranging from body parts strewn in the street to a little Iraqi girl persistently tugging on his jacket after he had dropped the flower she so desperately wanted him to have moments earlier.
“The smell, the sight — it’s something you never forget,” Sarra told a packed lecture hall Tuesday night at the University of Notre Dame. “If people want to support this war and think it’s a good thing, they need to take a second look.”
For Sarra, 32, one look was enough. After he shot an innocent Iraqi woman because he thought the package she was hiding was an explosive, he “freaked out.” He began to question the war and wondered why US soldiers, his buddies, were getting killed in Iraq.
When he was assigned to head back in the fall of 2003, he said he couldn’t do it and soon his nine-year career as a Marine was over. He was honorably discharged in April.
Sarra joined the group Iraq Veterans Against the War and has begun to talk – more frequently during formal speaking engagements — about why he believes the war was unnecessary while working to bring US soldiers home as quickly as possible.
“Iraq was not an imminent threat to the United States,” he said. “It was a lie. We were lied to…. When you’re over there, it’s about the guy who’s next to you. But when you come home and start thinking, it’s a raw deal.”
Sarra, a Chicagoan whose mother protested the war while he was marching to Baghdad, is quick to point out that it is possible to oppose the war and support the troops. “I love them, but I hate the war,” he said.
And his answer to a question from an audience member about why many soldiers in Iraq voted for Bush, showing support for the administration’s Iraq policy was simple: They need something to believe in. “No one wants to come home and hear people say, ‘Well, that was for nothing,'” he said.
For South Bend resident Steve Nani, it was interesting to hear a Marine’s perspective. “I appreciated what he had to say about the war being a firsthand participant,” Nani said. “It affirmed all of the things I believe, that it was a dishonest war that we got into.”
Sarra will continue to speak out against the war in an effort to bring the soldiers, including those who served along side him, back home. “As long as we’re there,” Sarra said, “we’re part of the problem.”
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