Teach-In Debates the ‘Whys’ of War

michael-j.-arvizu
el-vaquero-staff-writer/" class="creditline">MICHAEL J. ARVIZU
El Vaquero Staff Writer

The logical and illogical rationales for war were debated among students, staff and faculty members at a teach-in held at GCC’s J.W. Smith Student Center on March 13.

“Whatever the conclusion they [U.S. government] come to – whether they are in favor of this war or whether they are against this war – for me, the most important thing is that they come to a conclusion based on a wide spectrum of ideas,” said panelist and history professor Levon Marashlian. “That is why this event is useful because it presents ideas that we don’t often hear.”

On the question of whether Hussein has connections with al Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden, panelist and social science professor Carlos Ugalde said that it has not been proved that Hussein has ties with the terrorist leader.

“There is no threat,” said Ugalde. “And obviously, Saddam hasn’t gone any place since 1990. He has not threatened the United States; he has not attacked anybody. And I do not think that he is really interested in that.”

The brutality of Hussein on the Iraqi people cannot be questioned, said Marashlian.

“Saddam Hussein is a terrible ruler, he is a dictator, he is not good for the Iraqi people and is against a lot of principles that we believe in,” Marashlian said.

However, Marashlian said he wondered whether a campaign to remove Hussein from power truly is motivated only by the desire to advance democracy and to free the Iraqi people from tyranny. To him, the notion of going to war with a country that has not threatened the U.S. is ridiculous.

“We are being told a big lie now by the administration in order to justify what is a war that, if honestly looked at, could only be justified on the very flimsiest of grounds,” said political science professor Gordon Alexandre. “The flimsier the grounds for justifying a war, the bigger the lie.”

“You will not see that only professor Ugalde utilizes the word `arrogance’ when one talks about this particular administration,” said Ugalde. “I think the world is catching up to the cowboyishness of this [Bush] character. He’s still at Dodge City.”

The media’s coverage of the war also was taken to task by some panel members. Independent Iraqi researcher and analyst Mark Gery said that there is more to what people have been hearing in the news.

For instance, Gery said, the media routinely describe Hussein as a brutal dictator who is cruel to his people. But some of these descriptions are given without context, Gery said. For example, he pointed to Hussein’s behavior regarding Iraq’s Kurdish region, which has been involved in a civil war against Hussein. Gery said that since 1960 the Kurds have been resisting Baghdad control, not Hussein per se.

“The truth is, if Saddam were gone and another Iraqi president came and said, `We want to continue controlling the Kurdish region,’ the Kurds would fight against him, too,” said Gery. “That’s a very important distinction to make. The Iraqi government wants to keep control of its whole country. Does Iraq deserve the right to have the unity of its own boundaries? I think so. So, yes, there is torture in Iraq and brutality, but it is in the context of a civil war.”

“I say television news is an oxymoron,” said history professor Roger Bowerman. “You can’t have television news. Television is entertainment. We live in the information age, and we’re hamstrung because the information is not controlled by you.”

“Try television, try newspapers, try radio,” said Bowerman. “In each of these media, advertising dominates.” Bowerman believes that media is controlled by corporations whose sole purpose is to draw money by providing the public with what they think will sell.

“I think it’s really important for people to get alternative sources of information than what is out there,” said GCC student panelist and People Against War member Melina Simonds. “I think at this teach-in they [students] heard voices that they don’t hear on TV and on the radio. I think it’s really important, whether they are pro-war or against war.”

“The United States should be civilized, to begin with,” said Ugalde. “They [Washington] should deal with this in a diplomatic fashion. They should be law abiding, meaning that you do not attack a country that’s not attacked you to begin with.”

Alexandre asked, “How can you have solid grounds for preempting something from happening by striking when you don’t even know that, what you think may or may not happen, will in fact happen down the road somewhere?”

“They have to grow up,” said Ugalde. “There is a world out there. There is a world body, and they have to respect that. The arrogance is just incredible. Who are they to say that they will make regime changes any place they feel like it?”

Simonds believes that there are a lot of contradictions in the U.S. government’s actions.

“They should have a more balanced way,” said Simonds.

GCC student Jo Takarabe believes there needs to be a healthy debate on the issues, given the variety of sources of information that exist.

“I think we are all brainwashed into believing that U.S. foreign policy is benevolent when it’s, in fact, just running the interests of the wealthy few,” she said.

that of a brutal dictator who is cruel to his people, according to Gery. However, the Kurdish region of Iraq has been involved in a civil war against Hussein, fighting against Baghdad control since 1960, said Gery.

“The truth is, if Saddam was gone and another Iraqi president came and said `we want to continue controlling the Kurdish region,’ the Kurds would fight against him, too,” said Gery. “That’s a very important distinction to make. The Iraqi government wants to keep control of its whole country. Does Iraq deserve the right to have the unity of its own boundaries? I think so. So, yes, there is torture in Iraq and brutality, but it is in the context of a civil war.”

“I say television news is an oxymoron,” said history professor Roger Bowerman. “You can’t have television news. Television is entertainment. We live in the information age, and we’re hamstrung because the information is not controlled by you.”

“Try television, try newspapers, try radio,” said Bowerman. “In each of these mediums, advertising dominates.” Bowerman believes that media is controlled by corporations who’s sole purpose is to draw money by providing the public with what they think will sell.

“I think it’s really important for people to get alternate sources of information than what is out there,” said GCC student panelist and People Against War member Melina Simonds. “I think at this teach-in they [students] heard voices that they don’t hear on TV and on the radio. I think it’s really important, whether they are pro-war or against war.”

“The United States should be civilized, to begin with,” said Ugalde. “They [Washington] should deal with this in a diplomatic fashion. They should be law abiding, meaning that you do not attack a country that’s not attacked you to begin with.”

Bush’s campaign to disarm Hussein by force has drawn worldwide criticism by students, advocates, religious leaders and many others who believe the only reason the United States will begin a war is to seize control of that region’s rich oil supply – which accounts for most of the oil consumed in the U.S. and Britain – rather than freeing the Iraqi people from a brutal dictator.

“How can you have solid grounds for preempting something from happening by striking when you don’t even know that, what you think may or may not happen, will in fact happen down the road somewhere?” asked Alexandre.

“They have to grow up,” said Ugalde. “There is a world out there. There is a world body and they have to respect that. The arrogance is just incredible. Who are they to say that they will make regime changes any place they feel like it?”

Simonds, who was in her second semester of classes during the attacks of Sept. 11, believes that there are a lot of contradictions in U.S. actions.

“They should have a more balanced way,” said Simonds.

GCC student Jo Takarabe believes there needs to be a healthy debate on the issues, given the variety of sources of information that exist.
“I think we are all brainwashed into believing that U.S. foreign policy is benevolent when it’s in fact just running the interests of the wealthy few,” said Takarabe.