A responsive crowd of nearly 65 people gathered in Smith Memorial Student Union’s Vanport Room Friday evening for a lecture by Stephen Zunes, an associate political science professor at the University of San Francisco and an active public speaker who is holding nationwide conferences in a campaign against a war on Iraq.
Zunes is also the Middle East editor for Foreign Policy in Focus, an organization that serves as a “think tank without walls” that seeks to make the United States a more responsible global leader and global partner.
An accomplished author, Zunes recently published a book titled “Tinderbox: U.S. Middle East Policy and Roots of Terrorism,” as well as an article in the Sept. 30 issue of “The Nation” critiquing Bush’s “eight reasons for invading Iraq,” which can be viewed at www.thenation.com.
Showing disapproval of the Bush administration, Zunes criticized the policy makers in Washington, D.C., saying, “Our policies are being run by people who really don’t know what they’re doing.”
“We have a real challenge to prevent a war that could kill millions of people,” Zunes said. “Sooner or later it will be obvious that this is a big mistake.”
In attendance were a mix of students and concerned citizens alike who wanted more insight into the issues that have people around the world watching the Middle East situation more closely.
“I am here because the United States government doesn’t want me to know both sides of the coin,” said a student of political science at Portland State who wished to remain anonymous. “So I am here to learn more of the truth that is not in the mainstream media.”
Zunes’ analysis of U.S. foreign policy became emotional when he spoke of the aftermath of Sept. 11 and of the U.S. role in Israel’s policies.
“The U.S. has experienced what it is to lose thousands of innocent civilians in acts of terrorism, which is nothing new to Palestinians, Cambodians, Vietnamese and many others,” Zunes said. “The number one export of the U.S. to the Middle East, primarily Israel, is weaponry. Our military aid is six times more than our economic aid, and this results in victims of U.S. sponsored attacks seeing ‘Made in USA’ on tear gas canisters and bomb casings.”
Zunes said the United States has become a target not because of its democracy and economic stronghold, but rather because of its support of autocratic regimes that oppress other nations and because of the military presence in the Middle East. He cited the bombing of the USS Cole in the Persian Gulf territory of Yemen, which was strongly linked to Osama bin Laden, as evidence of protests to such presence.
“The more we have militarized the Middle East, the less secure we have become,” Zunes said. Criticizing the U.S. tendency to support tyrannical dictatorships in the region, he quoted John F. Kennedy by saying, “Those who make peaceful evolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.”
This lecture was one of hundreds taking place across the nation, and in various countries, intended to heighten awareness and concern about unilateral military action and inform citizens of their right to oppose such policies. The Student Peace Action Network is touring New England in early November to hold similar lectures.
Anti-war sentiments can be heard around the world. In mid-October, several demonstrations in French cities drew more than 30,000 people in opposition to the U.S.-led campaign against Iraq.
On Oct. 31, thousands attended demonstrations across Britain organized by the Stop the War Coalition to protest Prime Minister Tony Blair’s endorsement of the Iraq war campaign. Students of Manchester University closed a main road and Liverpool students occupied their university’s senate house. Further campaigns in England are scheduled at nine other universities.
Locally, a peace rally is scheduled to take place 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 17, at Pioneer Courthouse Square to deliver the message “we declare peace to the world” to countries that might otherwise remain unaware many U.S. citizens harbor anti-war feelings.
On Wednesday, Nov. 6, a former Iraqi fighter pilot and lawyer, Azod Saddiq, will discuss the political, cultural and military situation in Iraq at American Espresso, located at S.W. Sixth Avenue and S.W. Hall Street. Saddiq will be able to share details not currently covered in the U.S. media regarding current plans to remove Saddam Hussein from power and what we may expect in Iraq in the next few months. For more information, contact Niki Clark at 503-228-7231.
There are many Web sites that offer war-related information and details about peace efforts. Among them are www.fpif.org, www.oregonpeaceworks.org and www.nonviolence.org.
Friday evening’s event was sponsored by the PSU Conflict Resolution Program, Oregon Peace Institute, Oregon Peace Works and Jews for Global Justice. The event concluded with a dramatic performance by one of the sponsors, who passed around a donation box while impersonating a southern Baptist preacher.