Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and foreign correspondent Chris Hedges discussed his at times controversial views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Tuesday in the UC Auditorium.
The talk, which was sponsored by UT's Issues Committee, covered America's role in this conflict as well as the atrocities that have been occurring in the Middle East because of it.
"We have not brought freedom, democracy or other virtues of western civilization to the Muslim world," Hedges said. "We have filled its graveyards, leveled its villages, displaced its people and solidified systems of state terror."
And no one believes, except for perhaps us, that we have any intention of leaving," he added.
He emphasized the power America has in the international sphere, and that in supporting Israel, America creates problems and causes suffering in the Muslim world. He said that in some ways, the Israeli/American alliance gives cause for extremists in the Middle East.
"We and our Israeli allies are the biggest problem in the Middle East. It is we who legitimize the Mahmoud Ahmadinejads, suicide bombers and radical jihadists," Hedges said. "The longer we occupy Muslim land, the more these monsters, reflections of our own distorted image, will proliferate. As Nietzsche wrote, 'If you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes into you.'"
Hedges thinks the solution lies in taking troops out of the Middle East and focusing on more diplomatic problem solving.
"The biggest favor we can do for the Muslim world is to withdraw troops and begin to speak to the Muslim world in the civilized language of diplomacy, respect, and mutual interest," Hedges said.
Nationalism, according to Hedges, is a "disease" that cripples people's instincts for compassion and justice.
"This ideology does not require cultural, historical or linguistic literacy," Hedges said. "It reduces the world to black and white, good and evil."
For Hedges, it is our responsibility to act and take on the suffering of other humans in order to improve life for everyone.
"We have only our hands, hearts and voices," Hedges said. "Working and praying, protesting, denouncing in order to prove that the forces of morality and justice are greater than hatred and violence."
Hedges also discussed problems with the media and with journalism in the way that important stories, especially concerning the conflict in the Middle East, are covered.
For Sara Hussein, junior in political science, this is a major issue.
"The state of media and journalism currently doesn't highlight things of importance. It's all entertainment," Hussein said. "I don't see the real atrocities committed or injustices by our government on the news."
Hussein also highlighted the honest way Hedges discussed his opinions on these issues.
"It's refreshing to see someone speak so candidly about this conflict," Hussein said. "I feel inspired to act. It all starts with us. We have the power to raise awareness of the present and the past in order to impact the future."
Lisa Dicker, chair of the Issues Committee, hopes this talk will encourage discourse about this controversial issue.
"We choose these speakers to spark dialogue, whether they agree or disagree," Dicker, junior in political science and Asian studies said. "We want people to think about what is being said and form their own opinions."