Katie Kaps/The Hoya Rania Marsi lashes out against President Bush for accepting contributions from Halliburton and Bechtel in a speech Wednesday in Reiss 103.

With the military invasion of Iraq complete, the United States is now embarking on a corporate takeover, human rights advocate Rania Masri told nearly 50 students in Reiss 103 on Wednesday. Carried out by American soldiers and money, this second invasion has few benefits for average Americans, she said.

Masri, a founder of the Iraq Action Coalition and a board member of national grassroots organization Peace Action, also questioned the composition of the U.S. military and media coverage of the war.

“This is a time to be asking questions such as why, and who, and what, and what for,” she said.

As of Oct. 29, the number of American soldiers reported killed during the occupation of Iraq exceeds the number killed during the attack, she said.

Further, she raised questions concerning the failure to release numbers of injured soldiers. “We know there have been approximately 354 soldiers killed in Iraq … but how many [were] wounded?”

Masri questioned the Pentagon’s statement that for every soldier killed, approximately seven are wounded.

“They won’t give us a number,” she said, “but when we look at a medical center in Germany – the main hospital soldiers are sent to when they’re wounded – the latest number we have from them is 7,381, according to this one hospital.”

Masri attacked the lack of diversity in the military, arguing that more soldiers come from rural areas.

“In other words, [they come from] communities that don’t have much other option,” she said, adding that minorities are disproportionately represented.

Not only are the current armed forces disproportionately minority, she continued, but the military has begun specifically targeting ethnic groups for recruitment.

“They are specifically identifying Latinos as the most promising group for recruitment because their numbers are growing rapidly and they include low income men with few other job or educational options,” she said.

According to President Bush, the recent wave of attacks on troops is a sign of success because it displays that the United States is accomplishing its goal and the terrorists are becoming frustrated.

Masri said she does not accept this logic and cited several possible provocations for the attacks ranging from the “bulldozing of farmland in order to encourage the Iraqis to reveal who is or isn’t a terrorist [to] entire families killed in their cars at checkpoints for the simple thing of going to Church.”

Further, Iraqi deaths are not counted, Masri said, quoting the Defense Department as saying, “We don’t track them. They don’t count. They are not important.” She added, “Does that strike you as the comment from the representative of a government allegedly working for the liberation?”

Masri said that two major federally contracted defense contractors in the reconstruction, Halliburton and Bechtel, were “in bed with the Bush administration,” because executives of both companies have donated to his re-election campaign.

And the transactions are taking place out of public view, she said, adding that “even right-wing conservative Republicans should be outraged.”

Despite federal contracts for these companies, Masri said that there are “no visible signs of reconstruction.” Masri said that these companies were the rule and not the exception.

Masri said that whereas the United States has claimed to transform Iraq from a state run economy to a free market system, U.S. action has not done so.

Instead of subsidizing small farmers and local businesses, she said, “We’re going to give money to the largest agricultural companies in the country, the military industrial complex, Bechtel and Halliburton, and we’re going to call that a free market.”

Masri urged an immediate return of all U.S. troops but was unable to articulate a specific plan for where to go from this point. “That’s where it gets complicated,” she said.

GU Peace Action member Bayann Hamid (SFS ’07) said she enjoyed the speech. “It’s interesting how [U.S. occupation] affects internal politics and how it relates to policy at home,” she said. “It shows how this really does affect us here.”

Others said that Masri attempted to touch on too many topics and did so at the expense of depth. “Instead of proposing any meaningful reform programs, she continued to rant on so many different subjects that it was difficult to tell what her actual message was,” Chris Stucko (SFS ’07) said.

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