---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 28 Oct 2002 10:16:43 -0800
From: radtimes <email@example.com>
Subject: Antiwar history of USC still evident
Antiwar history of USC still evident
Activism: Demonstrations today limited to debates, other peaceful approaches
October 28, 2002
By ALISON SHACKELFORD
A look at the current political climate as well as USC students' reactions
to the first U.S. war against Iraq may explain why the possibility of a
second war against Iraq has produced relatively little protest at USC.
From Iraq's August 1990 invasion of Kuwait to America's January 1991
invasion of Iraq, there was little discussion and even less action at USC
regarding Saddam Hussein, Daily Trojan archives showed. But once the
Persian Gulf War began, coverage of the Middle East sprang from the
opinion pages to the news pages.
USC antiwar protests were countered with USC rallies supporting U.S.
troops. Students were up in arms. They used graffiti and vandalism to
express their views.
A Jan. 18, 1991, article noted that the wave of campus activism was out
of character for USC and reflected the "flower child" USC had not seen
since the 1960s rather than the more traditional "spoiled child" of USC.
Two weeks after the war began, a Feb. 6, 1991, news article revealed
that visible student expressions about the war were already dwindling.
Today, student sentiment against a war with Iraq runs high even though
war was still only a possibility, said Heather McLean, a senior majoring in
international relations and the president of the campus group Peace and
"Besides a few random people who have come to our table on Trousdale
who have been emphatically pro-war, I would say 99 percent of students
are against war or at least the way the U.S. is going about it," she said.
She cited e-mails from students, meetings with groups from other
campuses and an enthusiastic response to peace pledges the group passed
out for people to sign as evidence of student opinion against a war with
But while student opinion may be strong, student activism has restricted
itself to discussions, debates and forums.
Students have been even less active than they were 12 years ago, said
Gerald Bender, professor of international relations. Though an informal
survey conducted the first day of class in one of his general education
courses showed 80 of 159 students were against the war, evidence of that
opinion in terms of activism remained low on campus.
"Bush Jr.'s popularity and strong will has neutralized the situation," Bender
said. "People don't understand all the issues, but there's a tendency to go
along with the president even though this time a war is an easier thing to
protest. In 1991, Iraq clearly invaded another country."
The possibility of a war now has no such clear impetus. Yet in 1991,
Bender said, the Congressional vote for support of the elder Bush was
close, whereas this time it was not close at all, with the younger Bush
garnering a clear majority.
"If you're opposed to the war, you have to come out you can't just
keep it to yourself," McLean said. "There's more student apathy today
and not as much awareness, and I think our government likes that. The
feeling that you can change policy by going out on the streets and
protesting is a fleeting memory for this generation, and I think sadly what's
going to be the wake-up call is this war if it happens. I mean, how many
body bags do you want to see?"
So groups such as Peace and Conflict Scholars were working to educate
students about the current international situation.
Peace and Conflict Scholars headed up activities for Peace Week on
campus last week, including a peace assembly Friday on Trousdale
Parkway, followed by an all-night bus trip to a Saturday-morning protest
in San Francisco.
The Muslim Students Association took a similar approach, working to
educate students about the issues.
"The problem is not a war on Iraq it's the lack of understanding,"
Karim Vidhani, a freshman majoring in electrical engineering and a
member of MSA, said in an e-mail.
To increase understanding, MSA planned an Islamic awareness week,
beginning today and lasting through Thursday, on Trousdale.
"We hope students can take this opportunity to understand what Islam is
and who we are," Vidhani said.
Human Rights Watch University, the largest U.S. human rights
organization in the world, has also sponsored a number of events on
USC's campus aimed at educating students.
"A lot of people are concerned and scared and they have a lot of
unanswered questions," said Peter Bouckaert, senior emergencies
researcher for Human Rights Watch. "But a lot of people are too afraid to
ask those questions."
Bouckaert, who travels to war zones for Human Rights Watch to
document abuses, returned from a trip to Iraq on Wednesday. The goal,
he said, was to provide information to the public about abuses facing the
Iraqi people now and the abuses they would face if the United States went
to war against Iraq.
Bouckaert is no stranger to protesting against war in Iraq. In January
1991, he was arrested as a member of the so-called "Cheadle 200" who
took over a building at the University of California, Santa Barbara, in one
of the largest protests against the Gulf War at the time.
Today's lack of student protest against the possibility of a war against Iraq
was because of a national unwillingness to examine government actions
too closely since Sept. 11 and because of U.S. Attorney General John
Ashcroft's minimal tolerance for critics, Bouckaert said.
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