Veteran of the Iraq War and graduate student Adam Kokesh spoke about racism plaguing the war and the American military at a speech at Marvin Center Friday.
Kokesh was one of the students who claimed responsibility three weeks ago for hanging posters designed to mock Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, a conservative event. The posters, which many students initially interpreted as anti-Muslim, were intended to be satirical.
In the past year, Kokesh has made headlines nationwide for his adamant opposition to the war in Iraq.
About 30 people, mostly community members and some students, listened to Kokesh speak about Iraq, the military and the inherent racism in both.
“There really is some shame associated with having been a part of (racism in the military),” said Kokesh, who served in the Marines.
Kokesh spoke of how the military dehumanizes Iraqis by using racial slurs and other names, such as “hajji,” to make the killings easier on the mind. The word “hajj” is refers to the pilgrimage to Mecca.
“You cannot love what you do not understand,” Kokesh said. “We would be na’ve to think America has been an exception to this historic trend.”
Kokesh said everyone has the capacity for racism and that it is too often recognized as acceptable in our culture.
“The cognitive process that leads to racism is present in all of us. It is a seed of developing self-image that leads to arrogance, that is fed by ignorance, that is nurtured by hate, that sprouts anger. And that process, when anger turns to violence, is too often accepted as justified,” Kokesh said.
During Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, Kokesh participated and helped organize opposing events. In his speech, Kokesh related Islamo-Facism Awareness Week to McCarthyism in the 1950s.
“In (today’s) case the rhetoric and innuendo is the same as was used for . McCarthyism. It is the period of our history that most of us look back at with shame, and hopefully as a society we’ll soon come to the same understanding of the current version of Islamophobia,” Kokesh said.
Kokesh recounted the history of racism in the United States. Using statistics and direct quotes, Kokesh highlighted the times the United States used racism in usual policy and in war. Today, he said, the same methods used against other groups such as African-Americans and Japanese, are being used against Arabs and Muslims.
“It is up to us to seek a greater truth and understanding of those who are different than us,” Kokesh said.
Tina Richards, a woman whose son served in Iraq twice and who has created the project Operation First Causality, introduced Kokesh and called him an amazing man willing to risk so much for what is right.
Ned Goodwin, a freshman who helped put up the posters, said he came to the event because he wanted to see Kokesh’s perspective.
“I came to this event because Adam has experiences that are very unique, being an Iraq vet and also being an anti-war activist,” Goodwin said. “And I wanted his perspective on what he thought was happening in Iraq and why he was working to change our policies.”