October 23, 2002

Teach-In Displays Anti-War Sentiments

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A teach-in sponsored by the Cornell Anti-War Coalition entitled “Why War?” was held yesterday at the Straight featuring lectures from professors at both Cornell and Ithaca College.

A common theme throughout the teach-in was that the proposed war against Iraq is more of a continuation of the Gulf War than an extension of the war on terrorism.

“Some would argue that we never left the war with Iraq,” said Prof. Zillah Eisenstein, politics, Ithaca College.

She went on to suggest that if the United States was to go to war with a country over its sponsorship of terrorism, the country would be fighting Saudi Arabia, not Iraq. Eisenstein argued that if the Bush administration had proof that Iraq was involved in the events of Sept. 11, “we would already be at war with Iraq.”

Prof. Theodore Lowi, government, likened the philosophy of the war on terrorism to that of the Cold War.

“There was a Cold War culture that developed in the United States,” Lowi said. “Cold war is the mobilization of society for war in order to prevent war.”

Because there was no actual fighting, he said, one could only rely on theory in determining the success or failure of American policy.

According to Lowi, the theory underlying American policy during the Cold War was that the lack of a “hot” war was proof of our success.

“Each day that nothing happened was proof that what we were doing was working,” Lowi said. “As soon as 9/11 hit … we went right back to the same kind of thinking, [only] without communists.”

Just as during the Cold War the United States attributed any revolution or social upheaval to the Soviet Union, he said, the Bush administration is attributing any acts of terror to al-Qaida. Due to the elusive nature of the terrorist organization, Lowi said, “we needed more focus, and Iraq was convenient for that,” regardless of any actual role it has in sponsoring terrorism.

Prof. Matthew Evangelista, government, gave a lecture at the teach-in entitled “Living in a State of Perpetual War.” Evangelista feels that the United States should not abandon the prospect that new weapons inspections would end the impasse over Iraq.

“The inspections regime in Iraq, for all its flaws, was quite effective,” he said. “They turned up a great deal and destroyed a great deal of weapons,” more than were destroyed by United States military action during the Gulf War.

Prof. Chip Gagnon, politics, Ithaca College, spoke about the history between Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and American government. He detailed how the United States gave Hussein intelligence support throughout the war between Iran and Iraq during the Reagan administration. Support for Iraq continued even as it became known that the government repeatedly used nerve gas and other chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers. The United States gave Iraq biological cultures for making weapons that were the same as those destroyed by the United Nations weapons inspectors.

Including Lowi, Evangelista and Gagnon, eight professors gave lectures at the teach-in. Kenneth Clarke, director of Cornell United Religious Works, spoke about the religious arguments against a war in Iraq. Prof. John Weiss, history, lectured about the alternatives to war. Prof. John Hocheimer, TV and radio, Ithaca College, spoke about the use of state propaganda and mass media in shaping people’s opinions about war. Prof. Gina Marchetti, cinema and photography, Ithaca College, focused on the depictions of war in the popular media, particularly in Hollywood movies.

After each lecture, the speaker took questions from the audience. Attendance varied throughout the afternoon, reaching a peak during Lowi’s lecture. Hundreds of people came in and out over the course of the day’s events.

From their questions, most members of the audience appeared to share the anti-war sentiments of the lecturers. There was, however, scattered support for a war with Iraq and disapproval of some of the points expressed at the teach-in.

“I saw that there was a lot of distortion of facts. [They say] that the United States is culpable for all the ills of Iraq [when] Saddam shares the brunt, if not all, of the blame for them,” said Jamie Weinstein ’06.

Others were more supportive of the teach-in.

“I felt that Lowi was able to put things in perspective. He [was] the highlight of the day,” said Brendan Reardon ’06.

“I learned a lot about the history of Iraq. It was important to come [to this teach-in],” said Jesse Grossman ’04.

Archived article by Daniel Palmadesso