What’s next in Iraq?

“What happens now” in post-war Iraq was the center of discussion as five animated and opinionated PSU faculty members gathered on a panel this Wednesday, Oct. 22.

The panel consisted of professors from the Middle East Studies Center and the political science, international affairs and history departments. The conference room in Smith Memorial Student Union overflowed with audience members, a handful of whom sought the topically qualified panel’s opinions on a range of issues.

Each professor presented an interpretation of the war and the continuing occupation by the United States. Focus was placed on problems and successes of the war and how to bring democracy to Iraq.

The mostly unanimously identified problem encountering the U.S. occupation was resistance and security. John Damis, a political science professor, stated that the “probability is the security situation is going to get worse.”

Damis said the occupying forces were most concerned about Baathist, Islamic extremists and foreign terrorists. Yet, the number of people willing to take up arms against the occupying forces will only increase if conditions do not improve, Damis said.

David Horowitz, a history professor, described the reconstruction efforts as “stumbling along.” Horowitz attributed this “stumbling” to the swelling of the ranks of Iraqis who dislike the occupation.

Jon Mandaville, a professor of Middle East studies and history pointed out that only $19 billion of the $80 billon appropriated for the war is going into reconstruction efforts.

Friedrich Schuler, a professor of international studies and history, blatantly stated the United States “must have an economic base to take on a whole continent.” Schuler was and is in favor of the U.S.-led war and occupation. Throughout the event, discomfort was visible between Schuler and the other panelists.

Mel Gurtov, a professor of political science, accused the United States of “carrying out oppression in the name of fighting terrorism.” Gurtov made the observation that the political development of peoples is by national experiences, not foreign manipulation.

All the panelists supported the governing council of Iraq.

Gurtov stated that emphasis should be placed on the Iraqi governing council’s task of creating a formula for picking a constituent assembly that would write the Iraqi constitution. The governing council has a Dec. 15 deadline to create an outline for the establishment of a government.

Gurtov stated that the governing council has a majority approval from the Iraqi people.

“If things don’t get better,” he said, a minority will be in approval of the governing council and resentment of the United States will only increase.

Straying from the topic of “what happens now,” members of the audience asked questions concerning the motives and morality of the U.S. war and occupation.

One member asked if it was true that the U.S. was privatizing Iraqi oil.

Horowitz responded, saying, “You make more money in petroleum not by possessing it, but by processing and distributing it.”

Schuler stated that the Bush administration was attempting to spread its social and economic system.

“Free trade is an alternative,” he stated.

The closing question from the audience was whether self-determination was still a U.S. belief.

Mandaville closed, saying, “When it suits the interest of the great powers, self-determination won’t be respected.”