Iraq: From the Desk, From the Fray
With U.S. operations in Iraq entering their eighth month,student opinions both in favor and in opposition of U.S.involvement still run strong. As the conflict continues, somestudents are beginning to perceive some parallels between reactionsto the conflict in Iraq and the Vietnam War.
Several PSU students recently spoke about their views on thesituation in Iraq, and a search of articles published in theVanguard in 1965 and 1966 revealed many similarities betweenstudent reactions to the current conflict and those of students inresponse to the war in Vietnam.
Many PSU students today still voice strong opposition to U.S.involvement in Iraq.
Christina Wittcke, a senior at PSU, recently had to part withher boyfriend, Josh Groesz, until Christmas. Groesz, who is in theNational Guard, is spending six months in training in Texas inpreparation for a year tour of duty overseas.
“We’re both against the war, but having a boyfriend in themilitary, you have to support the troops,” Wittcke said.
“There’s no reason to be there (in Iraq),” Wittcke added.
Wittcke also said that it is difficult for her to watch or readthe news now because she is worried about the situation herboyfriend may face.
When asked if she thought that protests hurt the morale ofsoldiers, Wittcke responded that because most soldiers tend not topay attention to them, she does not think their morale isaffected.
Still, it is important for protestors not to lose sight of whatthey are protesting and to make it clear they are against the warand not against the troops, Wittcke added.
Angela Leonardo, a freshman student, said that she is stronglyopposed to the current U.S. involvement in Iraq because it violatesinternational laws and that she sees many parallels between thecurrent conflict and the conflict in Vietnam.
“People are starting wonder, ‘what the fuck are we doing here?'”Leonardo said, pointing out that an increasing number of deaths andbombings are being reported in Iraq each day.
Leonardo noted that the protest momentum has died down somewhatsince the Iraq conflict began in March, but that when protestshappen, they are very passionate.
When asked why more people are not vocal in their opposition tothe conflict, Leonardo responded, “I think they feel kind ofhelpless.” She also noted that some people may be afraid of beingseen as un-American or unpatriotic.
Some students, however, remain supportive of the current Iraqpolicy.
“Opponents of the war buy the Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore liethat we’re the real terrorists, but this is not the case,” said PSUstudent Shahriyar Smith.
“There’s a deeper nature to this conflict,” he added.
When asked about the current level of protest to the Iraqconflict, Smith responded that he believes “protests areself-defeating,” and that the real issues behind the protests arethings like opposition to capitalism, not opposition to war.
“It’s pure expression with no purpose, and purpose is what makesprotest meaningful,” Smith said.
Smith also said that he sees a connection between currentprotests and protests of the Vietnam War in the sense that “peopleare trying to relive that age,” but noted that he thinks peopletoday are tired of protests.
Points of view similar to those of present-day students inregard to Iraq can be found echoed in reports of Portland Statestudent reactions shortly after “Operation Rolling Thunder” sparkedthe outbreak of major U.S. combat operations in Vietnam in1965.
Articles from the Vanguard in October and November of 1965 showstudents organizing a teach-in and then a protest in Salem inresponse to the war in Vietnam. The campus Young Republicans thenplanned a counter-demonstration in support of the war.
In an editorial published in the Vanguard on Feb. 4, 1966 (Vol.21, No. 15), Joe Uris called the war in Vietnam “meaningless” andsaid, “In this case, to me at least, the crime borders ongenocide.”
In a November 1965 article (Vol. 21 No. 9), Denny Fredrickson,then president of the Republican club, spoke out againstdemonstrations against the war.
“We believe mass demonstrations against American foreign policyat a critical juncture such as the present reduce the chances forlasting peace and imperil national security,” he said.
Another article from 1965 (Vol. 21 No. 8) reported thatElizabeth Speros, then a sophomore at Portland State College,”feels that the present form of demonstrating is reaching its’saturation point.'” The article also quoted her as saying that”the public has seen too many of them to be attracted to them.”
In 1965, the Vietnam War was just beginning, and as it continuedthe level of protest at Portland State escalated. However, thefuture of student reactions to the Iraq conflict is stilluncertain.
“If this progresses, there will definately be more uprising,”Leonardo said.