Adam Wartman, a fourth-year student at Antioch
College, speaking at a Feb. 4 forum on the possible war on Iraq,
as Jim Keen listened.
debate Iraqi war at forum
a local aspect of a pressing national issue Tuesday, Feb. 4, at a forum
that asked whether the United States should attack Iraq and whether the
Village and Antioch College should take a stand.
An audience of more than 100 people, mainly Antioch College students and
local residents, packed the First Presbyterian Church for the forum, which
was sponsored by the church. Facilitated by retired Antioch religion professor
Al Denman, the event featured short presentations from Village and college
officials along with an open discussion.
While the presenters offered differing views as to whether this country
should attack Iraq, most in the audience clearly opposed that action,
with many expressing anger at the Bush administration.
And while most panel members questioned the wisdom of either the college
or the Village taking a stand, again audience members expressed with applause
their support for both the Village and college taking stands against the
I believe it is time that, village by village and university by
university, we put an end to this war, said Pat Mische, Antioch
College professor of peace and world law, prompting considerable applause.
While she cautioned that a corporate stand against the war could undermine
freedom of thought, Mische said that such an effect could be lessened
if the Village and college take a corporate stand only after lots
of views have been heard.
Several others echoed Misches concern that official Village and
college positions would undermine diversity of opinion.
The academy is the place for many arguments, said presenter
and Village Council member Hazel Latson.
Council president Tony Arnett, also a presenter, said that he was opposed
to the Village taking a position on the war because as a public
servant the fundamental thing I try to uphold is your having a choice.
If Antioch College took an official stand, the action may do violence
to the minority, said presenter Jim Malarkey, director of humanities
at Antioch University McGregor. Rather than taking a stand, he said, the
college should do everything in its power to provide academic opportunities
to address the issues raised by the possible attack.
The role of the university is to encourage an honest and sincere
search for truth, said Maurice Meilleur, a political science professor
at Antioch. That search cannot take place if certain arguments are
taken off the table by a corporate stance.
However, several audience participants said, the gravity of the potential
war on Iraq requires that both the Village and college take stands.
I would ordinarily not want Antioch to take a corporate stand,
said Jim Keen, an Antioch professor. But in this situation I believe
our voices need to be heard, both individual and corporal.
About 42 cities and towns in this country have taken a stand against the
war, said an Antioch student. The actions bring media attention,
bring visibility to talk of peace, the student said.
If Antioch took a stand against the war, the action would not necessarily
squelch dissenting viewpoints but would rather provide an opportunity
for everyone to speak out, said Antioch student Kya Kowalczyk. It
would create a forum for discussion, she said, and offer a
community process that would promote unity.
Making the case for the U.S. attacking Iraq was Meilleur, who said that
the costs of continuing the sanctions and doing nothing are greater
than those of intervening in the country. While he believes that
Saddam will eventually fall from power, he said that a fall that takes
place on its own will lead to interparty chaos and murder,
as opposed to the more controlled transition of power that would follow
a U.S. intervention.
The United States should also bring about a regime change,
he said, because the U.S. was instrumental in bringing Saddam and his
political party to power and therefore should assume the responsibility
of removing them.
While we may believe launching a preemptive strike to be morally wrong,
different standards of ethics must be used in dealing with Saddam, said
Meilleur, who stated that normal standards of ethics are not effective
when responding to a despotic ruler.
Audience member Malcolm Kelly cautioned participants to look toward history
to better understand Saddam, especially regarding the Iraqis writings,
which, he said, mirror those of Adolf Hitler in their desire for power.
However, said Wally Sikes, there are essential differences between Saddam
Iraq is nothing like Germany, he said. Its a tiny
country, a poor country, with no infrastructure. People say we have to
stop Saddam like we had to stop Hitler, but that comparison is erroneous.
Hassan Rahmanian, an Antioch College professor of social and global studies,
said that more, not less, world chaos will follow a U.S. war on Iraq.
This action will not bring us peace, he said, citing what
he saw as consequences of the Gulf War. Al Qaeda was built after
the Gulf War. Bin Laden became our enemy after the Gulf War. This action
will make 100 Al Qaedas, he said.
If the United States launches a war, it will kill hundreds of thousands
of people, subject millions of Iraqis to misery, Malarkey said.
This is a horror show about to take place.
Several audience members said that the possible war felt close to home.
This is my sons war, said Tom Vondruska, who said he
has sons aged 14 and 16.
Our country does need to consider the ethical implications of its international
behavior, regardless of who the action involves, said local resident Dimi
I dont think its naive to believe that we can operate
with the same moral principles when dealing with Saddam or anyone
else, she said. I believe its essential. Pre-emptive strikes
are not what we should be doing.
Equating pursuing alternatives to war in Iraq with doing nothing
is inaccurate, said Mische.
Its a failure of imagination if we assume that the only alternative
to attack is to do nothing she said. The task of peace building
is not passive but active.
That activity involves working to increase understanding, Malarkey said.
The road to solving the problems with the non-Western world is by
understanding its people and treating them with respect, he said.
It means inviting them to dialogue.
Many expressed shock and anger at this countrys stance toward Iraq.
The one thing in the end that sways me more than anything is realizing
that terrorism is the targeting of civilian populations, said Jim
Keen. Everything I hear about the military campaign that Washington
is planning leads me to believe that we are becoming a terrorist nation.