Some PSU students oppose Afghanistan bombing

Campus opposition to the bombing of Afghanistan has caused no disruption, but it has become strongly organized, vocal and allied with local and national anti-war efforts.

The principal argument of bombing opponents is that it will solve nothing and only create greater problems. As a result of the bombing, they say, millions of innocent Afghans will starve this winter. The U.S. war will do nothing to solve terrorism or protect American citizens. Meantime, the anxiety created by the crisis may mean the loss of civil liberties.

That specific subject was to be addressed today at noon in the Smith Center ballroom by Christian Parenti, in a free lecture. His topic was After September 11 – policing, surveillance, and the national security state.
He is a professor of sociology and politics at New College in San Francisco.

Opponents of the bombing assert that the nation’s real needs are to identify correctly the persons and the reasons behind the Sept. 11 New York tragedies and to address the problems that inspired them.

One campus organization, Students for Unity, has become intensively active in the anti-bombing cause. The alternative campus newspaper, The Rearguard, has come out strongly against the war. The Campus Ministry facility has provided a center to shelter opposition sentiment. And individual students have voiced doubt over the U.S. reaction to the New York disaster.

The most prominent local group in opposition, Portland Peaceful Response Coalition, schedules most of its meetings on campus, in Smith Memorial Center.

Students for Unity jumped into the fray before fall term started. Jocelyn Furbush, co-coordinator, said she started getting phone calls and e-mails from all over the country calling for concerted action on campuses.

Much of the impetus came from STARC, the Students Transforming and Resisting Corporations alliance. Its national coordinator, Laura Close, is currently located in Portland. She is a former University of Oregon student who was active there in the Workers Rights Consortium.

Students for Unity also drew inspiration from a Statement for Peaceful Justice presented by students of Wesleyan University.

The statement opposed retaliatory violence. It affirmed a commitment to peaceful justice. It demanded preservation of civil liberties and human rights. It urged a consideration of the underlying causes in the light of U.S. foreign policy. It concluded that these points represented the best way to foster global understanding and solidarity, leading to a solution to terrorism.

STARC called for a National Student Day of Action for Peaceful Justice, to be observed Sept. 20. That fell during new student week at Portland State University. Students for Unity, in cooperation with Lewis and Clark College and Reed College, conducted a session in Smith Memorial Center as a response to what happened in New York.

“We talked about how students could advocate for a national dialogue,” Furbush said, and the session drew media response which gratified the presenters.

Furbush’s feeling about the bombing is that “It’s not going to be practical in terms of solving the problem it wants to solve. I think we really need to take into consideration the economic factors and our foreign policy around the world. Looking for economic justice, both here and world-wide in order to have peace and security.”

Has anyone given Furbush any static about possibly “not being patriotic?”

“Not really,” she said. “Actually, I tend to be around a lot of people who are feeling the same way.”

Students for Unity did not participate officially in an anti-war rally Saturday in Pioneer Courthouse Square because the organization had a conflicting event. However, SFU did participate in an earlier rally the last week in September.

Students for Unity, like organizations all over the country, is networking like crazy. A major force in that network is Portland Peaceful Response, an organization composed of people of all stripes united in opposition to the bombing. It conducts most meetings in Smith Center, although its meeting this Tuesday was moved to the Campus Ministry building.

SFU will be joining a nation-wide Week of Agitation Nov. 12-17, promoted by the Student Peace Action Network. The major event here will be a teach-in from 2 to 9 p.m. Nov. 12 in the Fifth Avenue Cinema. The subject will be militarization and globalization.

Aaron Bertrand, senior in arts and letters, expressed opinions about the war that tended to sound more philosophical than political.

“I think that everything we do as a nation, we need to go into with a consistent set of values. Among those values is innocent until proven guilty.” He felt that in this case, that value was not respected. He pointed out that the bombings started very soon after the Sept. 11 incident.

“My understanding from various media is that nothing has clearly identified anybody in particular as the perpetrators except for people they identified on the planes.”

Bertrand feels concern that the United States accused Osama bin Laden mercilessly because “he’s the best bet. There’s still a chance that it may not be him.” The fact that bin Laden made threats in the past just makes a convenient fit, in Bertrand’s estimation.As to his emotional reaction to the Sept. 11 event, “I was horrified.” Reaction set in “when we stepped beyond protecting ourselves and moved into finding somebody to react against. I think we could have done, and still could do, a better job of identifying clearly who it is.” He feels everything he has read says it’s still ambiguous as to who it could really be. Osama bin Laden may be only the best guess.

After the event, “I think we did an excellent job of making sure we protected our citizens by restricting some of the border stuff and closing down the airlines for awhile to make sure that anything out of the ordinary would have been highlighted immediately.”

He thought what was really great on campus was that he and others got the Without Fear campaign going again. It was specifically intended to avoid any hate crimes and it succeeded, he said.

“We think this should be a safe learning environment for all students and all visitors,” he said. “Everyone has a right to live and learn without fear.”

As for the bombing, “I’m not sure that’s the best option at this time considering our values as a country, things like innocent until proven guilty.” Bertrand emphasized that he spoke as an individual and was not identifying with any organization or campaign.

The Rev. Chris Laing, Episcopal priest at the Campus Ministry, has been active in the Portland Peaceful Response Coalition. He was involved in a Afghanistan photographic exhibition at the ministry.

“One of my efforts is to support student groups and provide a safe basis for addressing complex issues,” he said.

In his view, “We need to maintain a balance concerning the larger issues.” He saw a neglect in this community for an understanding of the viewpoints of other cultures and religions.

The need for economic justice worldwide is playing into the success of Islamist terrorists as well as other extremists, in his opinion.

Dimitris Desyllas, editor of The Rearguard, left no doubt where he stood in a lengthy article in the September issue. He stated, “We need to accept our responsibility for all this madness and put an end to it. As long as we refuse to see reality, as long as we are part of the problem, complacent with our silence, more innocent people will continue to die around the world and the U.S. Political games for geopolitical and financial gains do not bring peace, do not give a better lifestyle for all but for the few . . . We need to relearn to love not just for all human beings, but for all living things.”