Police remove protesters from speech on Iraq

by Charley Bruce

Police removed more than 20 protesters from a speech Maj. Gen. Michael J. Diamond gave Wednesday about the wars in the Middle East.

Diamond, the deputy director of logistics from U.S. Central Command, focused on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in his presentation at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.

The speech began as planned, but the protesters entered the auditorium and began rapidly shooting questions at Diamond.

Edward Goetz, associate dean of academics at the Humphrey Institute, warned protesters they may be escorted out if they did not allow the speaker to proceed.

He said there would be time for questions at the end of the presentation, but the protesters continued to interrupt Diamond.

About five minutes into the discussion, Goetz directed University police to escort protesters out of the auditorium, an act that received applause from the 75-member audience.

The protesters chanted, “Out of Afghanistan, out of Iraq, out of the ‘U’ and don’t come back,” as they were ushered out.

Before the speech, about 50 protesters from the student group Anti-War Organizing League and a community group called the Anti-War Committee gathered outside the building and called the war in Iraq “racist” and said it needed to end.

Tracy Molm, women’s studies senior and protest organizer, said AWOL was there to voice opposition to the war.

“We’re here to stand up against the war in Iraq,” she said.

Kyle Johnson, a first-year visual arts student, said he was attending the event with AWOL to question Diamond.

He said he was frustrated that his hard-earned tax dollars are going to a war instead of other areas.

“Instead of educating people, I guess it’s more important to kill people,” Johnson said.

Molm said it is hard to trust the military because they initially lied to the public when they justified going to war in Iraq.

Johnson said the government first told the public the war in Iraq was about controlling weapons of mass destruction, then it was about taking Saddam Hussein out of power and now it’s about controlling terrorism.

Molm said her organization is against war, not the soldiers.

“The best way to support the troops is to bring them home,” she said.

When the presentation restarted, Diamond described the role of U.S. Central Command, or CENTCOM, saying the agency was created during President Jimmy Carter’s administration and has evolved since then. The agency has been involved in the Desert Storm operations and the current war in Iraq.

CENTCOM is one of five geographically defined command units. Their area of responsibility includes much of Northeast Africa, Southwest and Central Asia and Seychelles, an island nation.

He defined terrorists as fourth-generation warriors, a transnational enemy often capitalizing on weak states and using technology and the media as “terrain.”

The media and the Internet are large challenges the United States faces in the fight against terrorism, Diamond said.

Terrorists feed these outlets video, which trickles down to other transnational media, he said.

But some of the video is inaccurate and by the time the military can expose the false information, it’s too late to dampen the negative impact on the United States, Diamond said.

He showed a Web site created by al-Qaida that portrayed the 100-year goal of the organization. The webpage had a picture of the entire globe colored green. The green represented territory al-Qaida wants to control.

“This is going to be a long war,” Diamond said.

He said he blamed unemployment levels for some of the terrorists’ recruits.

Diamond said 20 percent to 40 percent of the population in Iraq is unemployed. This leads to frustration and these are the people planting improvised explosive devices and killing U.S. soldiers.

He said this problem is only worse in Afghanistan and estimated about 60 percent of Afghans are unemployed.

During the question period, a member of the audience asked Diamond when the military plans to withdraw from Iraq or Afghanistan.

Diamond said no time table has been set.

Coincidentally, this happened on the same day that Army Gen. John Abizaid, chief of CENTCOM, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Iraq is not ready for a timetable for troop withdrawal. He also said more troops could be necessary.