As war intensifies in Iraq, opinions vary greatly on campus

One Yale sophomore’s aunt could be on her way to Iraq within 48 hours’ notice.

“When you know people in the military, when it’s part of your family, you realize more about how serious it is,” the student said. “Everyone thought it would be easy, but all of a sudden, it’s been four days, and people have died — people didn’t realize that would happen.”

The student said she wishes to remain anonymous because, despite her family’s strong military background, she herself thinks going to war was a “bad decision.”

“I think it could have been taken care of diplomatically,” she said.

Yale students have been discussing the potential war with Iraq throughout the academic year. But now that the possibility has become a reality, student debate has taken a different tone. While Yalies’ views range from strong support of the war to vocal opposition, some said they are unsure about whether discussion will continue now that the conflict is underway.

Evan Crawford ’06 partially attributed his support for the war to his self-described conservatism and his general support for most of Bush’s policies. But Crawford emphasized that he does not consider himself “pro-war.”

“I don’t think you can say anyone is ‘pro-war,’ but I think that we’ve come to a point where we’ve tried everything else,” Crawford said.

But Yale Coalition for Peace member Charlie Billington ’04 said he thinks it is “unnecessary and immoral” for the United States to bomb Iraq because he does not think the United States had exhausted all other options.

“I’m torn, because I would like to have the Iraqi people free from Saddam Hussein and governing themselves,” Billington said. “But I think that there are perhaps better ways to do it than military action, and we really didn’t exhaust all our other alternatives before we turned to violence.”

Olivia Ciacci ’05 said that while she originally opposed the idea of going to war and even attended anti-war protests before the war began, she has since changed her opinion.

“Now that it’s started you might as well finish it,” Ciacci said. “I wouldn’t support pulling out now, but I didn’t support [the United States] entering it, either.”

Ciacci is a writer for the Yale Daily News Magazine.

Kirby Smith ’05 said she is “not happy” about the war. She said she does not support Saddam Hussein but thinks Bush set somewhat unattainable standards for Iraq by requiring the Iraqi government to prove it did not have weapons of mass destruction.

“You can’t prove that you don’t have something,” Smith said. “Nobody’s going to step down from power just because Bush says to.”

Billington and Ciacci both said they found the recent increases in Bush’s approval ratings worrisome.

“People often try and rally behind the flag once a war starts,” Billington said. “But I think you can support the troops without supporting their mission.”

Crawford, whose uncle is a medic on the U.S.S. Boxer, a helicopter carrier stationed in the North Arabian Gulf, said he could only describe himself as “very proud” to have a family member serving in the war. Crawford said family involvement in the war makes him pay more attention to related media coverage.

But family involvement is not the only reason people are tuning in to the war coverage.

“It seems like it’s a war that could end quickly if things are carried out in a certain way, so I think people will watch the minute by minute unfolding,” Diana Swett ’05 said.

But Smith said she thinks the war will outlast the public’s attention span for 24-hour coverage. She said she believes the public will get “bored” before the United States ends its involvement in the region.

As for Yale students, Smith said she believes people will be apathetic once classes begin because they will have gotten used to the idea of being at war while at home or on vacation for spring break.

Swett said she hopes there will be a continued dialogue on campus. Swett, who traveled to Barcelona over spring break, said her parents told her to be careful and to try not to “look like an American” when out of the country. In Barcelona, Swett encountered much opposition to both U.S. and Spanish involvement in the war. She said she saw anti-war and anti-Bush signs but noted that she herself was never harassed.

“There have been protests in the U.S., but it seemed like in Spain they cared more about voicing their concerns over the war than we do here,” Swett said.

Ciacci said she thinks students with extreme opinions will continue discussing the war but predicted that many students will see little cause for debate now that the war is underway.

“There are a lot of people at Yale who are fairly moderate in their views,” Ciacci said. “They’re liberals but moderate liberals; they’re not activists. And I feel like those are the people who feel really caught.”

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