Acknowledging how the War on Terror can affect a small college town in Western New York is an incredibly difficult, yet an important task, that students often fail to do.
The United States has had troops in Afghanistan and Iraq consistently for almost two decades; the country has refused to use boots-on-the-ground tactics. Instead, unmanned drones—little more than lawless murder machines—have taken their place and have killed thousands of people across countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa, according to a January 2017 article from Newsweek.
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have outlasted every major war in terms of the number of years engaged in conflict. The costs of the wars could possibly eclipse World War II and become the most expensive wars in American history, according to The Atlantic.
Two generations ago, Geneseo students advocated for student rights, an end to the Vietnam War and for the removal of former President Richard Nixon from office following revelations of his corruption. Today, this massive change is rarely included in campus-wide conversations.
One of the best ways to avert ignorance is to self-educate. While it may be difficult to take a class devoted to modern wars and American foreign policy, the internet and newspapers have infinite coverage of the contours of the War on Terror. As a result of the War on Terror, American and global society has gone through tectonic shifts in how security and secrecy are affected; relations between Americans have deteriorated over paranoia and bigotry.
These broad condemnations of the War on Terror might seem to apply to some in the Middle East or in Washington D.C., where people imagine this conflict to take place, but the War on Terror has battlegrounds everywhere, including in Geneseo.
Of course, there aren’t troops on the ground or drones in the air, but the War on Terror exists within the community. Throughout Geneseo, there are people who have served in the military and students who are in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, preparing to serve in the military. There are people who have stories of how they themselves or their families were discriminated against for being Muslim. There are people who have connections to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.
Beyond all of these people who have deep ties to the War on Terror, there’s everyone else, whose connections seem shallow enough to be invisible. Anyone who has flown out of a commercial airport or gone to large public places in the past 16 years has probably had to subject themselves to pat-downs or prodding at a security checkpoint. Anyone who has used a computer or a phone in the past 16 years may have been surveilled without their knowledge. Anyone who has paid taxes in the past 16 years would have seen significant amount of their money directed toward an unending conflict that has killed thousands on another continent.
It is easy for people thousands of miles from any bombs or tanks to forget the War on Terror, but it is imperative to remember this war. The best way to do so is to have conversations and to listen to the voices from the War on Terror. When we forget, we allow it to continue.