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Fighting the good fight

By Daniel Segraves

By Daniel Segraves

I’ve known Nick Freidlein for several years and I’m certain that he is extremely brilliant. Freidlein, 20, is a transfer student from Auburn University and has been honored on the Dean’s List every year since he began his college education.

Over summer, Freidlein received an onslaught of offers from various universities in Southern California. His 3.9 cumulative college GPA incited scholarship offers from Redlands University and a “full ride” from UC Riveriside. While some would expect him to pursue a prestigious title in the academic world, Freidlein is preparing to join the Navy SEALs.

So why is he willing to volunteer to fight the war on terrorism, where the death toll rises every day?

“Well, first off, my reasons aren’t like many others.” Freidlein said. “The radical Islamic groups and leaders want a war with the West. They’ll either do it fighting soldiers or they’ll bomb citizens.”

“As long as we’re there,” Freidlein continued, “then people will be safe. In my opinion, the radicals would be distracted by the soldiers, and that’s the only way we can be positive our families are safe.”

When asked why he didn’t think it was more the responsibility of the government to protect citizens than the responsibility of soldiers, Freidlein told me that he believed it was impossible for anyone, including politicians, to talk reasonably with radicals. He went on to say that we’d have to remain in Iraq until our mission was complete. “It would be irresponsible to leave without knowing for sure that the people of Iraq could protect themselves against the other radical terrorists in the area,” Freidlein said.

I quickly made the point that Vice President Dick Cheney admitted in early September that there had actually been no connection between Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, a point which the Bush administration had previously used to justify preliminary assaults in Iraq.

“Even if our administration putting us in Iraq was irresponsible, it doesn’t change the fact that Saddam Hussein should not be in power. He abused his own people; it was a matter of simple principles,” Friedlein explained.

On the matter of weapons of mass destruction, or the lack thereof, Friedlein offered this analogy.

“The fact that we didn’t find them doesn’t mean they didn’t exist. If I lose my watch, it just means that it’s not where it was. Basically, if Saddam had weapons he was using on his own people, and suddenly they were gone, that doesn’t mean they didn’t exist.”

I asked the future soldier if he believed we would be in Iraq for an extended period of time, possibly long enough to have a draft instituted.

Freidlein responded with a very logical point. “I honestly have no idea how long we’ll be there. We’ll never have a draft though. It’s like political suicide.”

We quickly moved on into potential enemies in the future, such as North Korea. For decades, North Korea and its leader Kim Jong-il have been very vocal in their anti-American sentiments.

 Freidlein did not share my concern. “Kim Jong-il is not a radical, he’s just power hungry. Not only am I sure that Kim Jong-il is aware that an attack would only start mutually assured destruction, I’m also fairly sure that he is a completely different kind of enemy. We don’t have a lot of historical evidence to assume North Korea will attack us,” Freidlein said.

When I asked Freidlein to explain why he thinks historical evidence is so important, he offered the example of the guerilla warfare between the Irish Republican Army and the British Empire between 1919 and 1921: “I think that a good contrast to the Islamic radical goal, which is the destruction of western civilization, is the conflict between the British and the Irish Republican Army. While the IRA is considered by some to be a terrorist organization, their goal was a tangible one. They wanted the occupation of Ireland to end.”

“The point is that the war we are fighting today is a war where the enemy’s goal is not realistic. It can’t end in their favor, so it will obviously have to end in ours,” Freidlein continued. “What I’m saying is that this is something that must be done, and I feel it’s my responsibility – and every able person’s responsibility – to protect those who need protecting.”

“Everyone’s scared,” Freidlein said. “You never know what to expect. While soldiers get a sense of satisfaction handing out candy to kids and playing soccer with them, they also have to be constantly paranoid. They don’t know if a man lying in the streets bleeding is in need or if he’s covering a bomb. He could be a trap.”

His statement was the best culmination of feelings for the 20-year-old and many like him.

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