War in Iraq’ class offered

The political science department at Portland State University is offering a one-credit course this term concerning the current conflict between the United States and Iraq titled “War on Iraq.”

The class, arranged by professors Mel Gurtov and Melody Rose, features a different guest lecturer each week and is open to the public.

Gurtov openly admits that the class has a “decidedly anti-war view,” and cites the excessive support of the war in the mass media as his main reason for doing so.

“War tends to be glorified in many ways,” Gurtov said of the media presentation, and added that there is “virtually no space for alternative opinion.”

Gurtov hopes that people attending the lectures will learn information that has not been made readily available in the media, and hopes they will learn to “question authority.”

This week’s lecturer, former Portland State Middle East studies Chair Marta Colburn, agreed, saying she chose to speak during one of the classes so that she could “reach the PSU community” and share the “challenges of humanitarian work.”

People in attendance seemed to meet these goals.

Jenna Roadman, a senior psychology major, said she “wanted to get a different perspective from mainstream media.”

Likewise, Catherine Thomasson, a physician at the Student Health Center, wanted to learn more information about the conflict so that she could formulate her own opinion, as did Merry MacKinnon, a post-baccalaureate in American history.

MacKinnon confirmed her belief that the war between the United States and Iraq is genocide against the Iraqi people, and said “history will judge us for this very severely.”

The class, PS 199, was added to the spring schedule at the last minute, during finals week of winter term.

“We had to do this on the fly,” Gurtov said. However, he and Rose felt it was important to offer a timely opportunity for academic discussion on the current conflict.

Despite last-minute preparations, the first class saw an attendance of approximately 40 people. The turnout was about the same at Monday’s class, but Gurtov expects that these numbers will rise as it gets more publicity.

This week’s guest lecturer, Colburn, is currently the director of global education at Mercy Corps in Portland.

Colburn’s lecture dealt primarily with the work Mercy Corps has done and will be doing for the Iraqi people. She discussed the logistics the group must go through, including acquiring various permits from the United States and Iraqi governments, as well as securing funding.

She stated the four main guiding principles of Mercy Corps are “humanitarian imperative,” neutrality, impartiality and independence.

Colburn also discussed her fears for the Iraqi population if the Bush administration is put in charge of rebuilding their country after the war.

Her view is that “if the Iraqi people are given the opportunity to be actively involved in rebuilding their government,” they would be very enthusiastic and successful in their endeavor.

She proposed an example that asked what sort of government the United States might have if the Ottoman Empire had helped rebuild America after the revolution against British rule in the 18th century.

Future lecturers include professors Regina Lawrence and John Damis.

The class meets every Monday from noon to 1 p.m. in the Parsons Gallery on the second floor of the Urban Center. Registration for the class is not required to attend.