Speakers express global opinions of Sept. 11

Seth Woehrle

With outside viewpoints, informed discussion and an ironic history lesson, it wasn’t a typical Friday night on campus.

Taking advantage of an opportunity to see how the United States and its military operation in Afghanistan are viewed by the outside world, the Minnesota International Center assembled a panel of speakers with unique perspectives on the events since Sept. 11.

The center, which oversees the exchange and hosting of
international students and
professionals, brought together five of its Humphrey Fellows from Algeria, Kenya, Mexico, Peru and Turkmenistan to lecture and answer audience questions Friday night at the Carlson School of Management.

After thanking the audience for forgoing their Friday night, Ramon Guillermo Alfaro Gonzalez, an author and expert in law enforcement, taught some forgotten history. He said that, contrary to current news reports, Osama bin Laden was not the first terrorist to carry out an attack on U.S. soil.

Gonzalez said similarities exist between Osama bin Laden and Pancho Villa, another U.S.-supported rebel who eventually turned against his former ally and sparked a military manhunt in an impoverished country.

In 1916, Villa led an attack on U.S. soil, killing innocent civilians and looting the small Texas town of Columbus before retreating back to Mexico.

The event led to a military occupation and the killing of innocent civilians, which Gonzalez said was part of a long history of U.S. foreign policy being disconnected from its citizens.

“It has been customary that only the insiders dictate U.S. foreign policy,” Gonzalez said.

This view was supported by the other Humphrey Fellows, who said they condemned the terrorists but remained critical of the Bush administration.

As a citizen of Turkmenistan, a country that borders Afghanistan to the north, electrical engineer Igor Borisov was probably closer to the issue than anyone else in the room.

Borisov said he thought Sept. 11 was the result of the U.S. turning its back on the region and losing its allies.

Kenyan Antoninah Rita Njau, project director of the Jesuit Refugee Service, said her heart went out to Americans but she was concerned about the operation in Afghanistan.

“When you look at the history of America, you have to ask, ‘Are we in the habit of attacking another country every 10 years?'” Njau said.

 

Seth Woehrle welcomes comments at [email protected]