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Today's word on journalism

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"Paranoia means having all the facts."

--William S. Burroughs, Beat Generation writer (1914-1997)

Soldier-editor back from Iraq to walk across Utah for peace

WAR AND PEACE: Marshall Thompson pauses before answering a question about Iraq. / Photo by Jason A. Givens

By Jason A. Givens

September 20, 2006 | In an effort to raise awareness for his dream of bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq, Marshall Thompson will walk from the top of Utah to the bottom.

Thompson, a graduate of USU, spoke Tuesday in the Taggart Student Center's Sunburst Lounge on the USU campus as part of Civic Awareness Week.

He recently returned home after serving a yearlong tour of duty in Iraq, where he was editor of a base newspaper at Camp Anaconda, the U.S. military's largest installation in Iraq.

Thompson said a "cycle of silence" occurs when people perceive the majority opinion to be one thing and they keep the minority opinion silent.

"I think that might be going on in Utah; so far it seems that way," Thompson said. "I hope that this walk will break the cycle of silence and that Utah can show the world, especially the government and our political leaders, that even Utah supports peace in Iraq."

He shared an experience he had the second month he was in Iraq. He said he went out with a group of soldiers who hunted and attempted to destroy roadside bombs. As they were driving through the Sunni Triangle they found a culvert running underneath the road that was packed with explosives. Their equipment showed someone was attempting to detonate the bomb with a cell phone, but their equipment was blocking the signal. After some time they saw a car driving back and forth on a nearby road. The bomb hunters said that it was probably the trigger man trying to detonate the bomb.

"I'm ashamed to say this but at that moment I was scared and I hated that man," Thompson said. "He was trying to kill me and I took it personally."

He said the bomb was dismantled and they went on their way, but that night he could not escape the hateful feelings that had overcome him.

Thompson said he felt his reaction was wrong and asked, "What is the right decision? What do you do when you're confronted by the enemy?" He said he learned the answer in his youth in Sunday school. The answer is, "Love your enemy," he said.

Thompson, who also served in Kosovo, compared his experience in Iraq with his experience in the Balkans.

"I was proud to go to Kosovo, we stopped the genocide over there," he said. While in Kosovo he said he kept thinking, "Every day I'm here these kids can go to school safely, every day I'm here the Muslim minority here can vote, they can live in safety, they're not being bothered by their neighbors." He said the six months he spent in Kosovo was time well spent and that it was a worthy cause. "In Iraq I kept thinking every day I'm here more people get killed."

Thompson said he finds it hilarious that the same arguments used by politicians today about Iraq were being used by politicians about Kosovo. The only difference is they have been reversed.

"I took an oath," Thompson said in response to the question of whether he would return to Iraq if called. "I took an oath to serve my country and to do what my country decides it needs me to do." He said it's important to him that now as a citizen, "I do everything I can to stop this unjust war."

"If I have to go back I fear for my soul," he said. "I can't let that happen, I can't let that happen to other people."

According to Thompson's Web site (www.asoldierspeace.com), he will begin walking Oct., 2 and hopes to end at the Arizona border Oct., 31. His plan is to walk 20 miles a day for 26 days, one day for every 100 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq.

"This walk for peace, I want it to be effective, I want it to be worth something, I want everybody regardless of what they believed before, what they feel now, to realize the need to make peace in Iraq." Thompson said. "We can all forgive each other and we can all work toward peace, that's my goal."

Thompson said everyone is invited to walk with him as long as it is in the cities and on the sidewalks.

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