The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, February 01, 1996, Page 5, Image 5

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    Lessons learned
Widow’s story on Gulf War haunts, instructs
Once upon a time, in a faraway
land, there occurred a war, Desert
This January marked the five
year anniversary of the commence
ment of the Persian Gulf War. I
remember sitting in Mr. Luther’s
civics class in 1991, watching CNN
news clips showing stories of the
The reasons for the conflict
weren’t apparent to me at the time.
And now the causes and conse
quences of war stay in a file in my
mind marked: “Stuff I know I don’t
The causes of the Gulf War
remain unclear. There is no tidy
explanation, at least none that this
bystander can identify.
Sure, I know some details: a
tyrant, oil, territorial disputes,
human rights abuses.
But the consequences are
apparent: death, destruction of
national infrastructures, damage to
the environment, the genocide and
displacement of the Kurds, and a
new awareness of international
I imagine the impetus for war
was fear.
My intention is to understand
that which promotes fear. Years after
the flight of the white flag, Saddam
Hussein is still in power. I hope he
was not the catalyst of fear because
his position remains unchanged.
And it is said, “The fear will
bring into existence that which is
We share stories to gain a level of
understanding about an incident that
life experience has not yet provided
As I have never visited the
Middle East, the demographics of
the conflict are unclear. The war and
its consequences seem far away to
this 23-year-old.
Enter Carol Bentzlin.
On a tip from a colleague, I dug
' up the story of this newlywed
whose husband was one of the first
American casualties of the war.
Kelly Johnson
“The conditions of war
perpetrated a strange
twist of fate in this
woman’s life. She lost
her husband to
circumstances beyond
her control. But she also
lost faith in her
government. ”
Steve Bentzlin, who was 23
when he died, was killed when an
American missile launched by a
U.S. Air Force A-l 0 bomber hit the
light-armor vehicle he was riding in
near the village of Khafji.
The tale of the incident and its
aftermath is extraordinary.
Nearly seven months passed
before the U.S. government dis
closed that Bentzlin was killed by
“friendly fire.” His bride thinks a
faulty missile caused the death and
that die government has not
disclosed information that will put
the case to rest.
The Marine Corps was snail-like
in returning Marine Cpl. Bentzlin’s
personal belongings to his family
and paying death benefits.
In the aftermath, a faulty missile
launching component built into the
bomber by Hughes Aircraft was
speculated to have caused a
misdirection in the flight of the
missile. A lawsuit followed.
Under the contractor defense —
a company working in good faith to
government specifications is
immune from negligence suits —
Hughes was granted immunity on
the grounds that a lawsuit would
reveal national secrets.
So Carol Bentzlin’s questions
remain unanswered. And her
struggles persist.
The more I read about the past
five years of this stranger’s life, the
more compelled I became to share
her story.
The conditions of war perpetrated
a strange twist of fate in this woman’s
life. She lost her husband to circum
stances beyond her control. But she
also lost faith in her government.
We can’t be in all places at all
times, but we can take part in each
other’s life experiences by listening
to each other’s stories.
We can act compassionately by
paying attention. By giving consider
ation to each other’s struggles. By
grappling with each other’s questions.
As stories unfold, the images we
hold of events beyond us necessar
ily change. New information and
ideas must lead to clarity of vision.
By seeing war at a personal level,
we receive glimpses of a larger
Listen to the stories surrounding
Others have been there, and we
may never know the circumstances of
warring times and nations if we don’t
respect the worth of their experiences.
Certainly the character of genera
tions past was influenced by war. The
factions war creates, the fear it
propagates, the vision it destroys, the
energy it spends.
Listen to the stories.
By seeing what is past and how
that lives in whomever is present, we
can gain understanding.
Johnson Is a senior news-editorial and
English major and a Dally Nebraskan col
Save the children
Increasing abuse has more than physical effect
I came across a story in the
newspaper last semester that
disturbed me. Perhaps you’ll
remember it. The story centered on
the murder of Elisa Izquierdo by her
mother. It has since haunted me.
Her tale follows as such: Elisa
was bom to a wonderful father and
worthless mother. Gustavo, her
father, managed on his meager
income to enroll her in a private
school. When times became tough,
she was lucky enough to have her
tuition paid for by die school’s
patron, the Prince of Greece. He
v eventually promised to pay for her
schooling until 12th grade, after
falling under the precocious little
girl’s spell. Everyone in the school
recognized Elisa as a buoyant,
happy child.
Unfortunately, Elisa’s mother,
Awilda Lopez, sued for and won
visitation rights. She immediately
began abusing her daughter.
Compounding the problem was
Gustavo’s sudden death from cancer,
before his petition to the courts to
deny Lopez visitation was decided
upon. After his death, the courts
gave custody, under protest from
many, to Lopez, even though
evidence of abuse was presented in
the case.
Lopez was unfit to be a mother. A
chronic drug user, she was given
chance after chance to get clean,
only to constantly relapse. She
openly told people she beat Elisa
because Gustavo had put a curse on
the child. The teachers at the
Montessori school that Elisa
attended noticed her change and
again reported abuse. Lopez’s
response was to remove her from the
school, placing her in a public one.
Elisa became withdrawn, the abuse
taking its toll. The final night of her
life was filled with rape, beating and
Jody Burke
“You don’t have to
look to Watts to see the
antisocial behavior, or
a cycle of abuse. It is an
unsettling trend that
bucks social and
political lines. ”
Neighbors noted to police they
heard the beatings all night long.
As I mentioned before, I came
across the story awhile ago, and it still
is vivid in my mind. I began to do
research into the subject of child
abuse. It seemed to me that this kind
of abuse by a parent had to be
isolated. I could not and did not want
to believe that parents would do these
things to their own children.
The more I read, unfortunately,
the more I found I was wrong. There
were cases where fathers glued their
daughters’ eyes shut, children were
chained in basements and forced to
eat dog food, or worse. Children
were being scalded or haying their
genitals burned because they wet the
bed. What’s more, the viciousness
and sheer number of these crimes
are increasing.
The thing that eats me inside is I
don’t have any answers, but I cannot
deny the problem. I doubt any of us
have the answers. When I think
about it, my stomach twists into a
knot. The problem is so big that the
solution needs to be more than just
throwing dollars into an unrespon
sive welfare system. It has to do
with strengthening families, finding
people who care enough to help and
stopping the cycle of abuse that is
being created. It has to do with the
system not placing the highest
priority on keeping the family intact,
especially when doing so is at the
expense of the child’s safety.
I’m nowhere near having
children. I can barely get myself out
of bed. I have to believe, however,
that the situation demands concern
from us all. These children, raised
around drugs, around rape and so
on, are everyone’s children. The
problems they have because of then
abuse will manifest themselves in
various ways. Regardless of how
they do, we as a society will have to
deal with them. In reality, we
already are. You don’t have to look
to Watts to see the anti-social
behavior, or a cycle of abuse. It is an
unsettling trend that bucks social
and political lines.
I don’t see why some parents
deserve second, third and fourth or
more, sometimes many more,
chances. It takes so little to radically
alter, for the worse, a child’s life. It
is time for the country — for
all of us — to stop being so afraid of
offending, and begin to do what’s
right. An extra dose of vigilance
does not mean running out and
spying on your neighbors to check
for abuse. It means, if ever faced
with the situation, doing what is
right, and saving the children.
Burke Is a senior English major and a
Dally Nebraskan columnist
Little crime found
on Ireland's streets
Walking down the streets of
Dublin, you’ll see plenty of Coke
ads, McDonald’s and even a Subway
or two. But there’s one American
icon you won’t see — guns.
In Ireland and the United King
dom, guns are outlawed. The police
(or Garda in Irish) don’t even carry
guns. They were banned in Ireland
in 1922 after the civil war and the
war of independence.
The idea was to “take the guns out
of Irish politics.” Following the wars,
a lot of guns remained in anti-gov
ernment hands, and the government
thought the best way to prevent fur
ther violence was to take away a most
powerful arguing tool. (Shotguns and
some rifles are allowed for hunting
purposes and must be licensed.)
From an American point of view,
this seems archaic at first The right
to bear arms was a provision of the
founding document of our country.
Look at both of the countries to
day. In many American cities, mur
der by firearm is a way of life. In
Dublin, it’s still front-page news.
In alf of the U.K. in 1993, 80
crimes of rape, robbery and homi
cide were committed. In Ireland, less
than 20 were killed last year. In the
United States, the numbers are much
Statistics are statistics and are dif
ficult to compare because of the ob
vious differences in population and
geography — the countries in the
U.K. and Ireland are mainly island
countries with borders that are easier
to patrol.
Still, the feet that guns play a very
small part in crime in Ireland and that
the garda have no need for them is
almost impossible for me to believe.
The last murder of a police officer
in Ireland occurred in 1982. The pun
ishment for murdering a police of
ficer is death by hanging. The of
fender wasn’t hanged, because his
sentence was commuted, but he is
serving a life sentence—a 400-year
life sentence.
It seems from the people I’ve
talked to, that they feel secure in not
having guns be a bargaining tool in
everyday life; however, times are
Just today, a man went to trial in
Dublin as a suspect in a killing of a
woman and her son. The woman was
'shot in the left eye socket, the boy
was shot in the head. The killing hap
pened in western Ireland.
“In all of the U K. in
1993, 80 crimes of
rape, robbery and
homicide were
committed. In Ireland,
less than 20 were
killed last year. In the
United States, the
numbers are much
The issue of guns was brought up
during a British news show not too
long ago. The discussion ranged
from whether to arm the police force
to allowing people to use guns for
personal protection.
It seemed that most people
weren’t ready to take a step toward
firearms, but were willing to consider
more deterrent weapons such as pep
per sprays.
Currently, police officers carry
only truncheons. Citizens are al
lowed knives with blades less than
six inches in length.
Personally, I’m not making a
claim for or against gun control, but
lam curious as to what path the U.K.
and Ireland will take in coming years.
And I wonder if American politics
will be swayed by the statistics in
these two governments.
For right now, I am awed that a
city with one million people can be
patrolled by officers without fire
arms. It’s almost a modem wonder
to me to think that people here have
enough faith in their fellow man to
not want to carry a firearm.
It’s almost sad to see this, and then
to look back on my own country and
see what a way of life we have with
guns. Then again, whether it could
have been changed by omitting the
second amendment is not something
of which I am sure either.
But if and when things do change
on either side of the Atlantic, I’m sure
it will be the next shot heard 'round
the world.
Lavigne, a Junior news-editorial ma
jor, is spending the semester in Dublin,
Ireland, and is a Dally Nebraskan contrib
uting columnist