Despite passage in Congress, dissent still stirs

Libby George

The resolution granting President Bush authority to act on Iraq passed, but there is still much dissent in Congress and academia surrounding the United States’ next actions.

The initial issue is whether this war can be justified, for experts both in the United States and internationally.

“A serious realist would come to the conclusion that this is a very bad time to go to war with Iraq,” said Martin Sampson, University political science professor and director of graduate studies. “The administration’s evidence is slow in coming and at best very thin.”

In fact, the president does not possess any of the substantive evidence used to justify wars in the past: There is no footage of Iraqi forces occupying Kuwait as there was preceding the first Gulf War, and there is no hard evidence that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction.

“You’d expect the director of the CIA to give chapter and verse – if chapter and verse is available – of what kinds of weapons they have,” Sampson said.

Although experts agree Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is interested in amassing nuclear arms, he does not have the plutonium or highly enriched uranium necessary for the weapons, and no one has been able to tie black market sales of the substance to Iraqi agents.

However, congressmen who voted in favor of the resolution say the evidence is strong enough.

“Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction and links to terror pose a clear and present danger to our national security,” Rep. Jim Ramstad, R-Minn., told the House of Representatives on Oct. 9 when he voted in favor of the resolution.

Rep. Gil Gutknecht, R-Minn., also voted in favor of the resolution.

“We didn’t have perfect evidence against Osama bin Laden, and we went after him,” Gutknecht said. “We know that Saddam is rebuilding his arsenal of death. We know that he has used chemical and biological weapons to kill thousands of his own people. We know that he is attempting to acquire nuclear capability.”

Only two Democrats from Minnesota, Collin Peterson and Bill Luther, dissented from the rest of the Minnesota Democrats by voting in favor of the resolution. Democratic Senators Mark Dayton and Paul Wellstone of Minnesota opposed the resolution.

“I think it’s a mistake to grant this authority for an open-ended, unilateral, go-it-alone approach,” said Wellstone, in an interview yesterday. “I think the focus should be on disarmament. And I think the focus should be on doing everything possible to make that happen.”

Beyond political issues, experts and politicians also have concerns over the economic, global and regional implications of a war.

“Some Bush economic advisers have said that the estimate was $100-200 billion. How does an administration committed to tax cuts propose to pay for this?” Sampson asked.

He said the absence of a coalition like former President George H. Bush had in the first war on Iraq is a contributing factor.

“Ramifications that are unprecedented could trigger a response of unforeseen economic consequences,” Sampson said. “In the context of being attacked, Iraq does something to Saudi oil production, and oil producers in the Arab world decide to do something and cut oil production. We would then have a lot of costs in addition to fighting the war.”

Sampson said this did not occur in the first Gulf War because the United States had the support of Middle Eastern countries, who agreed not to cut oil production.

Some politicians also expressed concern at the lack of global support.

“Only a broad coalition of nations, united to disarm Saddam, while preserving our war on terror, is likely to succeed,” Wellstone said in an Oct. 3 Senate address.

But those supporting the resolution said U.S. action had to take place with or without international support.

“Obviously we’d love to have the allied forces we had in the other war on Iraq Ö but somebody has to make it clear that we will enforce this, and that is one of the consequences of being a superpower,” Gutknecht said.

Wellstone said that action without support would jeopardize the war on terror.

“Without our allies and without a lot of other countries with us, I think that you could very well have on the streets in the Near East and South Asia Ö a real serious backlash and much more extremism,” Wellstone said. “It also would make it much harder for governments in those counties to work with us (in the war on terror), and give us intelligence on the ground.”

Sampson said action in Iraq could destabilize the region and have unintended consequences.

“Another implication is Israel taking more aggressive moves on the Palestinians,” Sampson said. “We are telling Israel that they are not to attack if they are attacked, and we are starting a war.”

Dissent on campus

The University community also reacted strongly to the prospect of war.

Last Monday, approximately 125 University students marched from the West Bank to the Federal Courts building downtown, joining a crowd of more than 500 anti-war protestors.

Faculty members have also been active in the war discussion.

“I think there’s a deep concern held by a lot of people who have disagreements over what this war will mean Ö and who are dismayed at the lack of discussion and the calm movement toward war,” Sampson said.

Geology professor David Fox started a petition that ran as a full page ad in The Minnesota Daily on Sept. 17, with the names of 230 faculty members who signed it.

The petition was presented to Wellstone and has since spread throughout the country. The staff of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology posted it on the Internet, and it has now amassed more than 7,000 signatures.

“We don’t have the kind of movement that will stop this,” said August Nimtz, a political science professor who signed the petition. “But we must make them pay the highest political price.”

The signers of the petition, many of whom are members of Faculty Against War, also held one teach-in as a follow up to the petition and will hold another Wednesday.

Additionally, Students Against War holds weekly meetings and educational sessions and organizes protests for students.