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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Irag on Our Minds

Campus Unions Prepare Vote of No Confidence

Campus Unions Prepare Vote of No Confidence

On October 2, the William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequence at UMass Boston, sponsored a discussion based on the proposed war on Iraq. Professor Paul Atwood, of the American studies department, was the driving force behind organizing the event. Atwood, like many of the 700 veterans at UMB, feels very strongly about America going to war. Since many students at UMB are on the military reserve, some have even been sent to Afghanistan, Professor Atwood felt it was imperative to discuss the motives and consequences of a war on Iraq.

Primo Vannicelli, a political science professor and moderator of the event, laid down the basis and goal of the discussion, which he explained was “not to advance one position that we feel is right,” but rather, given the complexity of the situation, “to advance dialog and discussion.”

Vannicelli made a strong analogy to Europe in 1938. Threatened by Nazi Germany and Italy a fierce debate arose between two U.S. perspectives. One group, which identified with Winston Churchill, wished to use force to destroy the threat. They were dismissed as warmongers. The other supported British Prime Minister Chamberlain, who said that although Germany’s government was dangerous and unlikable, U.S. intervention would infringe on the sovereignty of those two nations. Professor Vannicelli explained that no one can prove what the outcome would have been had we acted differently in WWII, and made a point that there is no clear position to take on Iraq.

Professor Hormoz Shahdadi of the UMass political science department gave some insight about the Bush administration’s policy. “Since 9/11,” he said, “America has been in a state of war and our government perceives its job as eliminating terrorism, which is not an identifiable enemy.” He told listeners, “Fifteen years ago America cornered herself strategically by trying to prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.” Some scholars opposed this view saying it is an impossible cause.

Professor Shadadi explained, “Bush is trying to make a case out of Iraq. They are trying to establish an effective regime of disarmament for all third world countries.” hinting that after Iraq may come Iran, then Pakistan, North Korea and so on.

Professor Jillian Faron-Spiro, from the political science department, is an expert on the subject of terrorism and she addressed how Iraq relates to the war on terror. She spoke about two questions.

First, does Saddam Hussein sponsor terrorism? He does. Hussein rules Iraq through terror and supports Palestinian terrorist groups like Hamas. He has been known to kill his inner circle of advisors and even their families. He used chemical weapons on Iraqi Kurds, carried out ethnic cleansing, sponsored a policy of assassination and allowed no one to speak out against him.

The second point Faron-Shapiro discussed was whether Hussein has connections to Al Qaeda. She explained that, despite what Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleeza Rice would like us to believe, there is very little evidence that Iraq and Al Qaeda are related. There are Al Qaeda members currently in Iraq, seeking sanctuary, but there is no proof that Saddam has helped them in any way. She also related the analysis of Jacob Benjamin of the National Security Council, who stated that differing religious ideologies would make Iraq and Al Qaeda natural enemies. Al Qaeda is strictly opposed to secular rulers. They believe in Islamic government and law and although Saddam will “play the Islam card for popularity or to rally support” he is thoroughly impious. His history of serving the United States also means Al Qaeda would not accept him.

Paul Atwood began by stating his position clearly. He asserts, “This war is dead wrong,” because, “It is impossible to remove Saddam from power without killing large numbers of civilians, women, children and non combatant males.”

Atwood pointed out how quickly we forget the way war can traumatize a nation. “It’s been a long time since we’ve seen thousands of young Americans coming home in body bags.” He explained that although we will see high tech weapons and robots in the media, this is going to be an operation that requires large numbers of troops to wage a ground battle and then to occupy the country. Therefore enormous loss of human life will be inevitable.

He feels that our “administration’s premises for war are cynical and hypocritical in the extreme.” He explained that Bush Senior raised no objection when Saddam massacred Kurds in Iraq using U.S. weapons. In fact America indirectly “approved when it failed to join the international community in a UN vote condemning Iraq’s violation of international law.” As for the threat Saddam poses, “Even the CIA admits Iraq’s military strength is 10 percent what it was in the 80s,” and “Saddam is anything but suicidal”. Atwood also discussed the danger of Iraq attacking Israel, which vows retaliation.

Professor Atwood feels that this campaign is “intended to whip up hysteria and provide cover for domestic political failures” and that “hawks in the administration desire to rearrange the Middle East in accordance with U.S. interest,” noting America’s desire to control Iraqi oil. He concluded by pointing out, “Throughout our history, wars have been accompanied by lies and pretext. In 1964, the government lied that North Vietnam attacked American ships at high sea. 60,000 [American soldiers] died at the altar of that lie,” he said, “not to mention millions of South East Asians.”

Professor Linda Dittmar from the English department gave an Israeli perspective. Dittmar has served in the Israeli army and has also lived in Palestine. She told several stories about what it’s like to be an Israeli; feeling sympathy for the hardship Palestinians face, as well as fearing the threat war poses to her life and the lives of her family members. She said, “Israeli press and population seem to see the Iraq issue as ancillary, but it is explosive, and I fear the conflagration of war around the Middle East.” She feels that an American attack would be “endangering the entire region as well as US long-term interest.” She also discussed Israel’s unofficial policy of “transferring” Palestinians away from the border. With this in mind we can assume that “if Iraq attacks Israel, it will be their pretext to walk over the occupied territories.”

Dittmar, like Professor Atwood, feels that the idea of changing the Iraqi regime is hypocritical. “There cannot be regime change without a country’s citizens waging the struggle and America aiding it,” she said. She feels that America’s real motive in a war with Iraq would be primarily to protect oil reserves and that, “we are moving towards a political position that is extremely dangerous for Israel, America and the Middle East.”

Mahal Abdur Rehman, a student at UMB, gave the unexpected yet important perspective of an Iraqi Kurd. He explained, “Iraqis differ in many ways and on may issues but agree on their hatred for Saddam Hussein.”

“Long before this media war Iraqis have suffered unimaginably,” Rehman said. Madeline Albright declared the death of 500,000 children as “worth it,” Saddam massacred 5000 Kurds in Halaabja, bulldozed hundreds of homes and in total killed 200,000 civilians. Rehman expressed sorrow that it took the current media campaign to bring protesters to the streets of England saying, “not in our name” and questions why so many atrocities over the past 10 years were allowed in their names.

Rehman also believes that sanctions have failed to disarm Iraq’s military machine but have succeeded in humiliating and dehumanizing Iraqi people. He asks, “Why is it wrong to topple a regime that outlaws political opposition, is responsible for murdering millions of civilians, has turned Iraq into a systematically built concentration camp of oppression, and that holds numerous weapons of mass destruction?” He concluded, “If regime change in Iraq is wrong, then nothing is right. The international community can rejoin Saddam in bringing forth even more suffering on Iraq or remove Saddam from power and liberate 20 million people.”