The Temple Issues Forum (TIF) continued the ongoing campus debate on a possible war with Iraq on Thursday, Oct. 24.
The forum, “Invading Iraq: Preventing or Creating a Catastrophe?” consisted of three debates among professors on different topics, followed by an open-mic session for students.
The role of the media, the reasons for the war and the results of a conflict in Iraq were addressed.
Many professors took issue with the Bush Administration and what the war would achieve.
“The idea that change in Iraq through U.S. intervention will make [Iraq] the leading democratic force in the Middle East is a… hallucination passing as vision,” said history professor Arthur Schmidt, who spoke during the “Aftermath of the Invasion” session, which addressed the implications of a war.
“The U.S. keeps changing who we are allies with and who are our enemies,” he continued, “America is not good with aftermath, or at least we never have been.
Ronald Regan’s actions and allegiance to Afghanistan in the 1980s make him almost a founding father of the Al Qaeda.”
The chair of the history department, Joseph Schwartz, spoke during the second session, which asked if the Bush Administration has made a convincing case for the war.
He said that the claim that a war on Iraq was an extension of the war on terrorism was based on a false premise.
“Terrorism can only be fought by intelligence, not by force,” he said.
Col. Alan Stolberg of the U.S. Army War College, who also spoke during the second debate, disagreed with Schwartz.
“The intelligence community doesn’t know for certain when [Iraq] will have nuclear weapons,” said Stolberg, “but from the perspective of military force, how long do you wait?”
“I don’t see [Hussein] gratuitously using [weapons of mass destruction],” said political science professor Craig Eisendrath, “we should go with a strong security council resolution and inspection.”
Eisendrath added that Iraq does not present a “credible threat” to the U.S. He said that Iraq does not have the means to attack the U.S. with a weapon of mass destruction.
Jonathan Tobin, executive editor of the Jewish Exponent, said during the second session that Hussein is a threat because “he is…a dictator who sees no limits, he acts in defense of his own regime, so the use of force in this case is warranted.”
During the third session, which Tobin also participated in, he said, “a lot of bad things can happen and a lot of bad things will happen but… a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq can’t be a whole lot worse.
It’s doubtful that whatever [a] coalition gathers together could be worse or more instable.”
Schmidt challenged the panel to consider the historically derived actions for what he said they were, Bush’s attempt to use “post 9/11 sentiment and turn it into an ambitious unilateral crusade [while] batting around the word security loosely as a synonym for militarism.”
During the first session, panelists debated the role of the news media during times of war.
The panelists for this session were Dick Polman, a political reporter/analyst from the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daniel Chomsky a visiting professor of political science and Mark Sacharoff, professor emeritus of the English department.
Patricia Bradley, a journalism professor who moderated the session, said that news media coverage of this war has been shaped by both the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars.
“This war is of particular interest,” said Bradley, “because it goes back to the collective memory of Vietnam.”
“There were very few restrictions about the coverage of the Vietnam war,” Polman said, “but the Pentagon learned from that.
The problem for the press at wartime is that freedom of information is an abstract issue.
The priority at war time [for news media] is first to win the war, then to defend the press.”
“We are heading into a different period for freedom of information,” he said, “We don’t know what we don’t know.”
He added that reporters had to “look beyond the rationale” that is given to the public.
“There are other contributing factors leading to the war,” said Polman.
He said that the biggest of these is oil, of which Iraq has the second largest proven reserves in the world.
According to Polman, evidence of this includes discussions between Russian and American officials about Russia’s oil contracts in Iraq and what will happen to them in the case of war.
“The fact that the administration has not mentioned oil at all suggests that it’s a sensitive topic,” said Polman, “Bush says we don’t fight wars over resources.”
Chomsky, the brother of MIT linguistics professor and intellectual Noam Chomsky, said that war is imminent and that the press is letting it happen by blindly following the government.
“This is a scheduled war.
The weather is getting colder, so we’ll have a war in January or February,” said Chomsky.
He added that the news media is ignoring national and global opposition to a war.
“There are few media institutions that will aspire to this consciousness,” said Chomsky, “the way the media is going to respond is by following official and elite views.”
Sacharoff followed with an analysis of alternative media, mostly critiquing The Nation, a weekly leftist newsmagazine.
He said that The Nation provides “almost no facts” but always puts quotations around the phrase “the war.”
“The writing is often strident, satiric and sarcastic. When a writer resorts to these they are not very confident,” said Sacharoff.
He claimed that, “the real motive [of the war] is to make sure [Iraq] doesn’t have weapons of mass destruction,” said Sacharoff.
He said that The Nation has suggested at least six other motives including oil, re-election, diversion from corporate scandals, Bush avenging the assassination attempt on his father and America taking control of the world.
Holli Powitzky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and Kim Teplitzky can be reached at email@example.com