The debate over whether military action in Iraq is justified or necessary has become an intense international issue.
What are the campus views about a possible war on Iraq? A random survey of 32 St. Olaf students, asking whether the student thought war on Iraq is currently justified, revealed five in favor of war, eighteen against war and nine that would not comment. Some that didn't comment explained that they didn't feel informed enough to make a decision.
Students and professors who felt comfortable speaking about the issue were asked to comment on their interpretation of the situation. Students interviewed include Rachel Belter '03, Pete Streit '03, Caleb Kasper '03 and Katie Rushe '03. Professor of Biology Ted Johnson and Professor of Political Science Sheri Breen also commented.
Professor of Biology Ted Johnson asked why we are invading Iraq over other countries. "There are all sorts of countries that may have evil people," Johnson said, referring to countries that have dangerous leaders like Saddam Hussein. He cited North Korea, Iran, Russia and Syria as other countries that are comparably dangerous.
Pete Streit '03 also reasoned that Iraq is not the only potentially threatening country. "There are weapons of mass destruction available all over the planet, and Saddam is not the only dictator with access to them," Streit said.
Katie Rushe '03 said that the issue of Huseins rule has been an issue for over ten years, during which he has committed multiple human rights violations, ethnic genocide and still has weapons of mass destruction. "There hasn't been any evidence that [Hussein] has stopped making these weapons, or the human rights violations," Rushe said.
A Necessary War?
Streit said that the U.S. Government is justifying war on the fact that Iraq is in violation of the UN Security Council, even though weapons inspectors havent found anything.
"It's very difficult to trust our government right now," Striet said. He said that in cases of the Gulf War, there is contradictory evidence of the success of military campaigns. Streit said that in the Gulf War, "civilians suffered a lot more than the media claimed. Johnson said that this situation is particularly unique because the United States has not been attacked yet. "If we go in this as the lone jockey, I think we've changed the world forever," Johnson said.
Rachel Belter '03 said that while she would like to see Saddam leave Iraq on his own, "if it comes down to military action, I support that." Belter said that she trusts Colin Powell and the administration since they may have confidential information that compromises national security. Belter said she trusts the American Government before Hussein.
Belter also said that she thought the Bush Administration has rushed the issue of war. "Proper measures have been taken, such as going before Congress and the UN," said Belter.
Rushe also believes that military action is necessary, and said, "If the we do step back, its going to show the world that were weak." Concerning future nuclear threats from other nations, Rusch said, "we dont want them to think that we'll back down."
Professor Breen said that there are questions of political morality that need to be addressed before a war is justified. "I worry greatly that we're headed into some very bad times, politically."
Caleb Kasper '03 said that the Bush Administration is manipulating the nation's fear of terrorism to push for a policy the people do not necessarily want. "Thats a dictatorship, not a democracy," Kasper said.
If the United States invades Iraq, Breen believes that an incident of terrorism will be more likely. Breen said that invasion would be seen as a war on Islam.
Streit said he believes images of U.S. troops fighting Islamic people will be used against the United States by terrorist organizations. "We have to be aware of how a war on Iraq will be perceived by the rest of the world," he said.
"I'm shocked that students aren't doing more about the war," said Johnson. Johnson believes the students do not see the war as seriously as the professors since they did not live through a war like Vietnam.
On Friday, Feb. 14, students, some professors and President Thomforde protested the war on Iraq outside the cafeteria. Their aim was to promote discussion about the war.