Professors present views on Iraq

Approximately 150 students and local community members attended a debate on the issue of a possible war with Iraq held Monday afternoon in the Smith Memorial Student Union.

“Iraq and the U.S.: What’s Next?” was organized by Portland State University history professor David Horowitz, who hoped to take advantage of the expertise at PSU and bring about a timely discussion of the current situation with Iraq.

Horowitz was pleased with the turnout.

“This is what a university should be doing,” he said. “Academics have a responsibility to society.”

The event began with presentations by each of the five panel members, in which they related their various perspectives on the situation between the U.S. and Iraq.

John Damis, political science professor, said, “In the next few weeks we’ll see … extremely coercive diplomacy.” He emphasized that several countries, including France, Germany and Russia, are aiming to avoid a war between the U.S. and Iraq.

Adjunct faculty member in the Conflict Resolution Program Tom Hastings voiced clear anti-war views.

“Nonviolence can work,” he said. “It is the new way that business can be done.”

Hastings stressed he takes the war on Iraq personally, showing a photo of an Iraqi girl as an example of affected innocents.

“I urge you to take it personally, too,” he said.

In contrast, Horowitz voiced his disappointment with American anti-war sentiments.

“Those in uniform have volunteered to serve their country,” he said. Although it was hard for him to admit, he also added, “We will probably be at war by March.”

Jon Mandaville, history professor and chair of the Middle East Studies Center, said the United States has been in this sort of situation in the past, but also added, “It’s disquieting that we’ve seen it all before.”

He said if the United States were to win a possible war with Iraq, “Most of the world will fear us.”

Friedrich Schuler, also a history professor, said the idea of pre-emptive war is ridiculous.

“We have been at war for years,” he said.

Schuler told a story about his grandfather, who died when the Allies bombed Germany between 1944 and 1945. He said despite the loss his grandfather, his family agreed the bombings were the right thing to do.

He said the conflict with Iraq “will be a crazy and often frightening ride.”

After the panel members’ presentations, the floor was opened for audience questions.

Brandi Rinauro, a senior history major, said the U.S. has perpetuated terrorism. She feels it would be hypocritical to go to war against Iraq on the terms of fighting terrorism.

Horowitz said the U.S. was not necessarily fighting terrorism, so much as defending the “free world.”

“How does democracy come about?” Schuler asked, adding, “The dirty truth is, part of what we do involves violence.”

He said the key was to figure out how to use as little violence as possible.

Damis later said there are two fundamental problems with war between the U.S. and Iraq. The first, he said, is that the U.S. is in a position of unprecedented world power and must face the responsibility that accompanies that power.

The second problem, Damis said, is that so many nations in the world do not agree with such a war.

One audience member questioned the possible effects of a war on the average American.

The most obvious effect, Schuler said, is the economic effect.

Horowitz said if the United States goes to war with Iraq, “you won’t see the Bush tax cut.” He did, however, suggest a possible Homeland Security tax, to fund such state programs.

“This is the way to sell a tax increase to the American people,” he said, jokingly.

Toward the end of the discussion, Horowitz emphasized that people have a right to oppose war, but that he hopes the peace movements maintain respect for America.

Damis added, “This crisis isn’t going away anytime soon.”