With the unfolding events in Baghdad and announcements by the Bush administration, the UR community has found its borders extending beyond Rochester and bringing the student body directly into the heated debate of a pre-emptive war.
Peace rallies, silent protests, lectures and general conversations have exposed diverse views. While those who are against war have been outspoken, many students in support of the war compose a less vocal constituent.
“My basic position is that for 12 years Saddam Husein has been told to disarm and hasn’t. The United Nations has become obsolete because they haven’t enforced their resolutions so the U.S. will enforce them,” graduate student David Clader said. “Between the Kurds and the Iranians, large populations have been murdered, tortured and unaccounted for. How can people be willing to live with someone like this? People shouldn’t be allowed to do that.”
Professors across UR seem to express much more concern for the war from political, religious and humanitarian perspectives.
“I find the situation in Iraq to be very troubling,” Professor and Chair of the History Department Ted Brown said. “I don’t think that war is our only or our best course of action. Against preventing future damage by pre-empting strike, we are risking very serious damage internationally to America’s credibility.”
March 19, hours before the bombing was to commence, students gathered on the steps of Wilson Commons to unite against war with Iraq, wearing black attire and white armbands for peace. Over 40 students formed a circle and lit candles in a last effort to voice concerns.
Shah of Students for Social Justice and then Take-Five scholar Mansoor Khan, led one of several student speeches, which directly addressed the problems of a war with Iraq.
“Bush refused the ultimatum. He made it abundantly clear we are going to war. This is a last ditch effort to stop the war,” Khan said. “When I heard [Bush’s] speech I felt powerless. We have to continue dissent against an unjust war.”
Students at the rally used the same site to protest what they characterize as an unnecessary act by the U.S. military.
“We will be back tomorrow and every day,” Khan said in closing.
Students involved in ROTC refused to comment on the situation in Iraq.
Sophomore Cora Bruemmer attended the protest and expressed worries over the war. “Even in terms of if there is a reason we are going to war, we are going in unilaterally. We are breaking ties with countries we once had good relations with,” she said.
Other students at the rally also had similar anti-war sentiments.
“We want to raise awareness. In history it has been proven that the more people think and research, the less likely they are to support the war,” sophomore Jonathan Elliott said. “We want to tell people to stop sleepwalking through history. Hopefully this will be for a good change.”
International students and faculty alike have contributed their views, bringing new perspectives to the debate.
“To [the French] Iraq is not the worst enemy of the U.S. In France, they are much more concerned about North Korea,” Professor of French Andre Douchin said. “Why pick on Iraq? Because it is the second largest producer of oil?”
Douchin further expressed concerns representative of many UR professors. “I’m really concerned about the human, ecological and cultural cost. Baghdad has 5 million people. There are 4,000 years of history [in Baghdad],” she said.
Professors at UR also recognize the dangers in actions recently taken by the Bush administration. “Now that Bush is on the verge of taking this reckless course of military action, he and members of his administration may prove themselves to be, like Saddam Hussein ‘a threat to the authority of the United Nations and a threat to peace,'” Chair of Religion and Classics and Professor Th. Emil Homerin said. “It is a shameful tragedy that Bush is so willing to sacrifice many innocent lives and waste billions of dollars destroying a nation instead of using our precious resources to build a better world for all.”
Others even went so far as to directly attack President’s Bush’s authority.
“This is a war of aggression, in violation of international law and the norms of just war theory,” Professor of Philosophy Robert Holmes said. “If we seriously believe in democracy and the rule of law, the President should be impeached, and he and other perpetrators should be held accountable for crimes against peace as defined in the Nuremberg Charter,” he continued.
Regardless of the length of a war with Iraq, student groups have vowed to continue to protest the war until the bombing ceases. Students created plans well before any bombing began to march when war begins. The will be taking buses to the ‘liberty pole,’ or rally site where they will march at 5 p.m. to the federal building.
UR, along with the nation, has felt the burden of a nation at war.
Linden can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tanner can be reached at email@example.com.