Students Against the War – still

March 23, 2007 at 2:46 pm 4 comments

This was published by The Nation after this article by Sam Graham-Felsen in the April 2, 2007 edition of The Nation. The Student Peace Action Network is a part of the coordinating committee of the National Youth and Student Peace Coalition.

Published on Thursday, March 22, 2007 by The Nation

Students Against The War

by Peter Rothberg
At the outset of the Iraq war four years ago numerous polls found that students, like the majority of the population, overwhelmingly supported the invasion. Now those same polls show that students, more than any other age group, oppose the war.

I’ve heard much lamenting over the lack of student antiwar activism and organizing around Iraq. The absence of a draft is generally held to be the most important difference in explaining the larger student mobilizations against war in Southeast Asia but charges of apathy also abound.

This has always seemed unfair to me–students have exhibited just as much, if not in most cases more, opposition to the war than any other age group. As Sam Graham-Felsen recounted in a recent Nation article, a broad array of student groups have made ending the war a top priority. Among the main players are a reborn Students for a Democratic Society, the National Youth and Student Peace Coalition, the Campus Antiwar Network and the Hip Hop Caucus, a new organization founded by Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. (Check the SDS site for a survey of antiwar actions mounted by students to mark yesterday’s fourth anniversary of the war and read Nation intern Wes Enzinna’s description of antiwar activists’ use of YouTube for more examples of student opposition to the war.)

Offering some of the most substantial support for this collegiate peace activism, Campus Progress, the student program of the Center for American Progress, has launched the Iraq Campaign and Iraq Film Project. (Full disclosure: CP is also an active collaborator with The Nation. We re-publish a small portion of CP content on our StudentNation site and we jointly produce an annual student journalism conference.)

There’s been an unusually large number of good documentaries recently produced on the war which can help bring the realities on the ground into sharp focus. Campus Progress is offering to supply organizers with the docs and assist in arranging associated panel discussions with war veterans, elected officials, policy experts, activists, and film directors. Check out the list of films currently being screened, see a list of upcoming screenings, and click here to organize a screening on your campus. More than 40 US campuses have already signed up to host film events.

Campus Progress is also offering ideas for action, downloadable posters and signs, access to policy experts, and, best of all, actual grants of $200 to $1,000 to student activists working on innovative education and advocacy campaigns to end the Iraq war.

If you’re not a student and want to get more involved in peace actions, check out the website for United for Peace website for a range of activist suggestions and tools for change.
© 2007 The Nation

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4 years, no more Syracuse U students rally for peace

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Julie  |  March 24, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    I’m almost 13 years old, and I have always whole-heartedly been against the war in Iraq. It’s a stupid and completely pointless war and always has been since we first invaded. And even though I wasn’t alive for the Vietnam War, I think that the War on Terror is looking too much like Vietnam. Nobody wants another Vietnam.
    I wish the administration would look at this quote.
    “I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temperorary, the evil it does is permanent.”
    –Ghandi

    Reply
  • 2. spanblog  |  March 26, 2007 at 8:57 pm

    That quote would only have an effect if they were indeed trying to do good, which I would argue strongly that they could not rationally be attempting. They are trying to gain power and moral pleas will have little affect on someone who believes God is talking to him.

    You’re right, it is looking very much like Vietnam, especially with the lies and ‘surge,’ since a lot of these guys were involved in creating that disaster, or intensely avoiding it, you’d think they would have learned a thing or two; all they learned was how to be more slick about doing it.

    Keep up the hope, and check out http://www.studentpeaceaction.org for ideas for action and ways to get involved!

    Reply
  • 3. kabababrubarta  |  March 27, 2007 at 12:18 am

    Nice design! kabababrubarta

    Reply
  • 4. lianne gillooly  |  March 30, 2007 at 12:45 am

    THE CASE AGAINST MY GENERATION

    by anastasia gomes

    Mission of a Generation Speaking Tour
    Stop the War– Drive out the Bush Regime

    A quick overview of how this tour was conceived, what it set out to do, and what we’ve learned along the way.

    A harsh charge leveled against the youth:

    The youth of the 60’s once faced an illegal, immoral war, with a criminal president at the helm who was determined to expand the American empire’s reach.

    The youth of this generation now face a similar—but infinitely graver—situation.

    The youth of the 60’s fought back and created the fiercest anti-war movement this country had ever seen or had even known was possible.

    Today’s youth just don’t seem to care. They watch too much television and surf the internet too much. They are uninformed, ill-informed and misguided. They are spoiled, lack conviction and are starved of passion.

    The anti-war sentiment is growing, but the youth are overwhelmingly absent.

    The question posed to World Can’t Wait—the question on the lips of everyone in the face of a slow but steadily growing anti-war movement—was clear to just about anyone watching….

    Where are the students?

    Apart from the widespread speculation and theorizing over why today’s young generation has faltered in joining the peace movement, there has been an altogether absence of solutions to meet the problem.

    As the increasingly horrific trajectory of Iraq and Afghanistan’s downward spiral into hell plays out on a global stage for the entire world to see, there is yet another parallel between now and the 60’s emerging; the threat of an expansion of the war into yet another country—Iran.

    According to Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon papers, President Nixon, unbeknownst to the public and much of his White House for that matter, had been secretly considering the use of nuclear weapons in Vietnam. But Nixon, confronted by hundreds of thousands of peace protesters spilling into Washington, was forced to change the nature of this discussion and effectively pulled the nuclear option off the table.

    At the present moment President Bush and Vice President Cheney are openly threatening Iran, building the rhetorical case for war, and vowing that no option, even nuclear, is off the table, with top Democrats like Hilary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama echoing the same assurances.

    At the present moment, as the precarious nature of this situation seems poised to plunge even further into chaos, a student movement could, as it did in the past, dramatically change the terms of discussion and conceivably protect Iran from the malevolent forces in Washington. With a renewed and even greater sense of urgency in the face of the ominous shape of things to come, World Can’t Wait—Drive out the Bush Regime decided to take a markedly different approach to answering the charges that have been and continue to be leveled against today’s generation of youth.

    In an unprecedented move to actually mobilize young people and move past the rhetoric, World Can’t Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime launched a national speaking tour whose message is being taken to high schools and campuses around the country, seeking to effectively change the discussion about students into a discussion between students.

    This speaking tour was not envisioned as a simple trip to various schools to talk about the war. In order to unclog the arteries of fiery and honest debate on college campuses and high schools around the country, the appeal to students had to be commensurate with the urgency of the situation.

    A rigorous campaign was born, with the understanding that unless the political dynamic on campus is changed, the anti-war resistance would remain mortally compromised.

    The challenge would be clear. The lines are drawn, the stakes are set and thus the message is straightforward:

    We the youth, MUST make ending this war and driving out the Bush Regime the MISSION OF OUR GENERATION!

    What we’ve learned: A damning indictment of the prosecution’s case.

    Having embarked upon this tour merely a few weeks ago, the good news is that World Can’t Wait is already finding gaping holes in the traditional wisdom about what really is and isn’t true about young people’s plight in America and what’s more, how it relates to taking their place in the anti-war movement.

    Apathy? Not Quite.

    One of the most damning indictments in the case against the allegation that young people in this country are apathetic came the first night WCW’s diverse, three-person panel spoke in at Mills College in San Francisco.

    On this leg of the tour, speaking engagements turned into organizing meetings, with students excitedly springing to action over things they had been feeling for a long time.

    Mills College was the most pronounced case of this, and it proved to be an amazingly encouraging eye opener into the fact that there are hundreds if not thousands of students who are deeply and profoundly upset with the direction of the Bush regime. The varying element of that fact was often the degree of clarity possessed by students of the logic behind their convictions.

    Sunsara Taylor’s deep breadth of knowledge on the topics of women’s rights as well as the other far reaches of the Bush regime cleverly and poetically encapsulated in her speech that night were met with audible gasps.

    Students at this all-female college were shocked to hear about the religious right’s fascist assault on abortion and its move towards theocracy, as illustrated, for one example, in Ms. Taylor’s description of a group called “Snowflakes.” In this movement, women “adopt” and impregnate themselves with the unused frozen embryos of strangers that normally would have been discarded — an unbelievable but very real harbinger of the radical ideals those on the Christian right espouse, made all the more sinister by the fact that Bush himself has posed with them for photo-ops.

    One student remarked afterwards that she “had known it was bad” but “had absolutely no idea that it was this bad”.

    Liam Madden, co-founder of the Military Appeal for Redress, gave a thorough explanation of the war crimes that the Bush Administration has committed during its war with Iraq, revealing to students that night cruel information about the risks, criminality and widespread use of indiscriminate weapons like depleted uranium.

    When it was my own turn to speak, I gave my own perspective; the inner dialogue I had wrestled with myself as a 22-year-old recent college graduate deciding whether or not to get really involved in trying to stop this war through organizing and resistance. I spoke about my own personal agonizing and how I was finally led to turn down a nomination from the Peace Corps, despite it having been my dream.

    Sunsara, Liam and I each made different but equally compelling arguments as to why students must start realizing that the urgency of the situation. Given the fact that our country is waging endless war, we must recalculate our priorities and rethink our commitments and lives. Each speaker accomplished this speaking from invaluable personal perspectives and experience.

    Observing the students’ reactions to these very different and important presentations was a testament to the fact that many, many students are deeply worried, frustrated, upset and angry about what’s going on in Iraq. Aside from the stunned expressions they wore once the speeches were over, there was a noticeable despair on the faces of these students, and an urgency to know how they could actually for once get involved.

    America’s youth: willing to move, willing to sacrifice.

    Once the discussion began at Mills College and the speakers opened the forum for questions, the flood gates really began to burst open. It seemed literally as if something had been unleashed in the room, a newfound hope and determination colored the voices and faces of these women, as they went back and forth amongst one another.

    It took just a few minutes for them to decide that they would take part in a student strike on February 15th. They spent the rest of the subsequent hour debating, not over whether this strike would be fruitful, but how they could come up with the best, most innovative and bold protests, strikes, and resistance action.

    “This all sounds great” one woman stood up and told the rest. “But can we nail down which person is doing what job because we have a lot of work to do and it’s best for us to start now.”

    With one week to go until the planned strikes, the women acted quickly, calling for an organizing meeting to happen the next night.

    “Why an evening meeting?”, another student objected. “If we do it first thing tomorrow we can have all day to work on this.” Heads nodded in eager unanimous agreement.

    Not ready to move unless directly affected? Wrong. Not directly affected? Wrong again.

    The idea that young people of this generation are spoiled and incapable of seeing the point in dealing with any problem that does not directly apply to them, is another widely touted allegation.

    WCW found that not only is that argument simplistic and overwhelmingly untrue, it ignores the reality that there are many young people who are personally affected and deeply troubled by the crimes of the Bush Regime.

    At each stop of the tour the fact that students are able to empathize with the plight of people who exist outside their own immediate communities was illustrated further by some of the revulsion, horror and fear we’d see in students whenever we’d get to the portion of our speeches that covered the subject of torture. The horrific pictures depicting the unspeakable acts at Abu Ghraib prison were widely circulated and received widespread notoriety around much of the world. That being said, we were continually shocked that many students had not seen them or had known little about them. Those who did were shocked further to hear the fact that these pictures are not isolated incidents but a careful policy being implemented against people deemed enemy combatants.

    When World Can’t Wait visited Oakland High School and Fremont High School, two high schools located in high crime low income areas, the writing on the wall was even more apparent. Young people in both schools angrily and unanimously condemned the President, but they could not link their feelings towards him with their own personal struggles, their family’s immigration struggles, the handling of Hurricane Katrina, and the drug use and police brutality festering in their neighborhoods. Many of these high school students live in a veritable war zone of their own, where disagreements often escalate to violence, sometimes in the shape of gunfire, a fact that seems less surprising after learning as we did, that almost every one of the 100-200 students that we spoke to raised their hands when we asked who knew someone killed by a police officer.

    Those who did blame Bush for Hurricane Katrina understood that—as Kanye West put it—Bush does not about black people, but they did not understand how the program’s different assaults on humanity all relate to one another.

    Admittedly, it’s hard to explain to a crowd of high school students enmeshed in their own difficult fight for survival, the significance of things like the Military Commissions Act. In small communities wrought with day-to-day turbulence of their own, the torture at Abu Ghraib may have seemed too abstract a concept to try to relate to these kids. But when Sunsara asked who in the audience had ever found themselves the target of unprovoked harassment by police, a large number of students raised their hands. To those whose hands were raised Sunsara posed a question.

    “So, when the cops kill someone, they go to jail, right?”

    Students: “NO!!!!”

    “Those who’ve been bothered, harassed or arrested by the police are always guilty right?

    Students: “NO!!!!”

    “Well,” Sunsara continued, bringing her analogy full circle, “just like here, in Iraq huge numbers of people are brutalized, killed or tortured but they never did anything wrong. And there is almost never any punishment if U.S. troops kill civilians. There are no laws saying that people have to be let go if they are innocent. In fact, the U.S. doesn’t even have to press charges against the 14,000 people they are holding in Iraqi prisons right now in order to keep them and torture them for long as they want.”

    At that moment, the similarity of these two seemingly distant narratives became crystal clear, and I watched a wave of realization wash over the students.

    In these young people’s cases, the problem was not that they were unwilling to join together—almost all of them agreed that protest and resistance was necessary and almost all agreed that GW Bush should leave office. At the same time, the logic behind the different issues these young people are fighting on numerous fronts, and are being swallowed up by, seem impossible to fight against. Why? Because these students did not understand why it is these things are happening.

    By addressing the entire package of the Bush Regime, World Can’t Wait has established itself as an organization uniquely capable of unlocking students out of the current political paralysis by explaining the interplay between the issues that are attacking these young people from every end of the spectrum.

    The night we visited Mills College some of the women stayed late after the others had left, telling tearful stories of family rejection on the basis of sexual identity.

    Quite a few of the students from that night were lesbians, and when I made the point that it was our collective responsibility to protect those of us in our generation who are more under attack then others, there were no selfish objections of “why, that is not my problem”.

    A refreshing fact, given the way people in America have been blanketed with the assertion that the youth are only willing to act out of their own interests.

    No deficit of passion

    Those who are convinced that a dearth of passion is preventing a student movement in America are wrong. In school after school, we met students who spoke movingly about their desire to act on the issues facing society. Students like Eucynthio and Stephanie.

    Stephanie marched in the immigrant protests last year. She stayed after our presentations to say that she would walk to Washington if it meant the difference to future immigrants like her mom who tried to cross the border twice, and once more while she was pregnant, only nearly escaping rape.

    Eucynthio, a teenager at Fremont High, addressed an auditorium filled with students his age and delivered one of the most impassioned speeches we’d ever heard.

    “Torture—could happen to any of us”, he warned sternly, “and it’s happening to people now.”

    As motivation to act, Eucynthio spoke about the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis whose lives have been lost, citing the power of people in both the civil rights movement, and the women’s movement. Speaking to the audience about the power they possessed to change the world, Eucynthio reminded them of rights they stood to lose, such as abortion rights, to the rights they’d already nearly lost—the right of habeas corpus.

    “Rise up! Take action! Get educated, we have to act now!” Eucynthio cried out, before concluding his speech to this wide eyed, captive audience.

    For those of us who set off upon this tour, certain moments stand out as concrete proof that the powerful will and determination needed for change exists in young people. Glimpses of hope in moments like after Eucynthio put his mic down and this crowd of high school students erupted in raucous applause. The support, awe and inspiration we saw in that crowd for Eucynthio spoke volumes, with high fives, pats on the back and tight hugs from his fellow students as he walked back to his seat.

    In all our hearts that day was a surge of gratitude for a young man who had the courage to dream of something better, and the strength to demand that we fight for it.

    Conclusion

    President Bush and those in his administration repeatedly speak about the need to act in America’s best interest, but the fact is they have made a living out of acting in direct opposition to the interests of people from all walks of life. In waging and funding endless attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan irrespective of the wishes of the majority of Americans, in endangering the planet with threats of nuclear war, in ignoring and suppressing science in favor of corporate entities, by inflaming bigotry, xenophobia and intolerance, they have made clear their real objectives. Throughout our travel on this tour we have come face to face with the physical, tangible, human dividends of George Bush’s legacy of choosing profits over people.

    We are facing incredibly precarious times. Our politicians have failed us and to depend on them further would be not just reckless but criminally naïve and morally wrong. Failure to prevent, repudiate and reverse the Bush administration’s disastrous course will have a devastating effect on millions of people’s lives. History has shown that successful social movements can change the world, but in order to be successful, young people must be at the forefront of popular struggle.

    Armed with that truth, and the lessons we’ve learned so far in our effort to engage young people, study the political terrain and understand the potential to build the student movement, we are moving forward with the knowledge that there is tremendous potential for success, and that we face monumental disaster should we fail.

    The tour’s strategy in realizing these goals is multi-pronged

    1) Inform/Arm with truth– Due to having been raised in an era of information overload, we’ve found that many students have a hard time making a case for their convictions and often felt ill prepared to stand up for them.

    Therefore the tour seeks to arm students with the information they need to think critically about the situations they are alarmed about, also providing a realistic view of what’s going on in terms of the Bush regime’s whole package. WCW understands that this movement cannot be a “stand and go home protest”, but a continued, urgent, and determined effort, given the expansive implications of the regime.

    2) Inspire/compel – The secondary component of this speaking tour seeks to embolden students by inspiring them with the courage to act on their convictions. The Mission of a Generation speaking tour confronts students in a way that is unapologetic about what needs to be done, and what the mission of students must be. David Horowitz, a self-described “right-wing battering ram,” has imposed himself in the goings-on of Academia, and he’s had a chilling effect on campuses through harassment campaigns he has spearheaded under the false guise of demanding “balance in the classroom”.

    This has led to a severe backlash on professors who bring politics into class that go against the status quo. In order to combat this type of intolerant attitude on campus, the tour seeks to help provide students with some of the moral certitude they’ll need to stand up to the many different right wing organizations that have been set up to subvert any kind of social resistance movement.

    The tour also hopes to provide students with the inspiration that they need in terms of history, specifically the history of social movements, and the various different successes of revolutions (i.e. why protest works and historical examples to draw on.)

    What they’ve said about the students is wrong, but it won’t matter if that is not brought to light and acted upon. Having seen the will in students to move, World Can’t Wait’s challenge to this generation must be the message of the day—

    “Its time to stop looking up at politicians for help and start looking around, to one another. The world is waiting for you, asking for you and wondering when you will rise to the mission that is on you to stop this and galvanize the whole of society when you do it.”

    –Sunsara Taylor

    ————————————————————————–

    STUDENTS LISTEN UP! WE ARE ALL IN AGREEMENT THAT SOMETHING IS GRAVELY WRONG. NOW, IT IS OUR TURN TO DO SOMTHING. I AM SICK OF HEARING THAT GETTING HEARD AND VOICING YOUR OPINION DOES NOT WORK. I AM SICK OF HEARING THAT ORGANIZING OURSELVES AND TAKING ACTION DO NOT WORK. CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT! WOMENS RIGHTS MOVEMENT! BEING OUTSPOKEN AND ORGANZING TOGETHER WILL CREATE AN UNSTOPPABLE FORCE THAT WILL DISMANTLE OUR GOVERNMENT AND THE MINDS OF ALL THE BUSH LOVING FOOLS WHO DONT SEE THE TRUTH.

    wake up. get involved.

    IF YOU ARE FROM THE GREATER BOSTON AREA AND WANT TO DO SOMTHING ABOUT THE CRMINAL OCCUPATION YOUR GOVERNMENT IS CARRYING OUT IN IRAQ, EMAIL ME!!! gillooll@bu.edu

    peace to all

    Reply

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