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ISSUE 117 VOL 19 PUBLISHED 5/14/2004

College Republicans exploit 9/11

By Carl Schroeder
Staff Writer

Friday, May 14, 2004

Last week, a battle for the hearts and minds of the St. Olaf community was fought. The battle was fought primarily with signs, posters and volunteers outside the cafeteria raising issues relating to the war in Iraq and the broader war on terrorism.

The skirmish started when members of the St. Olaf Peace and Justice organization placed a large poster over the Buntrock Commons P.O. boxes marking the anniversary of President George W. Bushs May 1, 2003 Mission Accomplished aircraft carrier speech. The poster noted that over 17,000 people, more than half of them civilians, are estimated to have died in Iraq since the war began, while no weapons of mass destruction have yet been found.

Apparently these facts were too intellectually diverse for some audiences, as the poster was torn down within 24 hours. Not to be discouraged, Peace and Justice returned the following day with more signs, articles and quotes such as these recent observations from Resha Namir, a 20-year-old computer science major at Baghdad University: The freedoms [the Americans] gave us are satellite television and mobile telephones. I can't even go out because I'm afraid that any minute we will die. The war was not worth it.

Two days later, the St. Olaf College Republicans responded with posters requesting that we remember all lives lost to terrorism, displaying, among other things, a picture of an airplane about to strike the South Tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Whoever made that poster should know this: I have friends whose son, daughter-in-law and two-and-a-half year-old granddaughter were on that very airplane, and I resent your attempt to use a photograph of their loved ones moment of death to score cheap political points. I opposed the Iraq war, but I have not and will never forget the lessons of September 11. However, Saddam Hussein had absolutely nothing to do with those attacks, and any attempt to link the two is shameless, manipulative and dishonest.

Quite simply, the war in Iraq was an unnecessary and untimely distraction from the vital hunt to capture the terrorists who planned the attacks on New York and Washington. Furthermore, according to an April 26 New York Times article, Muslim anger at the continued U.S.-led occupation of Iraq has strengthened the recruiting capabilities of al Qaeda and likeminded terrorist organizations.

Whenever these and other serious issues are raised, rather than having a substantive debate about the wisdom and direction of its Middle East policies, the Republican Party seems content to shout Gay marriage! 9/11! or Saddam is evil! until they deem the public sufficiently distracted.

I have had enough of these crass attempts to change the subject. Here are some questions I would like answered: Was toppling a failed dictator worth the loss of life, increased terrorist threat and damage to our countrys reputation that the war has caused? Does the United States have a plan to repair the gaping hole in international credibility caused by our unfounded claims of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction? What kind of liberation is going on when a recent USA Today/Gallup poll revealed that 75 percent of Baghdad residents want our troops to leave immediately?

Finally, with current U.S. policies provoking record levels of anti-American sentiment in the anti-American governments likely to be elected if, as President Bush envisions, democracy begins to flourish in the region?

The St. Olaf College Republicans have a clear choice: they can address these serious issues in a mature manner, or they can continue their misdirected and transparent exploitation of the 9/11 tragedies. I, for one, hope they choose the path of substantive political discourse during the upcoming election season.

Staff Writer Carl Schroeder is a junior from Minneapolis, Minn. He majors in music composition.

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