Pulitzer Center Update

Students, Journalist Sound Off on Iraq

By Elizabeth A. Lehnerer
Originally published in the Collinsville Herald

Last year, Collinsville High School teachers invited journalists from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting to speak to students about efforts to restore a national park in Mozambique.

This year, Pulitzer and a sixth-grade teacher from Harlem gave CHS students something a little closer to home to think about.

New York schoolteacher and freelance journalist David Enders spent 18 months in Iraq, reporting in places and on subjects most mainstream journalists wouldn't dare to venture.On Friday, he opened the discussion to Mark Schusky's government class to find out just what the students thought of the war in Iraq and the United States' role there.

In the discussion, many students wanted to know what started the violence between the Shiite and Sunni factions in Iraq and how the soldiers in Iraq were helping to stop the fighting.

Enders told the students that the desire for power keeps the fighting fueled and that the United States isn't helping - he said that if anything, the U.S. presence is making the situation worse.

"We're arming both sides of a civil war," he said. "The U.S. Army was supporting the Shiites and in the last six months the Sunni came to the U.S. and said, 'We'll help you fight Al-Qaeda,'" he said. "We're actually putting more guns and resources into people's hands."

Enders said that the consensus between both factions is the desire for the United States to leave Iraq.

"Personally, I think we shouldn't have invaded in the first place," Enders said. "The people who live there say, 'Before, we had one Saddam (Hussein); now we have 1,000.'"

Many students in the classroom felt that the United States needs to pull troops out of Iraq.

Through the Pulitzer Center, which is comprised of journalists who, through grants, are able to report on topics not discussed in traditional media, one student in Schusky's class found out about the 3.8 million people displaced by the war and wanted to do more to help.

CHS senior Kelly Martin said that, through a Web log discussion with Enders, she got the idea to connect with students in Iraq and, through them, find out what they needed in terms of medicine or supplies.

"That's the next generation; they're the ones that will decide if things are going to be stable (in the Middle East)," she said. "They need education and help."

Martin said she doesn't want to provide just another handout; she wants to help empower people by connecting with them through letters and pictures and supplies.

Though she's just beginning her endeavor, Enders offered to help Martin in any way he could.

"I'm trying to make this real for people," he said. "People your age are going to be living with this for the rest of your lives."