Looming war fuels campus debate

Lee Billings

As the debate over a possible U.S.-led war against Iraq intensifies, University students and faculty are speaking out – some justifying war, others pleading for peace.

University political science junior Nathan Paulsen said a war with Iraq would have little to do with terrorism, weapons of mass destruction or Saddam Hussein’s “evil dictatorship.”

“It has everything to do with oil, profits and regional domination,” said Paulsen, a member of the Anti-War Committee student group.

Marty Andrade, president of Students for Family Values, said the war is not about oil but rather about removing Hussein’s repressive regime and freeing the Iraqi people.

Andrade said if the United States was only concerned about oil, it would be tapping its own reserves in Alaska or off its coasts.

“So why (would we) go to war with Iraq (over oil)?” Andrade said.

University international law professor Oren Gross, an Israeli, said a U.S.-led, pre-emptive attack could only be justified if it were in self-defense.

He said the 1967 Six-Day War, when Israel attacked Egypt and Syria to prevent an attempted attack, set an international precedent.

“The question is: Do we have enough evidence in the situation vis-a-vis Iraq that can credibly support a strike against it?” Gross said.

The U.S. indictment of Iraq as a major threat is in direct conflict with the international community’s view that the situation is more ambiguous, said Ragui Assaad, an economics professor at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.

Arabs feel there is a double standard when dealing with the Iraqi conflict, he said.

“As far as Arabs are concerned, Israel has committed as many – if not more – violations in terms of weapons of mass destruction,” Assaad said.

Many University students and faculty said they share Assaad’s sentiments that a double standard exists in U.S. foreign policy.

Diana Alsharif, a senior political science and English major, said the United States is allowing numerous violations of U.N. resolutions by the governments of Turkey and Israel.

“Why are they not targeted?” she said.

Opposition to war with Iraq has been growing among University faculty since September.

Assistant geology professor David Fox said he garnered 230 University faculty signatures on a letter he wrote to The Minnesota Daily arguing against an invasion of Iraq. The letter was then circulated to other campuses throughout the country.

The letter, posted on the Internet in October, obtained more than 1,000 signatures per day during the first month it was up, Fox said.

“To date it has gotten 34,500 signatures,” said Fox.

Capitalizing on the letter’s success, Fox formed Faculty Against War with other University faculty. The group is collaborating with the student-created Coalition Against War on Iraq to bring a host of antiwar activities to students on Feb. 13, Fox said.

A rally, public speak-out and pro-peace poetry reading are planned as well as a petition for attendees to sign. The petition will be sent to Sens. Norm Coleman, a Republican, and Mark Dayton, a Democrat.

The Coalition Against War on Iraq, which includes five smaller student groups, is preparing a Twin Cities-wide student walkout for the first school day after a U.S.-led attack is launched against Iraq.

Coalition spokesman Ty Moore, while not a student himself, said student activism is vital for the well-being of the world.

“Here at the University, we’re hopeful to get thousands of people to walk out of classes that day to use as their form of anger and disobedience,” he said, adding a mass movement is the only hope against war.

Lee Billings welcomes comments at [email protected]